Points From Two Pueblo Sites in Southwestern Colorado


Bruce Bradley

December 2000

Over the past three decades I have been doing research on a Pueblo site not far from Cortez, Colorado. Initially, I worked with permission of the land owner, but was eventually able to purchase the property. I excavated in spare time in the summer and did analysis when I could, mostly in the winter. The site, Wallace Ruin, turned out to be a special place, one of the few sites in Colorado identified as a Chaco outlier. These are Pueblos that were built during the Pueblo II period (A.D. 900-1150) that were probably ceremonial/administrative centers, and part of the civilization centered in Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico. Of special interest to me is the large number of points that have come from Wallace Ruin. Although the site dates from around A.D. 1040-1280, some of the points are from earlier times. Unlike other pueblo sites I am familiar with, there is also evidence that points were being made there.

Also, I have had the great privilege of being in charge of research at a Pueblo I through Pueblo II site in southwestern Colorado for the past three years. The site, Stix and Leaves Pueblo, is privately owned and all of the work has been sponsored by the land owners, Nick and Anh Fergis. Although their real love is finding arrowheads, they recognize the importance of what can be learned through archaeology, and have committed themselves to sponsoring professional research at the site. If I were to select any type of site to find arrowheads, it probably wouldn't be an Anasazi Pueblo. They are notorious for not containing many projectile points. Happily, this is not the case at Stix and Leaves Pueblo. The site has three occupations, Late Pueblo I (A.D. 850-875), Early Pueblo II (A.D. 949-970), and Middle Pueblo II (A.D. 1054-1075). We have excavated 50 rooms, four kivas, two pithouses, and the courtyard areas in between. Several of the kivas and pithouses were filled with trash.

Virtually everywhere we have found projectile points, manufacture discards, and of course the flakes from their manufacture. Along with Wallace Ruin, point styles are not restricted to the time periods of occupation. We have found Early and Middle Archaic points (Figure 1), Basketmaker II and III points (Figure 2) and points from all three Pueblo periods (Figure 3). These images only show a small sample of the points, but they represent the various types as I know them. I believe it is possible not only to define point styles in the larger Pueblo time periods (such as Pueblo II that lasted for 250 years), but see changes within them. Of particular interest is the presence of atlatl dart points in Pueblo I, coexisting with arrow points. This is curious because the atlatl seems to be absent from the preceding Basketmaker III times.

What the manufacture artifacts show is that arrowheads were being made with two different approaches. One is the expected pressure flaking on thin flake blanks (Figure 4). This is fairly standard for small points throughout North America. The other method is not usual, although I have suspected it for a long time. This is initial percussion shaping and thinning followed by pressure retouch (Figure 5). It is extraordinary because of the small size of many of the points made this way. A flake blank or chunk was thinned by striking hinge fracture flakes from one edge and then clearing them off from the other edge. It is also evident that edges were beveled for platform preparation, but individual platforms were not isolated and edge grinding was minimal or absent. The result was a lot of manufacture breaks of the sort usually seen with larger pieces (Figure 6).

I have managed to reproduce this process using a small coarse sandstone pebble, but it is tricky. There are also some small antler pins (Figure 7) that I suspect may have been used as punches. Split breaks on the ends are just like what I get with larger antler punches used for biface flaking. The favorite stones used for points at these sites were local Dakota quartzite and a silicified conglomerate from the Burro Canyon Formation. There are also a lot of imported stones ranging from Utah agates, to petrified wood and obsidian from New Mexico. There is also clear evidence that some pieces were heat treated.

Along with the normal arrowheads, we have found a few special pieces that we call eccentrics (Figure 8). In some cases, these are arrowheads that have been elaborated with serrations and are made from exotic agates. In other cases, the pieces are small free-form specimens that one's imagination can make into small animals, insects, etc.

There are also examples of arrowheads that have been broken and reworked for reuse. The most obvious of these are the ones that broke through the stem, at the notches, and were simply renotched (Figure 9). In all cases we have found so far, reworking for use as projectile points has only been done with points of the maker's own time period. Earlier points are not reworked for use (other than perhaps as ornaments, for example the renotched Mallory point in Figure 1). I know that Pueblo people collect old projectile points for ritual use, and this seems to have been a practice since early times. Arrowhead collecting is not only a modern phenomenon!

All in all, it is really exciting to finally get good evidence for both Anasazi point types and the technology of their manufacture. It is also curious that points were being made at Stix and Leaves Pueblo during all three occupations, but not at any other sites in the vicinity. Other than Wallace Ruin, I know of just one other Pueblo site where it looks like points were being made in quantity, an it is way north on the Utah border. This evidence may make us think again about our conclusion that Anasazi folks made there own tools and produced their own food, at the family or, at most, the clan level. It also may indicate that certain sites were designated, either through decision or tradition, as the places where arrowheads were made. I'm not willing yet to see this as an example of craft specialization as an economic undertaking, but see it possibly related to specialized ritual functions at certain villages.

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