Articles

THE WARATAN POINTS

Sometime after the Archaic Period ended and during the beginning of the Woodland Period for the natives living in North America, these people started changing their hunting weapons from the spear thrower and spears to the newly discovered bow and arrow.  They also commenced living in permanent villages where they could build stable housing and grow their corn, beans and squash.  The new game taking arrow devices required a change from the larger stemmed spear points to much smaller stone tips which they started making as 1-2 inch long triangles.  There appears to be considerable controversy as to exactly when this happened with estimates being as early as one thousand BC and as late as eight hundred AD.  It obviously ended after the newly arrived Europeans began exploring the continent in the seventeenth century of the AD period and initiated the trading of iron tools and guns to the natives in exchange for furs and land.  Many, of not indeed most, archaeologists, though, believe that the Amerinds began using the new archery hunting instruments around AD 500 and modern historians have given several names such as Yadkin, Caraway and Hillsboro to the small triangular points used throughout the Piedmont area of the Carolinas and Virginia.  These named barbs were used over relatively large areas of the Southeast but others, in much smaller geographical regions, have also been studied and given names.  One such is the subject of this paper and was named Waratan.

 

In the early 1960’s, the scholar Floyd Painter began archaeologically investigating a site called Waratan in the eastern North Carolina county of Chowan.  There he found pottery and unique triangular arrowheads that he named for the site – the Waratan points.  These projectiles were of the same isosceles triangular shapes as were found in other areas of the South except for one oddity – they had small chips removed from their basal corners.

 

He accurately described these Waratan arrow tips as small to medium (1” to 2” in length) concave base implements with tiny bottom corner notches.  The blades were triangular and usually had straight sides along with the incurved base.  Prior to Mr. Painter’s research, the local collectors of these arrow tips had been calling them “Owl Eared Points” because they do somewhat resemble the head of an owl when held with the base upwards and the point or distal end held pointing down.  The Waratan is similar to the previously described points in 1953 and named Potts except the Potts has a straight basal edge while the Waratan is always in an inward pointing arc on its base. Both the Potts and the Waratan were possibly being used in the in the time period of as early as 200 BC as a spear/dart point to as late as AD 1000 while mounted on an arrow. The primary flaking on this point type was probably done by the percussion method into a triangular shape with the knapper using an antler baton or small stone hammer.  This blank would have been then thinned overall and the final knapping and corner notching done by the pressure method using a pointed antler device.  This flaking technique resulted in a tool that is flattened to slightly elliptical in cross section. Some Waratan points appear to be fluted because of the long thinning flakes taken off at the base but there is certainly no evidence of fluting flakes intentionally made by the ancient flint knappers.  All this resulted in the production of a symmetrical and usually very thin and needle sharp arrow or dart point.  These tools did not have abraded or ground bases and were usually made of rhyolite, silicified shale, quartz, quartzite or local chert but have been discovered as made of jasper, chalcedony, argillite and other lithic materials.  They are, today, normally found in the coastal plains of Virginia and North Carolina but have been found westward into the Piedmont and south and north into South Carolina and Maryland but never in great quantities in any of these locales.  When discovered, the Waratan points have often been found in association with cord marked and fabric impressed ceramic pottery that dates as early as 1000 BC and as late as after AD 1000.  These tools, which could have functioned as spear/dart or arrow points and as well various knife-like cutting instruments, are among the most beautiful and rarest of all the arrow tip triangles.  If you are lucky enough to find one or more thin and exceptionally well made triangular blades with small basal corner notches, be overjoyed with your discovery, for you have chanced upon the very rare Waratan Points.

 

References:

Hranicky, Wm. Jack and Floyd Painter                        1989

    A GUIDE TO THE INDENTIFICATION OF VIRGINIA PROJECTILE POINTS

McCary, Ben C.                                                       1953

    “The Potts Site, New Kent, VA”, ASV QUARTERLY BULLETIN, Vol. 8 No. 1

Maus, Jim                                                                 1994

    “The Waratan Point”, THE PIEDMONT, Vol. 18, No. 3

Maus, James E.                                                       2008

    “The Tiny True Arrowheads of the Piedmont”,  JimMausArtifacts.com                        

Painter, Floyd                                                      1963                                                           “The Mussel Eaters of Waratan, Part 2, The Waratan Projectile

    Point”, CHESOPIEAN, Vol. 1, No. 2

Overstreet, Robert M.                                          1999

    THE OVERSTREET INDIAN ARROWHEADS GUIDE