Friday, May 21, 2021

Projectile Point Types in Pennsylvania: Middle Paleoindian Fluted Points, 10,800-10,100 years ago

This week we return to our series on Native American projectile point types in Pennsylvania with a description of the post-Clovis fluted points from the Middle Paleoindian period dating from approximately 10,800 BP to 10,100 years ago. The fluted point types from this time are not as well defined and not well dated compared to the Clovis projectile point type. They are found during an abrupt return to very cold temperatures known as the Younger Dryas climatic episode and they are important because they reflect the cultural adaptation to these harsh environmental conditions.

Precontact projectile points, stone spear and arrow points, are made in a variety of shapes for functional and cultural reasons. In addition, in some cases, Native Americans preferred specific types of stone to make a spear point. A projectile point type can be defined as an assemblage of artifacts that share a group of traits that distinguish them from all other groups of projectile points. Some of these shapes were only used during specific time periods and once dated by carbon-14 methods, the shape or type can be used by archaeologists to date other sites where carbon-14 dates are not available. The use of diagnostic projectile point types is probably one of the most important and commonly used methods of dating Precontact sites in the absence of carbon-14 dating. Although, we have learned that some projectile point types were being made over long periods of time and are not very useful in dating sites, but others are “diagnostic” for relatively short time periods.


Clovis point from the Shawnee Minisink site (36Mr43). (Smithsonian Collection; Photograph by Kurt W. Carr, curated in the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania) 

Our first blog post in the projectile point series was the Clovis fluted point type (November 2020) which is the earliest fluted point type found in Pennsylvania dating to 11,000 years ago. This point type is well dated, well defined, and generally correlates with a period of warming temperatures near the end of the Ice Age. The Clovis type is characterized as a lanceolate, parallel sided, medium to large projectile point with a slightly concave base, grinding along the lower third of the lateral edges and a flute on both sides that extends no more than half of the length of the point. The type covers a relatively short period of time between 11,200 and 10,800 years ago. Clovis is the only continental wide projectile point type. Points from this time period are very similar in shape and occur throughout North America. This is interpreted as an idea that spread across North America very quickly. Once people in the various river valleys had adopted the concept of fluting a spear point, they began to experiment with slight changes that led to the development of new styles and types. Due to the harsh conditions of the Younger Dryas climatic episode, there was likely less communication between the hunting bands in river valleys and new regional fluted point types emerged. These types are the topic of our discussion below.

A variety of type names have been used to identify fluted point styles/types from this period. Bradley et al. (2008) in New England, Gingerich (2013) in the Upper Delaware River Valley and the comprehensive survey for Pennsylvania by Fogelman and Lantz (2006) have identified five to eight of the most common fluted point types from this period. Unfortunately, these studies do not share the same type names or definitions of these types. This reflects the somewhat confusing array of fluted points from this period. In the presentation below, the New England sequence will be used, as it very comprehensive, it is partially based on carbon-14 dates and reflects most fluted points from Pennsylvania. 

The Fluted projectile point sequence for New England (Bradley et al. 2008:120 Fig 1)

The first type following Clovis migration into the Middle Atlantic and New England regions is the Kings Road-Whipple fluted point type. Projectile point type names are usually designated after the site where they were first discovered. The hyphenated name of this type reflects the fact that two sites produced points of this type. The Kings Road-Whipple type is a medium to large, lanceolate projectile point, robust in appearance, parallel sided but sometimes with slightly divergent sides. Another hallmark is the moderately deep arc-shaped base, occasionally with slightly flaring ears. This type illustrates a more careful technique for fluting, resulting in longer and more robust flutes. According to Bradley et al. (2008:127) it dates to approximately 10,800 years ago. Further afield, the type is known as Gainey in the Great Lakes region and it is identified in western Pennsylvania as such. 

Kings Road-Whipple fluted projectile points from New England.  (Bradley et al. 2008:128 Fig 6)

Vail-Debert fluted point type from Snyder, Lycoming, Berks, and Lancaster Counties. (Fogelman and Lantz 2006:29, Fig 58)

The Vail-Debert type is a large to very large, robust, lanceolate fluted point related to the Kings Road-Whipple type. The most distinctive trait is a deep U-shaped basal concavity with careful retouching on the interior of the concavity. Flutes extend a third of the length of the point. The Vail-Debert type is frequently made from locally derived chert rather than exotic cherts characteristic of most fluted point types. Edges are frequently reworked to be used as a knife or scraper, indicating a multi-purpose tool function. The deep notching of the base is thought to be part of the hafting mechanism and unrelated to the fluting process. Although there are many carbon-14 dates associated with this type, they cover a broad time period and as such are considered problematic by most archaeologists. According to Bradley et al. (2008:132-135) this type dates to approximately 10,500 years ago. 

 The Bull Brook-West Athens Hill type is lanceolate in shape with slightly divergent lateral edges, medium to large in size, with a moderately deep arc-shaped base that frequently exhibit basal ears. The flute extends half the length of the point and sometimes guide flakes are used in the fluting process to control the shape of the flute. According to Bradley et al. (2008:136-141), the ears suggest the point was designed to stay embedded in the animal to increase damage and eventually cause death. Bradley et al. (2008:141), date this type to approximately to 10,500 years ago. Further afield in the Great Lakes region, this type is known as Butler. 

Michaud-Neponset (Barnes) fluted point type from York, Lancaster, and Lycoming Counties. (Fogelman and Lantz 2006:26-27, Fig 56)

The Michaud-Neponset fluted point type is a lanceolate point that is thinner and more gracile than previously described types with lateral edges that are divergent rather than parallel creating the widest spot at the mid-section of the point. The basal arc-shaped concavity is moderately deep with prominent ears creating a “fishtail” shape. The flutes extend from half the length of the point to the tip; a very diagnostic trait for this type (Bradley et al. 2008:141-149). According to Bradley et al. (2008:142), this relatively thin and “delicate” point is the most technologically sophisticated of the fluted point types. The fluting process also used guide flakes to control the shape of the flute. The tip was ground and blunted suggesting some type of jig or device was used to hold the point as it was being fluted. This is known as the “Barnes finishing technique.” Bradley et al. (2008:143) argue that the delicate proportions and distinct basal ears suggest “a specialized hunting (piercing) tool similar to the Cumberland point.”

According to Bradley et al. (2008:146) this type dates to approximately 10,300 years ago. In the Great Lakes region, it is known as the Barnes type.

Crowfield fluted point type. Lancaster and Dauphin Counties. Bottom left – cast of point from western New York. Bottom right – cast of point from Crowfield site. (Fogelman and Lantz 2006:30, Fig 59)

The Crowfield fluted point type is a thin, flat, delicate, pentagon shaped, medium sized point. The lateral edges are strongly divergent. Multiple flutes frequently extend the length of the point. It is rarely found in New England or the Middle Atlantic region. They are, however, found at two stratified sites in Pennsylvania. This type represents the last of the fully fluted points. The best dated site for the Crowfield type is the Nesquehoning site in Carbon County where the point was associated with a date of approximately 10,300 years ago (Koch 2017 and Stewart et al. 2018). 

Cormier-Nicholas fluted point type from Union, Crawford, Columbia, Chester, Dauphin, and Lycoming Counties. (Fogelman and Lantz 2006:32, Fig 60)

The final fluted point herein described is the Cormier-Nicholas point type, which is a thin, irregularly shaped lanceolate point of small to medium size, with a shallow crescent shape base. Flutes can occur on both faces, one face, and in some cases, the point is unfluted. Locally derived cherts are the preferred lithic material and occasionally, these points were made on flakes rather than bifacial blanks, an additional radical change in fluted point technology not observed on earlier fluted points. According to Bradley et al. (2008:148-155) these represent an abrupt change in technology that correlates with the end of the Younger Dryas at approximately 10,300 years ago and a change in vegetation from a cold open forest to a warmer coniferous forest. 

