Fieldwork Yields a Surprising Find

Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 1.56.06 PM.pngAn archaeological fieldwork experience, made possible by the purchase of equipment funded by

The Raymond A. and Rachel H. Stone Grant returned a projectile point that likely dates to between 8,000 and 10,000 years old.

From the Early Archaic Period, the projectile point was found in the area between the Faulkner parking lot and the home of college President John Dempsey.

During the fall semester, Archaeology instructor Angela McArdle led her class in the investigation of patches of ground in order to introduce them to archaeological methods in a hands-on experiential setting.

The students dug 15 shovel test pits, a preliminary archaeological survey method used when the ground visibility is obscured by vegetation. In this case, it was a sizable amount of pine straw. The shovel test pits were circular holes about 30 centimeters wide and approximately 100 centimeters deep — much to the chagrin of several students who commented that the experience reminded them of the movie “Holes”.

After finding nothing of interest in the round holes, and for the purpose of additional training in methodology, the students dug six square excavation units. It was then that the fun began. Three of these excavation units yielded eight cultural artifacts.

The artifacts are prehistoric evidence of stone tool making, but only one was diagnostic – meaning it could provide a chronological estimate of when the stone tool was made.

Alyssa DeSanto noticed the projectile point when she was screening dirt dumped into her sifting screen via buckets filled by Noelle Wilkes, Matthew Clark, and Tancredi Woods. The dirt with the point in it was pulled from 52 centimeters below the surface.

Style changes in stone tool technology are one-way archaeologists can derive dates. This projectile point resembles two different styles from the Early Archaic Period, the Palmer and the Kirk Corner Notched. The Early Archaic in NC is generally thought of as a period dominated by nomadic, relatively small groups of people pursuing a hunting and gathering way of life.

Made from rhyolite, the projectile point likely came from one of the Slate Belt quarry sites in Moore, Chatham, Randolph, or Montgomery counties. Rhyolite does not naturally occur in the Sandhills so it would have been brought to the location.

In addition to the thrill of the hunt and subsequent find, students had the opportunity to make their own stone tools, a process known as flint knapping, with hammer stones, deer antler billets and tines, and obsidian and chert spalls.

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