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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2022

“Gems Amongst the Stones: Looking for a Newly-Identified Pre-Clovis Tool Complex in Old Collections”

Eric P Giese

Senior, Anthropology Geography, Geology minor


Preliminary work for this project required that I formulate a system of metrics, based on a single, intact, lanceolate projectile point from the Buttermilk Creek, Texas excavation. Utilizing published photographs and measurements, I focused on key morphological landmarks as my indicators and the measurements of and between them as my metrics. At the same time, I reached out to the Yellowstone National Park (YNP) archaeologist to begin the search process within their collections. Cooperation from and communicating with YNP staff was fantastic. Prior to the trip I was able to work out details of my research, dates, and times with Miriam Watson, the Museum Curator at YNP. Prior to my visit, she remotely processed my queries through their lithics accession database. This provided me with an initial result of 2,562 entries that contained both keywords “point” and “lanceolate”. Comparing morphological landmarks to the Buttermilk Complex lanceolate point, I reviewed the description for each entry and scrubbed YNP points with undesirable descriptive attributes such as ‘notched’, ‘triangular’ and ‘barbs’. I further scrubbed entries that described unidentifiable, fractured portions of points like ‘tip only’. Finally, I was able to eliminate complete points that were not length/width proportionate to the target form, such as, ‘tiny bird points’. This process reduced the number down to 280 possibilities. On the preplanned day and time, I was able to seamlessly examine all 280, save 20 that were out on loan or otherwise unavailable. Of the 280, there are 6 that I believe are within acceptable allowances for the Buttermilk Creek point metrics. These were measured with a digital caliper and photographed. I am now formulating a metrics statistical model to subject these 6 to further scrutiny. This research has been extremely valuable in providing me with an opportunity to develop and test a metric system to reexamine projectile points in collections. I believe this kind of ‘home front’ research in existing collections will become increasingly common and valuable in the near future as archaeologists continue to push back the date of first human occupation in North America. Further, this experience has given me valuable insight into the National Park Service archaeological database. Understanding how their system of accension has evolved over the last 100+ years and how to interpret early-era accession descriptions will serve as an important tool in my toolbox for years to come. The UW-Oshkosh undergraduate research grant program is an invaluable opportunity for driven students to explore their own research, obtain one-on-one mentorship from experienced faculty, and introduce them to the process of grant writing and publishing their work.

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1 Comment

  1. Kathleen Giese

    Well researched, important to understanding our beginnings in North America, and an interesting project.


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