Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Diversity of Ishi's Points


The Diversity of Ishi's Points

Morphological typologies of projectile points in North America have often been employed as time-sensitive prehistoric cultural markers.










The diversity of Authentic Ishi's points From Private Collections
Through a shadowy maze of secret connections and back room meeting and a plethora of
postings, E-mails, phone calls and letters. Lots of dead ends but some pay dirt.













Projectile point typology has been a controversial subject, best
summarized by John C. Whitaker (1994) "Archaeologists are
occasionally accused , even today, of a pathological desire to
classify everything into neat little pigeonholes. While
classification can be carried to absurd extremes, there are a number
of good reasons why we are interested in typology, studying and
establishing schemes for classifying objects and phenomena." This
being established. the Ishi point being discussed is actually a
hybrid of a classic western point type the Desert Side Notch Point,
referred to most often as the "Redding Subtype", mean weight = 2.99+-
0.98, basal width/max. width ratio = 1.00 +- (Shackley, 2001). The
Desert Side Notch point is best known for its characteristic
Isosceles triangular, basic shape with side notches and concave
base. The blade edge is straight while other California area side
notched points have an excurvate blade edge. The average width to
thickness ratio for this point is 5/1. Some specimens have some
basal grinding for the haft. The average length of the Desert Side
Notch is 2 to 4.5 cm. The carbon 14 dates for this series suggest
that it appeared sometime after 1,100 A.D. and continued into the
Historic era. An archaeologist named Lyton found a Desert Side Notch
point in association with the charred bones of a domestic cow at
Hanging Rock Shelter, Northwest Nevada, therefore indicating use by
historic Northern Paute.


Smaller then the more stylized Ishi point, the Desert Side Notch
resembles the side notch Cahokia points from the Midwest and the
Ishi point resembles attributes of certain Basket Maker III points
of Colorado.




To demonstrate the diversity of Ishi's points and existing specimen
data of Ishi's points(see Shackley , 1991, 1994, , 1996, 2000 ).
Unfortunately Ishi gave away and sold many of his points while doing
his demonstrations. But fortunately many of these have been tracked down in private collectionsand studied and there are 120 specimens in
museums, some of which are now available as castings (Peter Bostum's Lithic Casting Lab). The "classic Glass Ishi" is an ornate DesertSide Notch, and the style reflected in this paper, the totals of
these specimens is 49 and another 8 DSN with serrated edges,
certainly not what most of us see in our minds eye as a true "Ishi"
yet he made them. 17 of the specimens are corner notched, expanding
stem points, with another 5 of these being the same form but
serrated - again = certainly not what most of us see in our minds
eye as a true "Ishi" yet he made them. 10 of the Ishi specimens are
of the cottonwood triangular -concave base-again = certainly not
what most of us see in our minds eye as a true "Ishi" yet he made
them. 18 are basal notched with contracting stem, 6 more are basal
notched with contracting stem but serrated-again = certainly not
what most of us see in our minds eye as a true "Ishi" yet he made
them. Of the "classic Ishi" is a ornate Desert Side Notch the bulk
were made after , and during, 1911 at the museum 49 in the museum
collections, 4 in private collections for a total of 53, 2 were
excavated at Payne's Cave, TEH193 (see Shackley , 1991, 1994, ,
1996, 2000 ), 3 at Kingsley Cave, TEH-1, (again see Shackley , 1991,
1994, , 1996, 2000 ). For a grant total of 53 classic Ishi points .
The problem with cross-tabulation for statistical data is this, what
if Ishi (or Kroeber) simply held on to his best points, or his
worst? this would have set a majority of "non classic Ishi's into
the public giveaways and left a disproportionate number of the
classic style in our data base. We can sit and think, were the
cottonwoods preforms for "classic Ishi's?", saving preforms for
opportune times of concentration are best for advance notching. and
so on... After looking at all the Ishi's I see none that were not
very well crafted, despite the stage of reduction/production. The
medial oblique -parallel flaking on prepared platforms set and
abraded to perfection. Ishi's point style and form varied from one
setting to the next, his environment, necessity or public opinion
seems to have played a role in the point type he crafted at any one
time.



Morphological typologies of projectile points in North America have often been employed as time-sensitive prehistoric cultural markers. This article demonstrates that the contingencies of point manufacture, hafting, use, and rejuvenation create morphological changes that may render questionable use of these morphological typologies as prehistoric cultural markers. Thirty projectile points were replicated according to the attributes of a commonly employed typological scheme for the Great Basin. Experiments with hafting, impact, and rejuvenation demonstrate that a single point-type may manifest more than one "time-sensitive" shape within its normal uselife.Morphological Projectile Point Typology: Replication Experimentation and Technological Analysis

J. Jeffrey Flenniken, Anan W. Raymond
American Antiquity, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Jul., 1986), pp. 603-614




Many projectile points have a diagnostic element
that may, or may
not, earmark some chronological period, region or cultural
tradition. A class of artifact sharing generalized, definable
attributes is known as a "type", the type may then intern be part of
a larger tradition. Within each tradition there are often several
distinct sub-traditions. Sub-traditions are most often characterized
by stylistic variations.


Projectile point typology has been a controversial subject,
best
summarized by John C. Whitaker (1994) "Archaeologists are
occasionally accused , even today, of a pathological desire to
classify everything into neat little pigeonholes. While
classification can be carried to absurd extremes, there are a number
of good reasons why we are interested in typology, studying and
establishing schemes for classifying objects and phenomena." This
being established. the Ishi point being discussed is actually a
hybrid of a classic western point type the Desert Side Notch Point,
referred to most often as the "Redding Subtype", mean weight = 2.99+-
0.98, basal width/max. width ratio = 1.00 +- (Shackley, 2001). The
Desert Side Notch point is best known for its characteristic
Isosceles triangular, basic shape with side notches and concave
base. The blade edge is straight while other California area side
notched points have an excurvate blade edge. The average width to
thickness ratio for this point is 5/1. Some specimens have some
basal grinding for the haft. The average length of the Desert Side
Notch is 2 to 4.5 cm. The carbon 14 dates for this series suggest
that it appeared sometime after 1,100 A.D. and continued into the
Historic era. An archaeologist named Lyton found a Desert Side Notch
point in association with the charred bones of a domestic cow at
Hanging Rock Shelter, Northwest Nevada, therefore indicating use by
historic Northern Paute.






Smaller then the more stylized Ishi point, the Desert Side Notch
resembles the side notch Cahokia points from the Midwest and the
Ishi point resembles attributes of certain Basket Maker III points
of Colorado.








Not every man in the Yahi culture made and used arrowheads. Pope
(1913) stated that the flintknapping art was the special function of
the older and more skillful men. "Ishi seems to have been associated
with the medicine man of his tribe. Besides the usual customs, he
preserved many of the more highly developed arts and crafts of his
culture".






Kroeber's accounts
(1961) of Ishi's practices collecting knapping
glass are quite vivid, and this particular passage captures the
event in detail: " Plate glass, brown glass from beer bottles and
the blue glass of "Milk of Magnesia bottles" were among Ishi's
favorite lithic materials. " As a final irony of the time of Ishi's
concealment, Ishi was cut off from trade to the north and south and
Yana country had no obsidian or flint. Painstakingly and silently,
Ishi had visited the length of Lassen Trail, every campsite of
emigrant, hunter or camper, up and down Deer Creek, and the cabin
middens and ranch dumps of whatever dwelling he could reach by light
and return from by night, combing them for the discarded bottles
they were likely to contain. Once back home, he shaped at his
leisure, the pieces of glass into his ammunition."





Dr. M. Stephen Shackley has done, what I consider, the most important Ishi lithic research to date, he is currently engaged in a number of research projects at the Hearst Museum and continues field and lab research on archaeological obsidian in western North America including northern Mexico. Dr. Shockley’s research continues to involve undergraduate and graduate students in the energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence laboratory in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. .
In 1990 Dr. Shackley began a metric and morphological analysis of Ishi's stone tools curated by the museum in Berkley from the period between 1911 and 1916 when Ishi lived at the museum, then in San Francisco. Dr. Shackley published his findings in his land mark Ishi Article in Berkely Archaeology; The Archaeology Research Facility Newsletter; Spring 1996 Volume 3, Number 2 Ishi Was Not Necessarily the Last Full-Blooded Yahi:Some Inferences For Hunter-Gatherer Style and Ethnicity.
1996 Ishi was not Necessarily the Last Full-Blooded Yahi:
http://www.qal.berkeley.edu/arf/newsletter/3.2/yahi.html Some Inferences for
Hunter- Gatherer Style and Ethnicity. Berkeley Archaeology 3(2):1-3.

”As part of the study, I compared the metric and morphological data of Ishi's projectile points to those from historic Yahi and Southern Yana contexts in collections from Kingsley (CA-TEH-1) and Paynes Caves (CA-TEH-193) housed in the museum, excavated in the 1950's by Martin Baumhoff, then a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology. Immediately apparent was the extreme difference in form and metric attributes between Ishi's assemblage and the points from historic Yana contexts. While at the museum, Ishi produced almost exclusively triangular, concave-based side-notched points with relatively large blades, and triangular, expanding stemmed, corner-notched points mainly with straight bases; the notches are typically "keyhole" notches produced by using the "point-of-tool" method of notching. These styles were almost completely absent from the historic sites, and one side-notched point recovered from Kingsley Cave was produced from a brown chert absent in the region, and possibly exchanged as a finished tool.
Another line of evidence strengthens the inference that Ishi consistently produced points dissimilar to the Yahi. In 1908 when a group of engineers came upon the last four Yahi, including Ishi, on Deer Creek they stole many of the artifacts from the camp. The group consisted of an old man, an old woman, a young woman, and Ishi. One of the arrows, now at the Hearst Museum, is tipped with a glass arrow point. This point, based on an x-ray, is a triangular, expanding stemmed, corner-notched point with a straight base, morphologically identical to those produced by Ishi at the museum, but dissimilar to the forms recovered from the Yana sites. While we will never know if Ishi actually produced this arrow (apparently no one thought to ask him), the evidence suggests he did. In 1990, the research stopped at this point with way too many questions.”
Afterward, Dr. Shackley returned to the museum and searched for collections from sites containing historic Maidu or Wintu material. One site was found, the Redbank Site (CA-TEH-58), excavated by Ad├ín Treganza in the 1950s that was characterized as a historic Wintu village. It was Immediately apparent to Dr. Shackley’s trained eye, the projectile points of Wintu were nearly identical to those produced by Ishi while at the museum “ particularly the triangular, concave-based "keyhole" side-notched points with relatively large blades. Quantitative analyses, mainly a Mahalanobis method, discriminant analysis, concur with the morphological assessment. The projectile points produced by Ishi while at the museum, and likely while living the aboriginal lifeway at Deer Creek, are quite similar to Wintu point forms and not ancestral Yahi point forms, lending further support to the physical anthropological evidence. Interestingly, the ethnographically collected arrow with hafted stone point collected in 1885 from the Wintu area illustrated in the Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 8, California (pp. 330, fig. 4, top), curated at the Smithsonian, appears to be a side-notched point of this style including a notch produced by the point-of-tool method.”

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