Projectile Points – Contracting Stems

by Elizabeth Paynter Archaeological Laboratory Director

Piscataway Points

A projectile point stem shape that helps identify and type projectile points is the contracting stem. A contracting stem is simply a stem that tapers (or contracts) towards the base. Contracting stems can be subtle and even somewhat squared, rounded, or pointed. There are a few projectile point types with contracting stems that can be found in our area.

One common type that we often find is the Piscataway point. See the picture above. A Piscataway has a rounded or pointed contracting stem. Weak or nonexistent shoulders separate the base from the blade. To read more about Piscataway projectile points see our blog post, “Piscataway Points”.

Another type of projectile point with a contracting stem that can be found in our region is Poplar Island. According to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Poplar Island points date from about 2500 to 1500 BCE during the Late Archaic period. Some have suggested a wider date range beginning earlier and ending later in time. This point type is a medium to large slender projectile point that is fairly symmetrical. If shoulders are present, they are rounded. The base of the Poplar Island is sometimes long, contracts towards the base and is rounded although it can be somewhat pointed. The corners of the base are always rounded.


MAC Lab. 2012. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. accessed April 26, 2017

VDHR Collections. Native American Comparative Collections. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Electronic. accessed April 26, 2017


About cartarchaeology

We are the County Archaeological Research Team, part of the Archaeology and Collections Branch, Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority. We are tasked with understanding and managing the cultural resources on Park land throughout Fairfax County.
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2 Responses to Projectile Points – Contracting Stems

  1. Pingback: Another Local Projectile Point – Marrow Mountain | C.A.R.T. Archaeology

  2. Pingback: Projectile Points- Triangle | C.A.R.T. Archaeology

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