Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Age Of These Clovis Spear Points? 14,000 Years Or 14 Years?

Hematite Clovis Spear Point #1 sure seems to be the twin to Hematite Clovis Spear Point #2, also shown on this page.

Therein lies the rub!

They both appear to have been made by the same knapper, of the same material, at the same general time.

The question for every collector becomes: at what time in history were these two points made?

To be old or not to be old. That is the question.

As a collector of ancient, authentic points I want to know. And I am sure you do, as well.

How can we know? If not for absolute certainty, then at least with a fair degree of assurance.

As for me, unless I found these two pieces, or personally observed their discovery, I would want to have a complete “provenance” provided. That is the description of the finding activity, the name of the person who found them, and a signed statement from that person certifying the circumstances of discovery. Also, the provenance should provide an unbroken “chain of custody”; listing any and all intervening owners since the discovery.

And, even with that provenance information, I would want to obtain what is known as a “Certificate of Authenticity”; for the two pieces. This is a professional opinion from a recognized authority in the field of archaeological artifact analysis, attesting to the cultural identification of each piece, its quality and its authenticity. For more assurance, I would want to have similar opinions from several different, recognized authenticators. This would be in addition to and supplementing my own close and careful examination of the workmanship, style, process, material and evidence of age or exposure to the elements and surface depositions visible under great enlargement.

That's what I would want, before I would purchase these two alleged Clovis points, or any others, as being ancient and authentic cultural relics.

In the absence of such documentation, I would be forced to consider that these are highly likely to be excellent examples of exotic stone material being used by a highly skilled modern flint knapper to replicate or reproduce Clovis points.

Hematite is an iron ore material, relatively common in the Missouri area; and, it was knapped into very strong and long-lasting spear points, knives, axes and other tools. So, it is possible to have an ancient Clovis point made from hematite, from Missouri and that immediate area.

However, to have two such nearly identical points, of hematite, in such beautiful condition, does seem to be stretching the limits of credulity. As a result of the logical examination of the situation, I am careful to say that I think these are both modern Clovis point reproductions.

Here In The Space Age, We Can Use The Internet To Help Us Find The Tools And Hunting Weapons Of The Stone Age!

Now that so many have access to the world wide web, at home, office, even on the road with wireless connections, we can explore many parts of the world from our desk top.

So it is probably no big surprise that we can now begin to find arrowheads on the internet.

What is especially intriguing is the variety and quality of arrowheads and other stone tools which can be found on the web.

Please note, the variety and quality of arrowheads is essentially the same as that which can be found by traditional methods of personal exploration and trading with collectors whom we know.

In other words, there are still a lot of “field grade” or “used up” and worn out points, in addition to the usual variety of junk, fakes, cheap foreign imports (like Indian arrowheads, made on the Asian subcontinent and imported to be sold as “Indian”, which they are, by virtue of being made in India; just not the Indian that you and I expect when we in North America use the term).

With time to look around and with an understanding of the opportunities and the risks involved in dealing with long distance and sometimes inexperienced or inadequately informed collector/providers, an arrowhead enthusiast or collector can augment his local contacts with a whole new network of collectors across the continent, even around the world, by looking for arrowheads on the internet.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Word To The Wise, When You Are Considering Buying Artifacts On the Internet Or In Person From An Individual Or A Company.

Do not let the excitement of a new find distract you from careful consideration of the authenticity and the history of the point or tool you are contemplating. If a story sounds too good to be true, likely it is too good to be true.

Develop a relationship with the seller so that you can decide the level of trust you can place in his or her word.

Ask for as full an account of the history of the point as may be available. This is called the "provenance" of the point. It should include the name of the finder, the place, the date, and a description of the circumstances or special conditions under which the discovery was made. Also you should ask for a full list of previous owners of the point or tool, if you are not obtaining it from the original finder.

Whenever possible, you should inquire about and even require a certificate of authenticity from a respected source.

Almost any collector to whom you speak will have a story of how he bought a point from someone whom he thought was trustworthy, only to later find out that the point was either unknowingly or deliberately sold as authentic, when in reality it might have been a modern-made copy or reproduction point.

For example, when you are looking at supposed "Paleo-Indian" artifacts, it would be well to keep in mind that, in most parts of the country, these are extremely rare. I know life-long students of archaeology who have worked all over the country on projects covering many eras of human occupation in this continent who have only ever found one or two authentic Paleo-Indian relics such as a Clovis spear point or a Folsom dart point.

When these points are found in scientific excavations they are celebrated and then carefully cataloged for future study and scientific reference. If they are found on private land, these points and tools are most often preserved and put away, well out of the public eye.

As a result, you will not find a point like this for sale often. At least, not an ancient, authentic point of topmost form and quality. You may see a few broken or partial points. And sometimes, if a collector has had a good Paleo-Indian point which has been certified and authenticated, he might be tempted to sell it, but this would be unusual.

No artifact dealer would ever want to sell a high quality Folsom, Clovis or Cumberland point, for example, without suggesting a substantial price.

I say this to caution you and to encourage you to carefully consider claims of age, culture and authenticity which you will hear from collectors and/or sellers of possibly ancient artifacts.

F. Scott Crawford
Arrowheads On Line -- 2010

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
F. Scott Crawford, Carrollton, Texas, USA

You are invited to visit my web sites for more background information and photographs related to the making of arrowheads: