Figure 1 - High Plains Allen and / or Frederick projectile points. Which are which?
Longest point is 3.25 inches long. John Branney Collection.
|Figure 2 - CLICK to JOIN the ADVENTURE|
A "lumper" is an individual who defines projectile points into broad categories with plenty of room to accommodate variation and differences found in a group of projectile points. A lumper believes that more is less when it comes to projectile point typology. A lumper tries to see similarities in projectile points, not differences. Lumpers recognize that Paleoindians and other prehistoric peoples did not have blueprints for making projectile points and that there might had been variation in projectile points within the same prehistoric culture. A lumper tries to place these projectile point variants into existed projectile point types, if possible.
By contrast, a "splitter" is an individual who uses precise definitions of projectile point types and creates new categories to classify examples that differ in critical ways. A splitter focuses more on differences in projectile points, than similarities. If the splitter notes a wide enough variation from an existing projectile point type, they might propose a new type. A splitter believes that more is better when it comes to projectile point types.
The bottom line is that lumpers group projectile points into broad categories while splitters divide projectile points into smaller categories. I have a confession to make. I am biased when it comes to lumping and splitting. Philosophically, I am a lumper. I believe there should be plenty of variation allowed in projectile point types to accommodate knapping, material, quality, style and dimensional differences. It is my opinion that “splitters” have carved the turkey meat too thin and we have ended up with too many projectile point types.
|Figure 3 - What do we have here?|
2.6 inch long and surface found
in Wyoming. John Branney
Paleoindians followed weapons tradition by handing down verbal recipes on how to make projectile points from generation to generation. Even with verbal instruction, there was many opportunities for variation. There can be tribe isolation, material, knapping skills, workmanship standards, and differing levels of attention.
Nothing is more confusing than High Plains, Late Paleoindian indented base projectile point typology (say that with a mouth full of bubblegum). Late Paleoindian indented base projectile point typology includes Allen, Frederick, Lusk, Andersen, and Angostura points. I am missing some, I am sure.
Each of these individual projectile point types have similarities and differences with other projectile point types. If anyone tries to tell you that they have Late Paleoindian projectile point typology figured out, you have my permission to laugh at them. Every day, I see people call a projectile point this while another person calls an almost identical projectile point that. It makes me wonder if the same prehistoric culture made both or we have a copycat thing going on between prehistoric cultures.
Figure 4 - 1.7 inch long surface find from
Colorado. What is the projectile point type?
John Branney Collection.
Let me provide an example of what we face with Late Paleoindian projectile point types: I will be looking at only two types, Allen and Frederick.
|Figure 5 - University of |
In Jeb Taylor's book (2006), Jeb described Allen points as lanceolate-shaped points with carefully executed diagonal flaking and pronounced basal concavity. In his book, Greg Perino (1985) added to diagonal flaking, basal thinning, rounded basal corners, and side and basal edge grinding as common for Allen points.
One important point that I wish to make is that not all Allen points have diagonal flaking and not all diagonal flaked projectile points are Allen points!
|Figure 6 - Cynthia Irwin-|
Not everyone agrees that Allen and Frederick are two separate projectile point types. Henry Irwin, one of the original investigators at the Hell Gap site, once stated to George Frison that the Frederick points from the Hell Gap site were basically the same as Allen points from the James Allen site. Personally, I believe that both Allen and Frederick points are variations of the same theme and are essentially the same projectile point type. This statement takes on more weight when we recognize that Allen and Frederick overlapped in both time and space.
Irwin-Williams et al (1973) determined that the duration of Frederick at Hell Gap lasted from approximately 8,400 to 8,000 years BP while recent dating techniques at the James Allen bison kill site place the event sometime around 8,405 years BP (Knudson and Kornfeld 2007).
After seeing what some people are calling Allen and other people are calling Frederick I am more confused than ever. Quite frankly, I don’t see a difference between the two projectile point types. Take a look at Figure one. Which points are Allen and which points are Frederick.
Irwin-Williams, Cynthia, Henry T. Irwin, George Agogino, and C Vance Haynes
1973 Hell Gap: Paleo-Indian occupation on the High Plains. Plains Anthropologist 18(59):40-53.
Knudson, Ruth Ann, and Marcel Kornfeld
2007 A New Date for the James Allen Site, Laramie Basin, Wyoming. Current Research in the Pleistocene 24:112-114.
1985 Selected Preforms, Points, and Knives of the North American Indians, Volume I. Points and Barbs Press, Idabel, Okla.
2006 Projectile points of the High Plains. Sheridan Books, Chelsea, MI.