Common Projectile Points of the Upper Mississippi River Valley
by: Robert Boszhardt
If you would like help identifying an artifact in the Upper Mississippi River Valley or the Upper Midwest please email Jean Dowiasch at Jean. Include in your email a description of the item, where it was found, and attach a picture of the artifact with a scale. Responses will be sent as soon as possible. For help identifying artifacts found outside the Upper Midwest contact that state’s archaeologist. Link to a list of state archaeologists can be found online.
Projectile points are tips fastened to the ends of spears, darts, and arrow shafts. In prehistoric North America, they were made from a variety of materials, including antler, bone, and copper but most, at least most that have preserved, were made from stone. The vast majority of these were made by chipping various types of “flint” to shape the projectile point for penetration, cutting, and hafting. Projectile point styles changed through time, much like automobile styles. Sometimes these changes reflect technological shifts, while other times they appear to be simply fads. In either case, it is somewhat astounding how widespread the use of certain projectile point styles was during particular periods of midwestern prehistory. For example, Paleo-Indian fluted spear tips, dating between 11,300 and 10,200 years ago (uncalibrated), have been found in every state between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Several thousand years later, side-notched forms were being used by Archaic cultures throughout much of eastern North America. At the transition from Archaic to Woodland traditions there was a widespread shift to contracting stemmed point types, and toward the end of prehistory virtually every culture adopted unnotched triangular arrow tips.
Although many basic point styles were widespread, they often have a variety of regional names. For example, contracting stemmed points are called Waubesa in Wisconsin and the Upper Mississippi Valley, and nearly identical points are called Belknap or Dickson in Illinois and Gary points to the south and east. While there are often modest regional variations in point types, there is rarely evidence of individual expression. Point makers in general were conformists and manufactured tips according to prevailing culturally accepted styles. For this reason archaeologists work diligently to develop regional projectile point chronologies that recognize patterns of changing shape through time. These are based on the premise that once a distinct style is directly dated by carbon 14 association, then similar points can be confidently attributed to the same age. All ages included in this guide are uncalibrated. This cross-dating can be applied to points found in excavations, plowed fields, or in private collections.
A number of projectile point guides cover various styles found in the Upper Mississippi Valley. This page is adapted from a published version through the University of Iowa Press, A Projectile Point Guide for the Upper Mississippi River Valley, and includes only ten of the more common point types found in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. This electronic version also contains links to related sites but does not include references to the original type definitions, which are available in the published version. Two other recommended print guides that overlap this area are Justice’s Stone Age Spear and Arrow Points of the Midcontinental Eastern United States and Morrow’s Iowa Projectile Points. Several price guides are also available, but most are based on undocumented collections, and all contribute to the destruction of the archaeological record by inevitably disconnecting the locational context from artifacts through selling.
Point typology is a tricky business. We know that basic stylistic patterns changed through time, and we have a fairly good regional chronology of shapes, but many points do not readily conform to “type” examples. Some characteristics, such as corner-notching, seem to have been popular during more than one period, so we may need to look for more subtle ways to determine the ages of specific points. Dating points is always a problem with surface finds, yet with avocational and professional archaeologists sharing knowledge, we can detect more precise patterns and associations. Some corner-notched points are found at sites with pottery, others at sites without pottery. Some may be made of heat-treated chert, others of silicified sandstone. Some may have basal grinding, others not. These kinds of “attributes” can help segregate similar looking points that are from different periods. Sooner or later, each variety will be found in datable contexts, and we will then be able to determine their ages directly. Thus, point guides will need to be refined and updated, a process made easier through the Internet. You can help with this continual process by recording your finds and letting archaeologists document them through photography and measurements.
Identifying the source of the stone used to manufacture specific points can also be difficult. Some materials such as Knife River flint and jasper taconite are fairly distinctive, and it is generally not difficult to separate Prairie du Chien chert from Galena or Moline cherts. However, nearly all flint sources exhibit stone of considerable variation in color and quality, and there are many look-alikes. For example, until the 1990s nearly every silicified sandstone artifact found in the Upper Mississippi Valley was classified as having been made of material from the well-known Silver Mound source in western Wisconsin. But subsequent identification of numerous other silicified sandstone source areas, including several extensive prehistoric workshops that have produced flakes of color and texture that rival that of Silver Mound, make definitive identifications problematic. Because specific sources are usually from discrete geological formations, fossil inclusions, structural properties, and mineralogical content are useful keys for identification. For example, a distinctive attribute of Burlington chert is the inclusion of fossil crinoids, but these are sometime microscopic. Mineral and structural analyses often require specialized technologies that are generally done at geological laboratories and usually involve partial destruction of a specimen, such as thin sectioning or neutron activation analysis. Fortunately, new and less-destructive analyses are continually being developed. Because of the importance of material identification to understanding past cultural ranges and interaction networks, many professional archaeological institutes have established comparative lithic collections with examples from source areas.
Many people collect spear tips, arrowheads, and other artifacts from plowed fields in the Upper Mississippi Valley. Besides being a pleasant hobby, collecting these artifacts can tell us which culture lived at each site, how old the site is, how people survived, and which trade networks they may have used. Archaeology has a long history of private collectors making significant contributions by sharing their knowledge. Unfortunately, a few untrained people dig into sites or actively buy and sell artifacts, forever destroying critical information needed to interpret the past.
Archaeological sites are nonrenewable resources of our collective heritage. Once destroyed they are gone forever, and with them goes all potential understanding of the past cultures that occupied those sites. In the 130 years from 1850 to 1980 farming, town development, and road construction obliterated nearly 80 percent of the thousands of mounds that once dotted the Upper Mississippi Valley before legislation finally protected those that remained. Now urban sprawl has accelerated the destruction of the irreplaceable archaeological record. It is imperative that we all contribute to preserving as much as possible. Collecting artifacts gives you two options: you can do it ethically and contribute to an understanding of the past, or you can do it selfishly and destroy the record. Note that ethical collecting begins with landowner permission, and it is illegal to collect from any public land, including nearly all of the Upper Mississippi River floodplain. Once permission is obtained from private landowners, you can contribute to archaeological research by following these few simple practices.
Record your find
When you find artifacts, note where you found them as precisely as possible. In the long run, these will be much more valuable to you than a set of artifacts from places long since forgotten. Keep items found at individual sites separate from those found elsewhere. Simple recording systems such as numbering sites works very well. For example, keep all artifacts found on Site 1 together, or label them as such when mixing with others for display. Keeping a notebook with sketch maps of sites is extremely important. An example of a site recording form follows. You could also mark sites on a county map or even a highway map. The best maps are U.S. Geological Survey topographical quadrangles, which are becoming more easily available in digital form through commercial vendors or via the Internet.
For storing, wrap special artifacts separately to prevent them from getting nicked by knocking against other artifacts. Too often, well-intentioned people have dumped coffee cans or old cigar boxes full of artifacts onto our lab tables revealing not only new information but also new breaks and a small pile of fresh chips. Take care of your artifacts; they are a priceless record of the past and are irreplaceable!
Contact an archaeologist
Each state has a state archaeologist, and many colleges and museums have archaeologists who would be happy to photograph your finds and record the information. Rest assured that archaeologists will not confiscate your artifacts, steal your site, or broadcast its location. You will be helping to piece together essential knowledge of the past. In return, you will learn how old your artifacts are, what they are made of, and what they were used for.
Do not buy, sell, or trade artifacts
Buying and selling artifacts not only encourages looting, but once sold, the most important information—site location—is gone forever. It also encourages the manufacture of fraudulent artifacts, and all buyers eventually get taken because fakes can be impossible to distinguish from authentic artifacts. Flintknappers have been producing replicas and fakes for well over a century, and a 1994 survey of modern flintknappers revealed that as many as 1.5 million replica-fakes are being made every year. If you don’t know who found it and where it was from, there’s a good chance you are buying a fake.
If you have a collection and you can no longer keep it, either donate it to a state historical society or university with a curation facility, or pass the collection on to the next generation or to someone else who you know will cherish and maintain the collection. This ensures that collection information will follow the actual artifacts. The key is to make sure that information about the material and where it was collected remains with the collection. Donations to nonprofit organizations are usually tax-deductible.
Never dig or excavate a site without proper supervision
Archaeological sites cannot be replaced. Once a site is dug improperly, it is destroyed and cannot be reconstructed. There are ample opportunities to participate in professional excavations throughout the Midwest.
