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Projectile Points
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BARE ISLAND

Thumbnail image of a Bare Island point from the MAC Lab collections.Defining Attributes

The Bare Island is a medium-to-large, symmetrical point, moderately-well to finely flaked, with a slender isosceles triangle blade and a straight base. The stem is generally straight with parallel or nearly parallel sides.

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Chronology

The Bare Island point has had a suggested date range anywhere from 5000 BC to 1000 AD.  Custer (1996a) states that it is mostly likely to fall between 5000 and 1500 BP (approximately 3750 BC-600 AD in calendar years).  The Virginia Department of Historic Resources (www.dhr.virginia.gov) places it more narrowly within the Late Archaic period, at 4500 to 3600 BP, and McAvoy and McAvoy (1997) date the point to between 4300 and 4000 BP (roughly 2900-2500 BC in calendar years) along the Nottoway River in Virginia. In her study of the Patuxent River drainage, Steponaitis (1980; 1986) assigns a tentative date range of 4500 to 3700 BP (approximately 3200-2050 BC in calendar years) for Bare Island, with a peak between 4200 and 3900 BP (2750-2450 BC in calendar years).  Funk (1993) sees a similar peak period based on radiocarbon dates in the Upper Susquehanna Valley.  Custer (1996a) has suggested that larger varieties might tend to be older than 3000 BP, while smaller ones are more likely to be younger.  At the Higgins site in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the larger varieties also tended to be older than the smaller varieties, with the latter probably dating to the Early Woodland period.  However, these smaller stemmed points were identified as the Wading River type, distinguished from Bare Island primarily on the basis of size and the absence of grinding (Ebright 1992).

Description

Blade: The blade is symmetrical, with an elongated isosceles triangle shape.  Edges are generally slightly excurvate, although on larger points they tend to be straighter. Shoulders are usually small, slightly rounded, and at an obtuse angle to the stem, but in some cases they are well-defined and sharply angled.  The blade cross-section is lenticular to strongly bi-convex.  Grinding can occur on the lower portions of the blade (Ebright 1992).

Haft Element: The base is usually straight, but sometimes it is slightly convex or concave.  Often, the stem edges and base exhibit traces of grinding.  The stem is always narrower than the blade, and the long sides of the stem are parallel or close to parallel, forming a squarish or rectangular shape.

Size: Length ranges from 45 to 83 mm, with an average of 69 mm.  Width ranges from 16 to 30 mm, with an average of 21 mm.  Thickness ranges from 8 to 15 mm, with an average of 12 mm.

Technique of manufacture: Moderately well made by percussion flaking.

Material: In a sample of 629 Bare Island points from the lower Patuxent drainage, Steponaitis (1980) reported that 87% were quartzite, followed by quartz (8%), rhyolite (4%), and jasper (1%).  In the area surrounding Zekiah Swamp on the lower Potomac, Wanser (1982) found that 59% of 942 Bare Island points were quartzite, with 30% quartz, 10% rhyolite, and small numbers of argillite, chert, and slate.  At the Accokeek Creek site in Prince Georges County, quartzite was predominant, while quartz and shale points were rare (Stephenson and Ferguson 1963).  At the Higgins site in Anne Arundel County, all 15 Bare Island points were quartz (Ebright 1992).  In the Monocacy River drainage, 81% of 152 Bare Islands were rhyolite, with 13% quartzite and 6% quartz (Kavanagh 1982).  In the middle Potomac Valley, rhyolite, quartz, and quartzite Bare Islands are most common, with rare examples of chert (Hranicky 2002).

Discussion

Bare Island points are found throughout the Northeast.  In Maryland, they are common on Late Archaic sites across the state, and are among the most abundant points found in the Coastal Plain portions of the Patuxent and Potomac (Steponaitis 1980; Wanser 1982).  The Late Archaic component of the Accokeek Creek site (18PR8) yielded a large number of Bare Island points (Stephenson and Ferguson 1963). 

Bare Island points (straight stem) have been described as closely related to the Clagett point (expanded stem), the Lamoka Cluster, and the Lackawaxen (Justice 1987; Stephenson and Ferguson 1963; Wall et al. 1996).  Intergrades between the Bare Island and the Poplar Island point types exist, but the rounded shoulder is more conspicuous on the latter type (Kinsey 1959). Ritchie (1971) defined the Wading River type in the Northeast as a smaller, unground, and contemporary version of the Bare Island.  Along the Potomac Valley, a type similar to the Bare Island is called the Holmes point. “Holmes” was a new name given to the Bare Island point as defined by Stephenson and Ferguson (1963) at the Accokeek Creek site, because it differed from Kinsey’s (1959) original definition in both lithic material preference and the occasional presence of a concave base (McNett n.d.).  While some still argue that the Holmes is unique enough to be a separate type (Dent 1995), others suggest it is virtually identical to Bare Island (Wanser 1982; Ebright 1992). Kent (1996) notes that the range of shapes that have been identified by various researchers as “Bare Island” goes far beyond the morphology of the type as first defined by Kinsey (1959).  Kent’s Type F for southeastern Pennsylvania corresponds to Bare Island, but he notes that his own Types D and E, as well as types like Lackawaxen and other stemmed varieties, are all poorly understood and interrelate in unknown ways, so he half-jokingly suggests they all be called “Late Archaic mixed stem.”

Kinsey (in Ritchie 1971) notes the similarities between the Bare Island point found in the Susquehanna drainage and those recovered at the Accokeek Creek site on the lower Potomac River.  Therefore, according to Kinsey, the antecedent for this type might be located in the Virginia and Carolina Piedmont and along the Savannah River in Georgia.

Defined in Literature

Kinsey originally defined this type in 1959, based on points recovered from the Kent-Hally site on Bare Island in Pennsylvania.  His description of this type was re-published by Ritchie in 1961 (revised 1971).  Stephenson and Ferguson (1963) also described this point based on 269 examples found at the Accokeek Creek site in Maryland.

References

Custer 1996a; Dent 1995; Ebright 1992; Funk 1993; Hranicky 2002; Justice 1987; Kavanagh 1982; Kent 1996; Kinsey 1959; McAvoy and McAvoy 1997; McNett n.d.; Ritchie 1971; Stephenson and Ferguson 1963; Steponaitis 1980, 1986; Wall et al. 1996; Wanser 1982

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