In conclusion, there are at least six generally recognized fluted point types attributed to post-Clovis fluted points and not all archaeologists agree on these names. Alternatively, it may be more useful to interpret these types as part of a continuum beginning with Clovis fluted points and ending with unfluted lanceolate types. Following the Clovis type, the lateral edges of the Kings Road-Whipple type are sometimes less parallel, the basal concavity is generally deeper, sometimes with ears and there is a greater emphasis on controlling the fluting process. The Vail-Debert type is a subtype of this with a very deep basal concavity. The trends in more divergent lateral edges, deeper basal concavities with ears and an emphasis on more precise fluting continue with the Bull Brook-West Athens Hill type. These trends culminate in the Michaud-Neponset type with a moderately deep basil concavity with prominent ears creating a fishtail shape. In addition, the flutes frequently extend the length of the point. This is the last of the true lanceolate shaped fluted points. The Crowfield type is the last of the fluted point types but its overall shape is very different than all other fluted points. It corresponds to the end of the Younger Dryas climatic episode and the emergence of a radically new environmental system. 

The study of projectile point types and developing chronological sequences has been an important research topic in archaeology and specifically in Pennsylvania. Many studies have been able to correlate changes in projectile points with environmental change. It is reasonable to assume that projectile points are tied to these changes, however we know that the fluting of points was an incredible technological feat and was tied to social organization and religion. These are research topics that we need to examine and with more carbon-14 dates and better controlled excavations, archaeologists may be able to elucidate these issues. 

We hope you have enjoyed our description of the post-Clovis fluted points and will visit us again for more on the projectile point types of Pennsylvania. We invite you to view additional examples of Precontact projectile points via Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s on-line collections database

All the images in this picture depict points in the collections of the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania except the Shawnee Minisink point that is curated in the Smithsonian Museum. 


Bradley, James W., Arthur E. Spiess, Richard A. Boisvert, and Jeff Boudreau 
2008      What’s the Point?: Modal Forms and Attributes of Paleoindian Bifaces in the New England-Maritimes Region. Archaeology of Eastern North America 30:119–172. 

Fogelman, Gary L., and Stanley W. Lantz 
2006    The Pennsylvania Fluted Point Survey. Fogelman Publishing, Turbotville, Pennsylvania. 

Gingerich, Joseph, A. M. 
2013      Revisiting Shawnee-Minisink. In The Eastern Fluted Point Tradition, edited by Joseph A. M. Gingerich, pp. 218–256. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. 

Koch, Jeremy W. 
2017      Paleoindian Chronology, Technology, and Lithic Resource Procurement at Nesquehoning Creek. Ph.D. dissertation, Temple University. 

Stewart, R. Michael, Jeremy Koch, Kurt Carr, Del Beck, Gary Stichcombe, Steven G. Driese and Frank
2018      The Paleoindian Occupation at Nesquehoning Creek (36CR0142) Carbon County Pennsylvania. In the Eastern fluted Point Tradition, Vol. II, edited by Joseph A. M. Gingerich, pp. 68-92. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City 

 For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Friday, May 7, 2021

Colonial Ceramics in Pennsylvania: Pearlware, 1780-1840

Continuing with our discussion of colonial ceramics and their value in the archaeological record, we are sharing a post on a familiar form of earthenware known as pearlware. In the last part of the 18th century, English potters recognized the public’s desire for a change from the popular cream-colored wares of the period to a ceramic with a whiter appearance. Although Josiah Wedgwood is credited with popularizing a light-bodied ceramic with a blue tinted glaze, the production of pearlwares was soon taken up by many other British manufacturers.


Pearlware ceramics are categorized by their type of decoration. Each of these varieties has a slightly different period of manufacture, a useful diagnostic tool for archaeologists attempting to determine the age of an object. Determining the period of manufacture and length of use, is important in assigning a time-period for an event or an archaeological site’s occupation. Within each category, variations in vessel shape, paste, and decoration can help further narrow the date of production due to the evolving nature of ceramic technology.  The following examples are just a few of the many designs employed by potters in decorating this refined earthenware of the 18th and 19th centuries.


Edged pearlware 1780-1830 

This style first appeared on creamware ceramics just before the advent of pearlwares, and it was one of the earliest and most popular forms of decoration during the 18th century on this ceramic type. There were several slight variations of the edge motif over the course of its production. Molded rims included scalloped, embossed, plain, and shell-edged.  Shell-edged wares were inspired by Rococo designs which mimicked the scalloped edges of seashells. Edges of these vessels were commonly coated in cobalt blue or green glaze.  

Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania

                           Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania
This green feather-edged pearlware plate, may have been made by J. Heath Hanley c.1780-1800. Variations in the design of the edge-wares can help archaeologists identify their manufacturer.

Hand-painted pearlware 1790-1840 

Before the invention of transfer-printing, ceramic designs were hand-painted onto the vessels by skilled artisans. Following the development of transfer-printing, hand-painted ceramics become less common.

Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

This pearlware punch bowl features a hand-painted design in cobalt blue. Drinking punch was a social affair, and the mixture may have contained curdled milk, lemon, sugar, water, and several pints of liquor, such as brandy (B. Franklin to J. Bowden, 11 October 1763, from the Bowden-Temple papers in the Winthrop family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston)

Annular Pearlware 1790-1820
Annular pearlware was known for its bold stripes in brown, yellow, and blue slip. Slip is a liquified clay with added compounds for pigment. These designs featured prominently on tankards, mugs, pitchers, and bowls. Annular designs were a versatile decoration that could be used to frame or backdrop other decorative elements. 

Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

 The annular, or banded, designs on this pitcher were created by filling a groove that was created on a wheel or lathe with slip (Hume 2001, p.131). 

Mocha pearlware 1795-1840 

These vessels exhibit a distinctive branching or dendritic design applied to a vessel, sometimes with banded designs. It was inspired by moss agate which was popular in England during this time. They were created by applying a foul concoction of tobacco in stale urine and turpentine to the slip of a vessel (according to one recipe mentioned in Rickard and Barker 2006, p. 51). This acidic mixture reacted with the alkaline slip and created the dendritic designs through capillary action. The potter applied drops of the mixture at the vessel base, then inverted the vessel to allow the concoction to flow downwards towards the rim, providing the tree-like design when up righted.  These designs were named for the Yemeni port bearing the same name through which large amounts of coffee and considerable quantities of moss agate were exported. 

                           Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.
The dendritic designs of this mocha ware bowl were applied over a slip which was first applied to the bowl.

Transfer-printed pearlware 1795-1840 

Transfer-printing is a technique of transferring an image from an engraved plate onto a piece of tissue paper and then onto a bisque fired (fired once, but unglazed) ceramic vessel. Transfer-printing allowed for the mass-production of ceramic vessels bearing detailed and uniform images. This technique is still used today by some artisan potters.

                            Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania. 
This transfer printed pearlware saucer features a popular Asiatic design known as blue willow.

Each of the vessels featured in this blog was recovered from archaeological deposits in wells dating to the 17th and 18th centuries at what was once 121-123 (old# 37-39) Market Street in Philadelphia. During colonial times, this part of Philadelphia was at the center of commerce with several governmental buildings, markets, and prominent gathering places located nearby. These artifacts were recovered in 1976 as part of the archaeology conducted prior to the construction of the Market Street ramp for I-95.


The colonial ceramics recovered at various sites across the Commonwealth are an important tool for studying our past. They reflect consumer behavior, ethnic choices and in the case of those wares later produced in Philadelphia, the beginning of manufacturing in our state. Those industrious individuals that produced wares from local clays in a similar manner as they had in England, created an industry that would see Pennsylvania become a leader in manufacturing of durable goods for decades to come. We invite you to view additional examples of colonial ceramics on the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s on-line collections


This image, dated 1800 from Birch’s Views of Philadelphia, looks North on Second Street at Market Street. It shows the old courthouse and the steeple of Christ Church. The structure from which these ceramics were recovered was located a few doors from the right-most building shown here.             
(Image: Library of Congress)


Godden, Geoffrey A.

1970 Encyclopedia of British pottery and porcelain marks. London: Barrie and Jenkins


Hume, I. N.

2001 A guide to the artifacts of colonial America. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Sussman, L.

1977 Changes in pearlware dinnerware, 1780–1830. Historical Archaeology, 11(1), 105-111. 


Rickard, Jonathan, foreword by D. Barker, and photography Gavin Ashworth.  

