Beveled points and Edgefield scrapers

Submitted by Scott Jones (info@mediaprehistoria.com)

The Edgefield scraper is a diagnostic tool of the Early Archaic period that is geographically distributed throughout much of South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida. It is essentially a unifacial hafted tool with a bifacially worked side-notched base that typically co-occurs with side-notched points of the Big Sandy/Bolen/Taylor group (Goodyear et al. 1980), but is sometimes found with corner-notched points of the Kirk type (Sassaman et al. 2002:60-62). Though widely distributed within the range of occurrence, Edgefields are closely linked with chert sources. The association of this unusual tool form with notched Early Archaic points has led to much discussion and speculation about their respective roles.

edgefield_scrapers_ga_jones

Figure 1. Edgefield scrapers from Georgia, showing size variation and degrees of resharpening.

Having begun my career with an ardent interest in Early Archaic tools, I have engaged in my share of this discourse. And so it was, while at an artifact identification event in the spring of 2007, I overheard typologist Lloyd Schroder (author of The Anthropology of Florida Points and Blades) use the term “double-edged Edgefield scraper” to describe Early Archaic beveled points. Upon hearing this, I fairly spun around and went to query him further about his description. My interest lay not in the newness of the idea. Quite to the contrary, it was the familiarity of the phrase that caught my attention. As I explained to Schroder, I had used this exact phrase some years earlier.

edgefield_scraper_sm_jones

Figure 2. Small Edgefield scraper, Oglethorpe County,
Georgia. Material is Piedmont chert/jasper.

Back at home, I rifled through my files and found the surviving copy of a short, unpublished document that I wrote about 1989 (as witnessed by the yellowed paper and faded dot-matrix print), in which I compared Edgefield scrapers and beveled projectile points. Having shelved the “double-edged Edgefield scraper” concept after it met with nearly unanimous contempt at the time, my conversation with Schroder convinced me it was time to go public with it. Except for the omission of one completely erroneous sentence, the original document reads as follows:

While looking through the Early Archaic material from the Wallace Reservoir Survey recently, it was pointed out to me that the flawless beveling and near-perfect trapezoidal cross-section of some of the side- and corner-notched ppks seem to be of intentional design; I disagreed with the idea that they were beveled during initial manufacture, and I still hold this opinion. I have, however, modified my opinion concerning the nature and purpose of such beveling. For quite some time now I have been fascinated by primitive woodworking tools and methods; one particular item of interest has been the so-called Edgefield Scraper. I have examined archaeological specimens; manufactured, hafted and used reproductions and have been impressed with the results. While most specimens are unifacial except for the haft area, I have seen some that are made bifacially—with a technically beautiful flat ventral face, and the characteristically steep-edged dorsal face. While examining a bifacial specimen from the Wallace Reservoir material, I was struck by the amazing resemblance between the working edge of this scraper (and upon re-examination, many others) and the beveled edges of many Early Archaic ppks. It appears that there is a clear relationship between these two tool types that extends beyond mere haft-area similarities: without available stratigraphic information, one can only say that one is a technological adaptation of the other. After much discussion about the purpose of Early Archaic blade-beveling (“spinners,” resharpening economy, etc.), it seems that—at least as an added feature of economic resharpening, if not by intentional design—some of these ppks functioned as double-edged Edgefield scrapers as well as projectile tips. This idea is further supported by the occasional occurrence of dulled ppks of this type. It is probable, though, that points used for woodworking would have been resharpened for service as projectile tips soon after the woodworking task was finished, thus accounting for their relative scarcity. The versatility of the beveled point as a ppk, generalized knife, and woodworking scraper make it an ideal field tool for mobile hunters. Use of both edges would require bilateral resharpening, thus maintaining the relative symmetry needed for the tool’s primary function as a projectile point—symmetry which is noticeably absent from the task-specific Edgefield scraper. As a final note, it is interesting that, for a change, we have an opportunity to examine a tool in its combined form—the beveled ppk—and compare it with its task-specific derivative, the Edgefield scraper.

Some recent thoughts: I still adhere to all but one of the observations expressed in my original piece. This exception has to do with beveling during initial manufacture. Beveling of Early Archaic points reflects more than an economy of resharpening, and results in a specific type of utility. I now feel that beveling was often anticipated during manufacture, and is clearly evident in utilized late-stage formal preforms such as Cobb’s Triangular and Stanfield blades.

Regarding the origin of Edgefield scrapers, they sometimes occur on sites containing mixed Transitional Paleoindian and Early Archaic artifacts. Although they are not found on pure Dalton sites, technologically similar hafted tools do occur. It is postulated that Edgefield scrapers may be derived from Dalton flake-blank preforms with bifacially shaped bases (cf. Waggoner and Jones 2007, figure 9).

Edgefield scrapers are generally regarded as being heftier than contemporaneous projectile point forms. This is sometimes cited as evidence for a major distinction between these tool forms, implying that a beveled point cannot be analogous to an Edgefield scraper because the latter is always larger. Though far less common than the larger versions, small Edgefields are found that are about the same size as projectile points, indicating a need for a tool in this size range. Although small numbers of such tools exist, the implication is that small Edgefield scrapers are essentially redundant in the presence of beveled points of similar size.

edgefield_replicas_hafted_j

Figure 3. Two views of replicated and hafted Edgefield scrapers by the author (bottom plan view; top side view).

References

Goodyear, Albert C., James L. Michie, and Barbara Purdy
1980 The Edgefield Scraper: A Distributional Study of an Early Archaic Stone Tool from the Southeastern U.S. Paper presented at the 37th Annual Southeastern Archaeological Conference, New Orleans.

Sassaman, Kenneth E., I. Randolph Daniel, Jr., and Christopher R. Moore
2002 G. S. Lewis East: Early and Late Archaic Occupations along the Savannah River, Aiken County, South Carolina. Savannah River Archaeological Research Papers, no. 12.

Waggoner, James C., and Scott Jones
2007 Validating “Daltonite” Within the Greater Classification of Lithic Resources in the Interior Coastal Plain. Early Georgia 35(1):45-62.