by Jonathan Brisendine – Archaeological Field and Lab Tech
Almost everyone knows the basic appearance of a projectile point otherwise known as an arrow head. Early projectile points were made of lithic (stone). However, if asked, few would be able to explain how a projectile point is created from a rock. Hopefully after this post you will better understand how a rock is transformed into an early American lithic tool.
Most often the type of material used is dependent on what is available locally, that which can be found in travel or obtained through trade. For Fairfax County the most common lithic materials found are quartz, rhyolite, and quartzite. A desirable lithic material is one that will break or flake in a predictable manner . Once a suitable rock is found, large flakes of stone are removed from that parent rock. The flakes and debris removed are known as debitage. Removal is done by striking the parent material (the core) with either a hammerstone or a billet.
There are two main techniques of producing the end product. One is to remove the flakes as seen in step 1 and the goal to use the core as the final product. The other, discussed here, is to prepare the core so that a next flake removed has the basic proportions and characteristics that you require for the tool. Chips or flakes are removed from the core. Then a larger flake will be removed from the core in a form that can be used as a tool.
Once the flake in the basic shape of the desired end product, it is time to refine both the shape and sharpen the point. This is done in a similar method of step 1 but on a smaller scale. The process is called micro flaking. Micro Flaking is most often done method called pressure flaking. Pressure flaking is achieved by using an antler to press along the edges of a tool in order to remove small and controlled flakes.