- Blade: The cutting portion of the point above the hafted stem.
- Stem: The modified bottom of the blade for hafting onto a shaft or handle.
- Contracting: A haft stem that tapers from the shoulder to the base.
- Concave: An edge (usually at the base) that curves inward.
- Convex: Outward curving edges.
- Base: The very bottom of the point.
- Edge: The sides of the blade (may be serrated, beveled [steep angle], pressure flaked, etc).
- Tip: The pointed top of the blade.
- Shoulder: The wide portion of the blade immediately above the stem.
- Corner-notched: Notches oriented at an upward angle from the basal corners.
- Side-notched: Notches oriented perpendicular to the length of the point.
- Agate Basin
- Durst Stemmed
- Madison Triangular
- Preston Corner-Notched
- St. Charles
This type is named after points found at the Agate Basin site complex in eastern Wyoming. Excavations at this well-stratified site produced multiple point types, including a Folsom–Agate Basin–Hell Gap sequence, each associated with discrete beds of extinct bison bones. The main bison bone bed (Area II) was situated 20 to 30 centimeters above a Folsom level and produced forty-six complete and broken Agate Basin points.
Other Possible Names or Related Points: Angostura, long or oblique Yuma.
Age: 10,500 to 10,000 B.P. Charcoal from the Agate Basin component at Area II produced a radiocarbon date of 10,430 + 570 B.P.
Distribution: This type is widespread on the Plains, extending east as far as Ohio and Lake Michigan, and is found on both sides of the upper Mississippi River. East of the Mississippi River, this type is most concentrated in western Illinois and southern Wisconsin.
Description: Medium to large in size, Agate Basin lanceolates were used as spear tips and knifes. They are widest at their midsection with convex edges that narrow to the base. Their blades are often carefully flaked in a collateral pattern where the horizontal flake scars meet at a central ridge. The bases are usually straight but may be slightly concave or convex. The lower edges are normally ground heavily, and sometimes the grinding extends nearly 7 centimeters above the base. Short Agate Basins are often nubs of larger points that were resharpened until the blade was nearly gone, and these may be confused with Hell Gap points. On these points all but the very tip is ground.
Length: 6–15 cm/2.5–6 in. Width: 2.5–4 cm/1–1.5 in.
Material: These points are usually made from regionally available cherts such as Galena, Moline, and Burlington, or silicified sandstone. Numerous examples made of Hixton silicified sandstone and nonglossy tan Cochrane chert are known from western Wisconsin. A few Agate Basin points made from exotic flint have also been reported for this region. For example, Hill reports the base of an obsidian specimen from Silver Mound, and Knife River flint specimens are also known from the Upper Mississippi Valley. In addition, a few examples made from jasper taconite and Silurian II chert from Lake Superior and Green Bay, respectively, are known to have come from this region.
The Cahokia point type is named after the major Middle Mississippian Cahokia site near St. Louis.
Other Possible Names or Related Points: Grant Side-Notched and Prairie du Sac Notched in southwestern Wisconsin. Cahokia counterparts on the Plains are Washita, Harrel, and Reed points. Similar to Huffaker points, the basic Cahokia preform also resembles the Madison type in manufacture.
Age: These points represent a horizon marker from 1,000 to 850 B.P., representing Middle Mississippian–Cahokia and related site complexes (e.g., Steed Kisker, Mill Creek, terminal Late Woodland [Effigy Mound], and Early [Emergent] Oneota).Distribution: Illinois, Iowa, southern Wisconsin, Missouri, northern Arkansas, and eastern Oklahoma.
Description: This type has been segregated into four subclasses: Cahokia double-notched, triple-notched, multiple-notched, and serrated. The points are small to medium arrow tips. They are thin and generally well-made with either straight or triangular converging sides. This family exhibits multiple notching patterns, but characteristically they have a pair of relatively deep side notches. Cahokia double-notched are the most common Cahokia type found in the Upper Mississippi Valley. Triple-notched points are rare in the Upper Mississippi Valley. One point, found at the Energy Park site, an Early Oneota village near Red Wing, has five notches: two on each side and one in the center of the base. At the blended Late Woodland–Middle Mississippian Fred Edwards site in Grant County, Wisconsin, side-notched triangular points were distinguished from Grant Side-Notched on the basis of the angle of the base. Grant Side-Notched points have a square base with a 90 degree angle. Other side notched triangular points have basal angles less than 90 degrees. Both Grant points and side notched triangular points were recovered in number at the Fred Edwards site, which is well-dated between A.D. 1050 and 1150. Finney and Stoltman also isolate the Prairie du Sac Side-Notched variety as having a base that is narrower than the shoulder. This subtype may be related to Honey Creek Corner-Notched points; however, only one was found at the Fred Edwards site.
