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Waubesa/Dickson
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Waubesa/Dickson

Waubesa contracting stem

Waubesa Contracting Stem / Dickson Broad Blade

Waubesa Contracting Stem points were first recognized at sites near Lake Waubesa, near Madison, Wisconsin. The Dickson Broad Blade variant was subsequently recognized for Illinois.

Other Possible Names or Related Points: Adena, Belknap, Dickson, Gary, and possibly Mountain Morrow. They are commonly called Beavertails by collectors.

Age: 2,500 to 1,800 B.P. Earlier interpretations that these points range over several millennia in the upper Midwest were based on surface "associations" with other types. In fact, when found in undisturbed contexts, contracting stemmed points in the Midwest are dated to a more restricted period. Waubesa points are well-dated at sealed Early Woodland shell midden sites in the Upper Mississippi Valley, where they are associated with sandy-pasted, Prairie ware ceramics and dated between A.D. 0 and 100. Related Belknap points from Illinois tend to be slightly earlier and are associated with Black Sand pottery. A few contracting stemmed points have been recovered from Early-Middle Woodland components in Illinois, dating to ca. A.D. 100.

Distribution: These types are found throughout the Midwest and are common along the Upper Mississippi Valley.

Description: These points are a medium-size spear type with distinctive contracting stems. The blades are lanceolate to triangular with straight, sloped, or barbed shoulders. Stems are rounded to nearly pointed. Waubesa points are generally smaller and have more pointed stems than Dickson points, and the blades tend to be thick, with minimal evidence of pressure flaking. Most appear to have been percussion flaked as expendable points. The contracting stemmed haft element suggests that these were intended for easy removal and replacement. Their increased size from preceding Late Archaic forms may reflect replacement of compound spears (consisting of a main shaft mounted with a foreshaft that was tipped with a relatively small stone point) by arming the main shaft directly with larger, detachable stone tips.

Length: 613 cm/25 in. Width: 34 cm/11.5 in.

Material: Waubesa points are nearly always made from local chert or silicified sandstone. The less common Adena/Dickson points in the Upper Mississippi Valley are usually made of imported stone including gray "hornstone" (Dongola or Cobdon chert) from southern Illinois or Indiana, Burlington chert from southern Iowa and adjacent portions of Illinois and Missouri, and Knife River flint from North Dakota. These reflect a trade network that is best represented in Red Ocher burials with ceremonial points/knives such as Adena and Turkey Tail. However, some Adena/Dickson points from southern Wisconsin are made of high quality (probably Hixton) silicified sandstone.

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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
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*MVAC Educational Programs are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
*This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.  Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.