PAST - The Piedmont Archaeological Studies Trust is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to illuminating our prehistoric and historic understanding of the Piedmont and Blue Ridge of the Carolinas. Its primary goals are to further archaeological research, education, and outreach.

Title and Introduction

PREHISTORIC CHIPPED STONE TOOLS

 OF

 SOUTH CAROLINA

Tommy Charles

P.A.S.T. 

Piedmont Archaeological Studies Trust, Inc.

PO Box 54, Glendale, SC  29346

 

INTRODUCTION

The original purpose for the following compilations of prehistoric chipped stone tool data was simply to illustrate, by graphics and text, the considerable diversity of forms of those that occur in South Carolina, their distribution, the lithic materials used in their manufacture, and the complexity of placing them into indisputable typological and chronological niches. The data was not presented as an authority on the subject, but rather it was intended as a starting point with a long-range objective that future research would contribute additional, and corrective data. The need for such an open-ended study of prehistoric stone tools was made clear during a statewide survey of prehistoric artifact collections held by private citizens in South Carolina. The survey was funded by a series of grants from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, and conducted by Tommy Charles of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, between 1979 and 1985. The purpose of the survey was to obtain artifact and associated site data from collections of prehistoric Native American artifacts held by citizen collectors, and to determine how this information might assist with future archaeological research. More than three hundred and fifty collections were examined and documented to various extents depending upon their size, integrity and time available for their study. Stone tools were placed in typological categories based on their similarity to published descriptions available at that time. Foremost among these was Joffre Coe (1964) from his work in North Carolina, Ripley Bullen (1968) in Florida, James W. Cambron and David C. Hulse (1975) in Alabama, Betty Broyles (1971) in West Virginia and a host of others whose research was centered in Tennessee. Lithic material determinations were based on visual assessments. As the collections survey progressed, it became increasing apparent that most collections contained bifaces for which there was no available reference data and without these data, classification of non-familiar chipped stone tools could only be based on my limited experience and intuition. Given the subjectivity of such analysis, if one insists that all bifaces be forced into a cultural type category, unreliable data must be the result. Believing that reliable data in small quantities is more valuable than extensive data partially obtained by guesswork, an unidentified biface category was increasingly used during the survey. The data obtained was recorded by county and entered in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. In instances where the collector was considered to be untrustworthy about the origins of their artifacts, the data has not been included.

In order for the survey findings to be useful as a reference, a series of notebooks with photographs and descriptions of the recorded biface types and the lithic materials from which they were made was assembled. These notebooks were in loose-leaf binders so that as new data was obtained it could be inserted in a proper chronological sequence. Consulting with other archaeologists, I was encouraged to take this endeavor a step beyond its original intent. Their consensus opinion was to, via the Internet, create a forum to stimulate dialog among researchers, to solicit a sharing of lithic data and opinions that supports, questions, or refutes what we now think about Native American chipped stone tool types; a place to offer, and to seek assistance with resolving problems of stone tool and lithic materials identification. Opting to follow their advice, the initial posting of data follows. These data have been altered somewhat from the original compilations because in these few years interval, the continuing process of learning has mandated change. These corrective data give reason for optimism that the process of learning will continue, and our previous assumptions will be either validated or undergo corrections as new data dictates.

 

         The Data Presented

The following illustrations are not all-inclusive, but rather they are a cross-section of various stone tool types and forms that have been recorded in South Carolina. Included are those in their unaltered initial stages that exhibit the “classic” type forms, as well as those demonstrating inferior craftsmanship, poor raw material selection or availability, and those whose appearance has been dramatically altered by use, reworking, breakage, and natural deterioration. Many of the stone tool forms and types have a distribution range extending well beyond South Carolina’s boundaries, others are more common elsewhere but occasionally are found in our state, and some are apparently endemic to very localized areas within the state. Not addressed here are the numerous stone tool forms and types that occur in other parts of North America but that have not been reported from South Carolina. Accompanying the illustrations are formal descriptions of the recognized biface types as presented by those persons who were first, are among the first, to publish criteria for the type. Where published descriptions were unavailable, I have offered my data, and/or my thoughts, observations, and opinions. My commentary is in parenthesis and it follows the artifact descriptions and comments as presented by the previous researchers. My personal opinions are not supported by hard data, and they should not be interpreted as other than that.

 

 

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