2006 Mocha and related dipped wares, 1770-1939. Hanover: Published by University Press of New England.

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Colonial Ceramic Series – Tin-glazed earthenware

This week we go back to our series on early historic ceramics often recovered on archaeological sites and their significance in the historic and archaeological record. Past posts have discussed Jackfield (1745-1790), Scratch blue (1744-1775), Slipware (1675-1770) and Creamware (1762-1820) ceramics. Colonial ceramics of the 17th and 18th centuries are typically divided into three categories: Earthenware, Stoneware, and Porcelain. These categories are derived from the clays used in manufacture as well as the firing techniques.

 Tin-glazed ceramics, often called delftware, are a soft-bodied earthenware ceramic first produced in northern Europe in the early 1600’s. Found earlier in other locations, tin-glazed ceramics represent attempts throughout the Middle East and Europe to copy porcelains produced in China during the 15th and 16th centuries. They were also the first white, painted pottery produced in England (Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland). Known as tin-glazed due to the addition of tin-oxide to the lead glaze, these ceramics have a thick white glaze referred to as tin enamel, readily identified by its eggshell appearance. 

Tin-glazed earthenware salt dish, found at the Byrd Leibhart site (36Yo170). Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Tin-glazed earthenware bowl, found at the Market Street site (36Ph1). Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

As with most types of ceramics, tin-glazed earthenwares were decorated using various techniques, each coming and going in and out of popularity at various times. Since the date range when each of these techniques was used can be identified, they are a useful tool for dating archaeological sites and features. Though there are a number of different design methods used on tin-glazed earthenwares, a few of the more common styles found on Pennsylvania sites include the following. 

Sponge decorated tin-glazed earthenware fragments, found at Fort Hunter (36Da159), 2020. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Sponge decorations are created by the application of a cobalt oxide using a sponging technique. This decoration looked like blue sponging after the vessel was fired and dates between 1708 and 1786. A similar looking decoration called powdering occurred when the vessels are powdered in manganese, which results in a purple-sponge decoration after firing. Powdering decoration was used on tin-glazed ceramics between the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  

Oriental landscape motif tin-glazed earthenware mending fragments, found at Fort Hunter (36Da159), 2020. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Another type of decoration identified is the oriental landscape motif, which was also done with cobalt oxide and resulted in a blue landscape decoration on the fired vessel. This form of decoration was most commonly produced circa 1720’s - 1780.

Fazackerly decorated tin-glazed earthenware fragment, found at Fort Hunter (36Da159), 2020. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

A less common decoration style is the Fazackerly style of decoration, a distinct style with floral motifs and multiple colors including greens, yellows, purples, reds, and blues. This style of decoration dates circa 1760-1770. Due to this limited production date range, ceramics found with this style of decoration can be especially useful in narrowing down the age of a site or feature. 

Blue circular floral motif on tin-glazed earthenware, found at Fort Hunter (36Da159), 2020. Photo from the Section of Archaeology, The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Finally, one of the most common decorations found on tin-glazed earthenware on Pennsylvania archaeological sites is the blue circular floral motif. Again, this decoration was produced by using a cobalt oxide to create a blue floral design on the fired vessel. This form of decoration dates circa 1650-1770.

These are just a few of the different decoration styles found on tin-glazed earthenwares, but they each are useful for archaeologists in identifying site function and time period. By the mid-18th century, creamware was in production and as a more refined and durable earthenware this began to replace tin-glazed earthenwares. By the late 18th century, production of tin-glazed earthenwares were in significant decline.

We hope you will continue to follow our blog to learn more about the incredible ceramics that have been recovered by archaeologists from across the Commonwealth. The preservation of these objects provides a personal glimpse into the lives of early colonists and of the potters who produced them. German and English immigrants who became potters in Philadelphia, Lancaster and York developed their methods and refined the clay available locally to produce ceramics that would replace those from Europe and led the way for many artisan crafts throughout the colony.

Advancements in science have allowed archaeologists to analyze clay sources and trace them to regions and in some cases potters.  Archaeologists have the unique ability of finding the stories of everyday life through the evidence of the past, even if it is only a broken piece of pottery.


Hume, Ivor Noel

1969      A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia (reprint)

Diagnostics Artifacts in Maryland: Accessed April 19, 2021.

Britannica Tin-glazed Earthenware: Accessed April 19, 2021.

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .