Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 21, 2016

A point

Filed under: cultural finds — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 4:50 pm
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A projectile point made of red chert, also called jasper

Eyes focused a few feet in front of him as he hiked, Chris abruptly knelt down in the wide sandy wash and muttered, “Oh, yeah. Finally.” His intent stare was fixed on a sharp red piece of chert, and when I got to his side he reached to pick up his find. He’s been on the lookout for projectile points for years.

This sweet little arrowhead was dwarfed by his finger. The fine workmanship showed off the skill of its maker, who expertly used an antler to press away tiny flakes along each edge until it was the shape and sharpness desired. It was missing its stem or its notches, used to fasten it to the shaft, but it was alluring in its imperfection.

Three photos later, he bid farewell to the point and flipped it back into the wash for a future person to find. “Catch and release,” I call it; you find a treasure, admire it, and let it go. Keep the photos, not the point, as a souvenir.

This area is a place where the Ancestral Puebloans would have spent considerable time; a nearby spring would supply their water needs, and flint-like chert was available to knap. Much of this “lithic scatter” has been flushed into the wash — a subtle reminder of their presence here 700, maybe 1200, years ago.

Thank you, ancient point-maker. Your survival tool made our hearts sing!

March 24, 2011

Horseshoe Canyon: Lithic Scatter

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:41 pm
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Flakes of knapped chert. My special projectile point is the triangle in upper right. Click to enlarge.

I was in mid-squat with my pants around my ankles when something on the sand in front of me caught my eye. I knew instantly that it was a flake of chert knapped by some old soul a millennium or two ago. A foot away was another. And another. Zipping and buttoning myself back to presentability, I followed my eyes and began picking up flakes by the dozens.

I found a beautiful milky-white arrowhead that had one of its shoulders missing. It was a discard that never made it through ancestral Quality Control, but to me it was outrageously beautiful.

Because this campground is public land — which includes national and state parks and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land — artifact gathering is strictly prohibited. I just liked to pick them up, turn them over in my fingers, and wonder. I gave every last one of them their freedom at the end of the Explore… reserving a special spot for the arrowhead in case I ever want to try to find it again some day.

I speculated about what made this a good place for the ancient dwellers who created their points here. The plethora of outstanding artwork tells us that they used this canyon at certain times of year for habitation, so finding the chert flakes does not surprise me. Still, it was like discovering hidden treasure… treasure that connected me instantly with those who left it behind, not ever thinking that their bits of throwaway stone would fascinate ones who followed. Thank you, ancestral people.


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