Length: 1.5–3.5cm/0.7–1.75 in. Width: 1.3–2 cm/0.6–1 in.
Material: Cahokia points are nearly always made of local cherts. Only a few examples of silicified sandstone Cahokia points are known for the Upper Mississippi Valley (e.g., the Emergent Oneota, Diamond Bluff/Mero site), including the northern portion, where numerous sources of this material exist. Heat-treatment may occur.
This is the oldest known point type found in North America. This spear point is named after Clovis, New Mexico, where it was found with extinct mammoth bones at Locality 1 of the Blackwater Draw site. Clovis points have also been found in association with mammoths at several sites on the Plains, providing the basis for characterizing Paleo-Indians as big fame hunters.
Other Possible Names or Related Points: Fluted point, Folsomoid. Goshen points may represent unfluted Clovis points on the basis of having been found beneath Folsom points at the Hell Gap site in Wyoming.
Age: 11,300 to 10,900 B.P.
Distribution: Clovis points are reported from nearly every state south of Canada, suggesting rapid colonization of North America. This type has been found with extinct mammoths and mastodons at several locations in the western and midwestern United States, including the Kimmswick site in Missouri and perhaps the Boaz Mastodon site in Richland County, Wisconsin. A set, or cache, of twenty Clovis-like points was excavated at the Rummells-Maske site in east-central Iowa. Clovis or related fluted points have been found in northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, but not above Lake Superior. Those reported from the Upper Mississippi Valley are primarily surface finds from agricultural fields. Goshen points are reported from the northern Plains.
Description: Clovis points are medium to large lanceolate spear-knife points. Their sides are parallel to convex and exhibit careful pressure flaking along the blade edge. The broadest area is near the midsection or toward the base. Bases are distinctly concave with a characteristic flute or channel flake removed from one or, more commonly, both surfaces of the blade. Flutes range from one-quarter to one-half the length of the blade. The lower edges of the blade and base are usually ground to dull edges for hafting. Shorter Clovis points are those that have been resharpened until the blade was substantially reduced, and some of these were probably discarded during retooling. Clovis points are distinguished from Folsom points by the relative length of the fluting. Where Clovis points are larger and the channel flake scar typically extends less than halfway up the blade, often terminating in a step fracture, Folsom points are shorter and the flute often runs nearly the entire length of the blade. Clovis points also tend to be thicker than the typically thin Folsom points. Gainey points are longer than Folsom, but also have flutes that extend more than half the blade length. However, some fully fluted points that may be classified as Folsom or Gainey could be resharpened and expended Clovis points.
Length: 4–20 cm/1.5–8 in. Width: 2.5–5 cm/1–2 in.
Material: In the Upper Mississippi Valley, these points were often made of high-grade and colorful materials such as fine quality Hixton silicified sandstone or glossy Cochrane chert. Some were made of Moline chert (originating from the lower Rock River in Illinois), jasper taconite (from the Thunder Bay area of western Lake Superior), and local Galena and Prairie du Chien cherts. Some Prairie du Chien chert fluted points appear to have been heat-treated.
This type is named after the Durst Rockshelter site in Sauk County, Wisconsin.
Other Possible Names or Related Points: Durst Stemmed points resemble Table Rock points. They are a regional variant of the Lamoka type cluster found throughout the northeastern United States.
Age: 3,000 B.P. These points are well-dated at several Wisconsin rockshelters and a few open-air campsites, stratigraphically above Raddatz Side-Notched points and below layers containing Woodland pottery.
Distribution: The type is common in Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and eastern Iowa.
Description: Durst Stemmed points are usually small spear tips with long, slightly expanding stems and rounded shoulders. They are roughly flaked, having a relatively thick body. Bases are usually rounded, with stems accounting for one-half to one-third of the total point length. Stem edges may be ground.
