Great Basin Stemmed Points

Form And Function Of Great Basin Stemmed Points

By Linsie Lafayette

Variability in Great Basin stemmed point morphology could represent: (1) temporal differences; (2) stylistic differences; (3) functional differences; or (4) degree of resharpening. Temporal differences do not appear to account for this variation because many point types date to 7000-11,200 14C B.P. Resharpening also does not appear to be a factor because caches of unused stemmed points have been found. Thus, variability in point morphology may be related to style or function. To address this question, I conducted a study of experimental use of stemmed point replicas and use-wear analysis of both these replicas and stemmed points from archaeological sites (herein referred to as prehistoric stemmed points). James C. Woods produced six Parman, six Haskett, and six Windust types for use in the experiment. I used half of the replicas as projectiles that I threw at a deer carcass. The other half was used as knives to butcher the carcass. After use, I examined the replicas under magnification for use-wear and compared them with 59 prehistoric stemmed points from sites in the Great Basin.

Replicas of Stemmed Points

Replica stemmed points made on obsidian

The results of this experiment suggest that variability in Great Basin stemmed point morphology are not related to function. Each point type each appear to have been used as projectiles and for other purposes. This supports the argument that stemmed points were multipurpose tools. Haskett types performed poorly as both projectiles and knives. This may suggest that they were used for purposes other than those conducted in the study or that there was a problem in the way they were hafted for the experiment. If we can rule out differences in the age, degree of resharpening, and/or function of the majority of these types, then variation in stemmed point morphology may result in part from stylistic differences between individuals, groups, or cultures.

Deer Butchering

Butchering a deer carcass with a replica point

Prehistoric stemmed points

Prehistoric stemmed points from buried contexts in the northwest Great Basin.