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: 6–13 cm/2–5 in. Width: 3–4 cm/1–1.5 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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