Length: 2.5–5 cm/1–2 in. Width: 2–4 cm/0.5–1.5 in.
Material: South of the La Crosse River valley, most are made from Prairie du Chien chert (sometimes heat-treated). North of the La Crosse River, many are made of medium to coarse grained (non-Hixton) silicified sandstones.
This point type was first named in an unpublished guide to central Mississippi Valley projectile point types based on examples found at the Cahokia site and in St. Clair and Madison counties, Illinois.
Other Possible Names or Related Points: Triangular, Fresno, Sanders Triangular, also called bird points by collectors.
Age: 1,100 to 300 B.P. These points are associated with Late Woodland cultures and the Mississippian/Oneota Traditions.
Distribution: Madison points are common throughout the Midwest, concentrated along the Mississippi River basin and Oneota settlement localities.
Description: These are small unnotched triangular points. The blade edges tend to be straight but may be slightly concave or convex. Bases may also vary from straight to concave or convex. Madison points tend to be half as wide as they are long (isosceles triangle), but some are as wide as they are long (equilateral triangle). Although one of many commonly called bird points, these are true arrowheads that were used to hunt game like deer, elk, and buffalo. These points are made of whatever local lithic materials were available including Prairie du Chien chert and silicified sandstones from the Upper Mississippi Valley. The majority of the Madison points at the Late Woodland/Middle Mississippian village of Aztalan in southeastern Wisconsin, however, are made of silicified sandstone from west-central Wisconsin. A few quartz Madison points have also been found in the Upper Mississippi Valley, having originated in glaciated northern regions. Variations range from nicely made triangles to simple retouched flakes barely recognizable as points. In central Wisconsin, Late Woodland Madison points tend to be serrated and made of silicified sandstone. At Late Woodland (Eastman phase) sites near Prairie du Chien, only a few points are serrated and most are made of local chert. At La Crosse Oneota sites, these points are never serrated and from A.D. 1300 to 1400 were made predominately of silicified sandstone but thereafter were made from chert. It appears that late Oneota points are slightly larger.
Experimental replication of arrows such as those found in the Upper Mississippi Valley indicates that shaft production is a long and laborious task. In contrast, manufacture of unnotched triangular points is relatively simple. The absence of notching suggests that these expedient points were hafted in a fashion that allowed the point to be detached, staying in the wound, while the shaft may have been retrieved and retipped. This would have been an effective weapon, where extraction of the tip may not have been possible by pulling out the shaft.
Length: 1.5–3 cm/0.75–2 in. Width 1.25–2.5 cm/0.5–1 in.
Material: These points are made from a variety of local and nonlocal materials. In the Upper Mississippi Valley, Madison points are made of Prairie du Chien chert, Galena chert, Hixton and related silicified sandstones, and quartz.
This type was defined on the basis of type specimens from the Preston Rockshelter site in the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin.
Other Possible Names or Related Points: Monona Stemmed, Merom Expanding Stem, Trimble Side-Notched (Wabash Valley), Springly (west-central Illinois).
Age: 3,500 B.P. Stoltman recognized this type as occurring stratigraphically between the Raddatz and Durst levels at the Preston Rockshelter site and the type definition includes Wittry’s Monona Stemmed forms from the Raddatz and Durst shelters.
Description: These are small corner-notched to expanding stemmed forms. The blade is more triangular in shape than subsequent Durst points, with a distinctly sharper shoulder. Because of their relatively small size, these might be confused with arrow tips. However, the average weight of Preston points is nearly 4 grams, while late prehistoric arrow tips weigh on average only 1 gram. It is possible that Preston Corner-Notched and equally small Durst Stemmed points (see next entry) represent stone tips for detachable foreshafts of compound spears.
Length: 2.5–4.5 cm/1–2 in. Width: 1.7–2.5 cm/.75–1 in.
Material: The points are made from local cherts, sometimes heat-treated.
These points are named after specimens found at the Raddatz Rockshelter site, Sauk County, Wisconsin, the Osceola site in Grant County, Wisconsin, and at the Airport site near Madison, Wisconsin.
Other Possible Names or Related Points: Godar. Osceola points are very similar to Hemphill points.
Age: 5,000 to 3,500 B.P. They are accurately dated stratigraphically below Durst points in several rockshelters and at several open air sites.
Distribution: Found throughout the Midwest.
Description: These points are medium-size side-notched spear tips. Blades are triangular to parallel sided, with Osceola predominantly parallel, and converge sharply at the tip. Notches are moderate in size and tend to be U-shaped, inserted at right angles to the blade. Basal ears tend to line up with the blade edges. The bases are slightly concave to straight and are sometimes ground (usually on concave bases). Concave forms tend to be larger and are probably an early variant, having evolved from Early Archaic notched forms. A few serrated or beveled examples are known. Raddatz points with straight or slightly convex bases are generally smaller, and may represent a shift in hunting technology to compound shaft darts. The Madison Side-Notched variant usually has a wide base with shallow side notches just above the base. These points are relatively crude and are best described as wide Raddatz points with shallow side notches. They should not be confused with small, Late Woodland Madison triangular points.
Length: 4–9 cm/1.5–3.5 in. (Raddatz) Width: 3–4 cm/ 1–1.5 in. Length: 9–24 cm/3.5–9.5 in. (Osceola) Width: 3–4 cm /1–1.5 in.
Material: In the Upper Mississippi Valley these points are usually made of local chert such as from the Prairie du Chien formation and are often heat-treated, resulting in a lustrous finish.
This point type was named after examples found in central Illinois and eastern Missouri. The type site is the Gronefeld site, St. Charles County, Missouri.
Other Possible Names or Related Points: Dovetail, Plevna, and Circle-top.
Age: 10,000 to 8,000 B.P.
Distribution: St. Charles points are found throughout the eastern United States and in the Midwest, primarily south of the Wisconsin River. A few examples have been found north toward Silver Mound in western Wisconsin as well as in northeastern Iowa and southern Minnesota, including an expended specimen made of Burlington chert that was excavated from the Challey-Turbenson Cedar Valley chert workshop site.
Description: St. Charles points are medium to large spear-knife points. The blades are well made with convex sides, widest at the midsection or toward the shoulder. The points are sometimes unifacially barbed and/or serrated, and well-used points typically have beveled edges from repeated resharpening. The notches are deep and narrow or moderately V-shaped. The stems are generally short and narrow. The bases are usually ground and strongly convex.
Length: 4–10 cm/1.5–4 in. (may extend to 7 in). Width: 2.5–5 cm/1–2 in.
Material: In the Upper Mississippi Valley, some of these points were manufactured from Hixton silicified sandstone and Burlington chert.
Steuben Expanded Stemmed points were first defined at the Steuben site in Illinois. McCoy Corner-Notched points are named after the Silver Creek Site I within the bounds of Fort McCoy in the La Crosse River valley of west-central Wisconsin. Monona Stemmed points are named after the Black Hawk Village site near Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin.
Other Possible Names or Related Points: Steuben points are also known as Lowe Flared Base in southern Illinois, and the type has been divided into three varieties: long and slender, squat and thick, and small and thin. Preston Notched points, a recently recognized Late Archaic type, are similar to Steuben points and they may be mistaken for one another.
Age: 1,700 to 1,500 B.P. The type is diagnostic of the Millville phase in southwestern Wisconsin.
Distribution: Steuben points are common throughout Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and into southern Wisconsin.
Description: These are small to medium spear points. The blades are triangular with convex edges, and shoulders are straight to sloping. The basal edge is straight to slightly convex while stem edges are concave. Stems expand from the shoulder to the base and account for approximately one-quarter of the point’s length. Basal edges are rarely ground. These are sometimes difficult to distinguish from Durst points of the Late Archaic. Both are characterized by expanding stems, but points within the Steuben family usually have sharper shoulders and are made of chert, whereas Durst points tend to have rounded shoulders and may be made of chert or silicified sandstone.
Length: 3–10 cm/1.5–4 in. Width: 2.5–4 cm/1–2 in.
Material: These points are typically made of local cherts that may be heat-treated.
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.
Early Paleo Indian Fluted Spear Forms
Late Paleo Indian Lanceolates
Early Archaic Stemmed and Corner Notched
Middle Archaic Stemmed and Side Notched
Late Archaic Stemmed and Corner Notched
Early Woodland Stemmed
Middle Woodland Broad Corner Notched
Late Prehistoric Woodland/Oneota Arrowheads
The web-based Projectile Point Guide was created with a grant from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Foundation.