This fascinating point was recovered during archaeological investigations at the Clinton Silt site (11JY398) in Jersey County, Illinois. Found at the bottom of a deep pit dating to the Late Woodland period (circa 600-800 AD), this point displays surprising characteristics in both form and choice of material. The point is idiosyncratic, meaning it displays an unusual mix of aspects making it difficult to identify and compare with other known point types.
Much larger than the typical dart and arrowpoints normally produced during this time period, it seems apparent that the piece of chert was specifically chosen or the piece chipped in a way to intentionally highlight or preserve the fossil (brachiopod). This may account for the unusual mix of typological characteristics of the piece.
Could it be an older point that was found and modified by later peoples? Or was it made for a special purpose? Its recovery at the bottom of a deep pit below a layer of charcoal is also intriguing, as it raises the question of why such a seemingly useful and functional artifact would be discarded? Perhaps the piece was specifically made as an offering to dedicate the pit, or placed there as an interesting curio? While we may never know the exact intent of the person who made this artifact or how it ended up in the bottom of the pit over 1,000 years ago, the science of archaeology provides a window into past through which we can peer.
For more information on this point see Jenny Goldman’s thoughts on it in Illinois Antiquity 51(3):7 “Evidence of Prehistoric Fossil Hunters in Western Illinois.”