The First Georgians : Ancient Hunters And Projectile Points Of Southeastern Georgia
12,000 Years BP
It was shortly before sunrise when the hunters took their assigned places slightly below the plateau between the springs. The slight breeze was in their faces, assuring them they would not be winded by the animals grazing on the roughly 40 acre savannah.
The hunters could smell the creatures even before the skies were light enough to see them. Each hunter held his spear at the ready, knowing even the slightest sound, or a change in the wind direction, could alert the intended prey as to their presence.
Finally the sun made its appearance in the form of a deep red glow on the eastern horizon. The hunters knew this red sky meant a storm was coming soon. It was imperative they act before long if they were to have a successful hunt.
At last, the sound of a shrill whistle indicated the signal for the waiting hunters to begin their charge over the rim of the hill and into the area where the herd of giant bison were just beginning to stir from their nightly vigil on the grasslands. It looked to be a good day for the hunters and their families. They would eat meat tonight.
Of Ancient Hunts And Hunters
Georgia Before Oglethorpe
While there is plenty of documented history about the founding of Oglethorpe’s first colony in what is now called Georgia, it was not as if this wonderful part of the country was deserted, by any stretch of the imagination.
For over 14,000 years the coastline and interior of this very important state-to-be was inhabited by the earliest immigrants into this veritable Garden of Eden. Even long before those referred to as the Mississippian Culture erected huge mounds of earth we still wonder at today, Paleo hunters made this part of the country their home.
From the first traveler to enter this vast continent over the then-exposed Bering land bridge from Siberia to Alaska, to those who eventually reached the very southern tip of South America, only a period of a few hundreds years is thought to have passed.
When these first nomadic hunters eventually entered into what is now present day Southeastern Georgia, they found the land literally teeming with many species of wild animals.
This dependable and seemingly untapped, source of meat, as well as the plethora of many varieties of nuts, berries, and other edible plants, enabled the hunters to not only survive, but to thrive in this vast unspoiled wilderness.
Clues From Georgia's Past
Discovering Ancient History In My Own Backyard
As a farmer, and also an exuberant outdoorsman, I am lucky enough to have found abundant evidence of these ancient hunters and nomads. One may learn much about these intrepid wanderers as they lived their lives around and among the vast swamps and Carolina Bays of this area.
These reminders of their exploits come in the form of very fascinating artifacts, such as projectile points, pottery shards, miscellaneous stone tools, and even some objects we’ve yet to identify. But how does one know the approximate age of such artifacts? The answer may be simpler than you think.
From the age of six when I found my first arrowhead while playing in the garden, to today when I still get a thrill from discovering another ancient spear point in some interesting location, the feeling never changes.
Being the first to see a lost hunting tool in over 5,000, or even twice this number of years, never ceases to please me. Thousands of years ago this spear point was hurled at some great beast.
Whether it hit the target or flew harmlessly into the surrounding brush, the maker of this work of art never saw it again. Another alternative was it did hit its mark, but the creature managed to escape with the point still embedded in its body. But this particular scenario is very doubtful, as it ended up in an area where many other points have been found.
There have been too many points found in this small area for them to be merely random hunting losses or escaped wounded animals. For this present day cornfield is an ancient hunting trap. A kill zone used for thousands of years by many generations of the earliest Native Americans. A very successful hunting spot no doubt, as evidenced by the plethora of projectile points they left behind.
Coming To America!
There Were Giants In Those Days!
The First Georgia Hunters
The very earliest of hunters to this land faced quite different circumstances than their ancestors would thousands of years into the future. At this time the forests of the area were predominantly hardwood forests, filled with giant mammals now referred to as mega fauna.
Huge mammoths and mastodons were the prey which seemed to draw the first hunters across Beringia, but there were also other such creatures the hunters sought for food and clothing. Vast herds of giant bison, wild horses, camels, and other grazing animals roamed the early Georgia savannahs and grasslands.
Before the mysterious happenings which caused the extinction of many species of mega fauna, the land teemed with both grazing animals and those carnivores who have always preyed upon them. These include saber tooth cats, dire wolves, short face and cave bears, along with the American lion, among just a few.
Today’s horse first evolved in the New World. These animals then used the same land bridge the incoming hunters traveled to enter the Old World, where they eventually changed the history of human transportation.
This was a lucky thing, as the horse herds which remained behind became extinct, along with the other species of mega fauna in the New World. It would be thousands of years later before the Spaniards reintroduced them back into the Americas,
Some believe Clovis Man may have been responsible for the mega fauna extinctions, but if so, why were the smaller bison and other herd animals still here when the first Europeans arrived to claim the land while the giant bison had became extinct?
The Mystery Of The Great Extinction
Smilodon--saber tooth cats--among other predators such as the dire wolf and the American lion, also went missing from the landscape. In total, more than 30 species of once plentiful creatures suddenly vanished while others seemed completely unaffected.
