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A REMARKABLE CLOVIS POINT FROM UPPER CROSS CREEK, WASHINGTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
(A version of this paper appeared in Volume 30 (3), pp. 3-6 of Indian Artifact Magazine, August 2011)
Richard Michael Gramly PhD
On April 28, 2010, John Zylo and Jim Krajacic, residents of Washington County, southwestern Pennsylvania, were hunting for artifacts in cultivated fields along Cross Creek east of the town of Avella and north of Buffalo in Washington County (Figure 1). Entering a field, which for many years had lain fallow, on the Moore family farm along Lynn Portal Road (Figure 2), Mr. Zylo was fortunate to discover a complete Clovis point that had been freshly exposed by a deep furrow.
The region where this find was made is cris-crossed by many small streams flowing into Cross Creek, which is itself a tributary of the Ohio River. Small, surficial lithic scatters abound in this part of the maturely-dissected, unglaciated Allegheny Plateau. Hundreds of them have been recorded in the immediate region during archaeological reconnoitering (Fryman 1982) by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Museum.
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In the immediate vicinity of the Moore farm there have been a few discoveries of Clovis points — only one of which, it seems, has been reported and described (Lowery et al. 2007). At least 12, but perhaps as many as 21 other fluted points are known for Washington County (Fogelman and Lantz 2006). This tally seems about average (median) for all the counties in Pennsylvania.
Several miles west of the Moore farm and downstream of it within the Cross Creek valley is the well-known Meadowcroft Rockshelter (Adovasio et al. 1975; Adovasio et al. 1977). A small assemblage of Palaeo-American flaked stone artifacts has been described from Stratum IIa at this site, which is dated to the interval 11,300 to 12,800 radiocarbon years before present plus a large standard deviation (Gramly and Funk 1990: 6). Conceivably this assemblage was left at the rockshelter by Clovis visitors or an even older "pre-Clovis" group.
The Zylo Clovis Point
The Zylo point exhibits outrepasse flaking on both of its faces (see Figure 3), which is a hallmark of Clovis technology. Edge-work is very fine and has resulted in a sleek, regularly tapered form. The fluting scars are relatively short, which may be a result of the jointed raw material that was used to make this point. This rock closely resembles Bellefonte (also known as Belleville) Chalcedony, which outcrops in Centre County, Pennsylvania — a full 200 km ENE of Washington County.
Bellefonte Chalcedony is characterized by jointing, iron mineralization, translucency in thin pieces, and a clear to dark gray color. It is known to have been employed by Clovis knappers. Since the Zylo Clovis point (Figures 4 and 5) shares these attributes with hand-specimens from the actual type locality (on file at the Holland Lithic Laboratory, Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, New York), it is tempting to attribute the artifact to that specific source. Caution is advisable, however, as nearly identical raw material is known to occur within the Schreiber Formation, Kisquillis valley, near Penn's Creek, central Pennsylvania (Tim Jackson, Tyrone, PA — personal communication).
Whatever its exact source, it seems likely that the raw material from which Zylo point was made originated in Pennsylvania.
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A Visit to the Find-spot and Test-excavating
While this work with the Zylo Clovis point was being done, permission was sought from the property owner for archaeological testing of the find-spot. It was granted, and a visit to the Moore farm (Figure 6) was made on October 24, 2010 — a time after harvest when the field was available for trenching. We intended to excavate as deep as the base of the tilth zone in search of other Clovis specimens. Although I felt that the point once may have lain within a cache, it was equally plausible that the artifact marked a small habitation site. In such a case, the point might have been a loss — surely an uncommon occurrence.
Despite wet conditions our small field-crew was able to shovel and trowel four 2-m squares at the intersection of two narrow trenches. A careful watch was kept for subsoil features that might have produced artifacts. Our trenches totaled 23 meters in length and were positioned at right angles to one another. The intersection of the trenches was thought to be the exact find-spot of the Clovis point.
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Interesting to note, the sole Palaeo-American artifact that was recovered during our testing lay at the intersection! It is a biface reduction flake with a graver spur at one of its corners — a fortuitous projection that was enhanced by fine, unifacial flaking (Figure 7). The raw material of the tool is dense black chert without jointing. It closely resembles black Kanawha or Coshocton chert of Pennsylvanian age and may have originated a long distance west of the Moore farm on Cross Creek. There is also a possibility that the raw material was obtained closer at hand along Buffalo Creek, which lies immediately north of the Cross Creek drainage (Bill Tippins, personal communication). Confirmation that this local source was exploited during the Palaeo-American era, however, is wanting.
Since the plowed soil very quickly turned to mud on our sieves, we were unable to recover any fine flaked stone debitage. Such debitage might have confirmed that the Zylo Clovis point and associated graver were deposited at a small, briefly occupied Palaeo-American encampment. The idea that the point was cached does not seem to be plausible — given the evidence (or lack of it). Although no additional Clovis bifaces came to light during our testing, we were satisfied that our effort had been commensurate with the importance of John Zylo's remarkable find.
Table. Attributes of the Zylo Clovis Point
Length = 111.0 mm
Adovasio, J. M., J. D. Gunn, J. Donahue, and R. Stuckenrath
Gramly, Richard M. (editor)
Gramly, Richard Michael and Robert E. Funk
Lowery, Jim, Ken Fischer, and Bill Tippins
Figures and Captions
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