Articles

The Archaic Stanly Point

In the Carolinas and Virginia, collectors of Indian artifacts can find many points/blades made and used during the Archaic Period, circa 8,000 to 2,000 BC.  The names easily roll of the tongues of the collectors – Kirk, Guilford, Morrow Mountain, Savannah River and so on.  But there is a point type that even though it is found throughout the region, rarely gets mentioned because it is itself quite rare – the Stanly point.

This artifact was named by the late Dr. Joffre Coe, from examples excavated in the 1940’s, at the Doerschuk Site, adjacent to the Yadkin River in Stanly County, NC.  It is described as a “Christmas Tree” shaped point and many of them do look like our mental concept of the holiday tree.  The basic description is a medium size narrow to broad blade point with a short and narrow bifurcated stem.  This notched stem is usually equal in width and length and the angular shoulders are normally at a right angle to the stem.  This point type was made by percussion knapping a prepared blank to the basic shape and was then followed by pressure flaking to thin it and define the overall form.  The chipping was usually random but rare examples have collateral flaking.  The triangular blade sides are straight to slightly concave and almost never convex.  These descriptions will cover almost all Stanly points but there are exceptions.  Some have contracting rather than parallel stem edges, some have serrated and/or beveled blade edges and on many heavily re-sharpened examples, the bifurcation on the basal edge will almost disappear.  Another oddity is that many Stanly points will be found that are two tone rhyolite in color – the distil end being pale grey and the basal end will be darker grey. Enough of these two tone points have been found to suggest that the makers must have done this for a reason. Occasionally Kirks will also feature this anomaly but it is quite common in the Stanly points.  A considerable number of the wide body points, that have been heavily re-sharpened, feature a small, and apparently on purpose made, chip at the end of one of the shoulders.  This is today called the Clipped Wing Stanly by most collectors.  Most Stanly points will fall in the 1 inch to 2 inches long range but there have been expended examples found that are a mere ½ inch and giant examples as long as five inches.  Most Stanly points would be considered well made with excellent pressure knapped blade edges and symmetrical overall shapes.  The wide body varieties are usually flattened in cross section while the narrow ones are normally almond shaped.

This Early to Middle Archaic blade, circa 6,000 to 4,500 BC, has been found from Pennsylvania south into Georgia and Alabama, but the primary area of major distribution seems to be the Piedmont Plateau of Virginia and the Carolinas.  Examples found in this region are made of rhyolite, quartz, silicified slate, quartzite, jasper, chalcedony, argillite, novaculite and chert but by far, the majority are rhyolite, quartz and silicified slate.  One of the major questions concerning the Stanly point is its ancestry.  Dr. Coe believed that it was directly antecedent to the Kirk Stemmed point but others believe it to be related to the LeCroy/St. Albans bifurcated point lineage and each has strong arguments for their theories.  It is certainly a bifurcated stem point but so are some Kirk blades, so having a forked stem base cannot guarantee its family history.  Even though it was widely used by the ancient natives, the Stanly point is relatively rare when compared to other Archaic Period blades such as the Kirk, Morrow Mountain and Palmer types.  In a given collection of one hundred Archaic spear points, maybe one or two can definitely be classified as Stanly.  Why is that the case?  The natives who made the type were certainly in the Piedmont for a long enough period of time to have made millions of the points but they have not been found in the quantities comparable to the other Archaic artifacts.   Why there are so few found and exactly the ancestry of this relic are interesting questions that most likely will never be answered.  But those questions help to make it one of our most desirable, least understood and rarest point types – the beautiful Archaic Stanly Point.

 

REFERENCES: 

Anderson, David G. & Kenneth E. Sassman              1996

            THE PALEOINDIAN AND EARLY ARCHAIC SOUTHEAST

Coe, Joffre L.                                                              1964

            “The Formative Cultures of the Carolina Piedmont”, TRANSACTIONS OF

            THE AMERICAN PHILOSIPHICAL SOCIETY

Maus, James E.                                                           2004

            “The Stanly Point”, THE PIEDMONT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY

            NEWSLETTER, Vol. 28, No. 6

Peck, Rodney M.                                                        1982

            INDIAN PROJECTILE POINT TYPES FORM VIRGINIA AND THE

            CAROLINAS

Perino, Gregory                                                          1985

            SELECTED PREFORMS, POINTS AND KNIVES OF THE NORTH

            AMERICAN INDIANS, Vol. I