This intriguing mystery is still being debated by scientists today. Many believe the influx of humans into this world of diverse animals was the cause of the extinctions and not climate change. But this doesn't explain the remaining herds of similar smaller animals apparently thriving at the advent of the European discovery of the New World.
Another theory of the mega fauna extinctions concerns an exploding fireball of some sort--either a comet or asteroid--burning the vast grasslands and forests covering North and South American during this extremely dry period of the late Pleistocene era.
It stands to reason the larger herbivores would have found it tough going with the grasslands being destroyed by the fires, and so would the carnivores who preyed upon them.
So perhaps only the smaller woods dwelling creatures could survive long enough to reproduce. The smaller bison are known to have frequented the forests and grasslands, and the same goes for most of the other larger animals--deer, moose, elk, etc.-- who survived the extinction. Yes, quite an enigma, but I do believe we will find the answer to this mystery before too long in the future.
A Diversity Of Shapes
What The Hunters Left Behind
At the time of the earliest human inhabitants of the Georgia wilderness the sea level was as much as 2000 feet below present levels because of the vast amounts of ice captured at the earth’s polar regions.
The land was much drier, making the sinkholes, Carolina Bays, and springs an important source of water, both for the nomadic hunters and their gigantic prey. These spots are where most of my artifacts are found, further bolstering the evidence of much more arid climes during the late Pleistocene period.
The projectile points found from the late Pleistocene period are much larger on average than those found from the late Archaic and Woodland eras, also indicating much larger prey being hunted during the harsh, dry centuries of mega fauna existence. But whatever their size, shape, or color of stone used for the projectile point, each says something about its maker and the use which it was originally intended for.
This article is intended as a guide to help projectile collectors--whether they be serious or merely hobbyists--get an idea about the age and particular type of points they have found. We’ll examine a number of the most common points ,as well as, those considered rare and often valuable.
This is merely a guide though, it is often difficult to say for sure whether a point is a certain type without a very close examination by a professional, and even they sometimes disagree.
Hunters, past , present, and future.
How Old Are These Projectile Points?
So you’ve found an arrowhead, or perhaps a few spearheads from the early period of Georgia’s first residents and want to know a bit about them. How can you estimate these aspects of your finds? There are several different things to look for when trying to classify a projectile point and we’ll take a look at a few of them in this section.
In my collection chosen for the first photograph there are points ranging from a period spanning perhaps 10,000 years or more. They are arranged in size from the largest points--used to procure large animals by spears--to the smallest of points-- used when the bow became the hunting weapon of choice in the latter part of the Paleolithic era.
With the advent of the bow and arrow, large points were no longer needed as smaller arrow points were more efficient at bagging whitetail deer, or even moose or elk, for that matter. So as a rule, the larger the point, the older it is. But keep in mind this isn’t always the case, as some points were made larger for purposes other than hunting, some of them perhaps being ceremonial in nature. So we already have one clue to the age of a particular point.
The Shape Of Things To Go!
The particular shape of any projectile point--whether it be for spear or arrow-- tells quite a bit about it’s maker, if you know what to look for. The following photos will give a few examples of projectile points of different ages and designs.
Because of the shape of an arrowhead or spear base, it is possible to date the projectile point since many have been found in locations associated with certain time periods. Archaeological sites with these points in evidence give us an approximate age of different types of points.
Some are well known such as the Clovis and Folsom points named after the sites they were first located and cataloged by archaeologists.
While this article does not go in depth in determining the exact age or type of the many shapes, sizes, or types of bases used, it can give one an idea as to what to look for in trying to estimate the age of a particular projectile points.
Some points may have a base shaped like a dove tail or be corner notched for easy attachment to the arrow or spear shaft using sinew which tightened even more as they dried. Most of the points found in the kill zone were possibly lost after being launched or carried off with the escaping prey.
Collecting these points is a pleasure for me, and hopefully, for future Georgians to enjoy and wonder at. For more info on dating your finds, I've included some great guides in the research source section at the bottom of this page. I hope you enjoy the hobby, as well as, the history of this fascination subject.
Another excellent guide for projectile point collectors.
"The" guide to arrowhead and spear point identification.
A wonderful book and a must for serious collectors.
More Related Articles
- Arrowhead collectors : Hunting for Hunters
A journey into a remote part of Georgia in search of a private Native American projectile point collection. Photos of arrowheads, spear points, pottery, pipes, etc.
- Arrowhead and Projectile Point Collecting : Kill Zones and How to Find Them
Finding a kill zone is the dream of every arrowhead or projectile collector. This articles gives tips on where to look for points by understanding the terrain. Narrow down your search for these fascinating weapons used by ancient hunters.
- The Clovis Mystery : What Happened To Clovis Man
- The Mississipian Southern Death Cult : Ocmulgee National Monument