Saturday, May 19, 2007

Today's Museum Tip: More Than a Rock?

You are at the most important dinner of the year. A 40-foot solid mahogany table is filled with investors who hold the fate of your small business in their powerful, cigar-stained hands. The conversation has become embarrassingly mundane, and you can see all your efforts and hard work collapsing like a failed Jinga tower. Mr. Cotton-Matherstein III just yawned for the forth time, and the widow Muffy Marmensok is starting to inhale wine like a beluga whale cruising for plankton.
Suddenly it occurs to you how to save the day. 'Of course!' you think, grabbing a fork and tapping loudly on your rented crystal glass.

"Ladies and Gentleman" you exclaim, face afresh and eyes sparkling "I know how to tell if you found an arrowhead!!!"

Energy cascades through the investors, their bodies shifting as they eagerly await this new and important information. Mumbling occurs - positive mumbling - as heads nod and attention focuses. Now, young entrepreneur, here are some quick facts about arrowheads:

- Actually, most of the "arrowheads" you find are not arrowheads at all, but spear-points or atl-atl points. The bow wasn't invented until relatively late in the Native American time-table (about 500 AD), so for most of their history they were using spears or atl-atl darts. For true nerdness, call them "projectile points".

- Look for percussion flaking marks - these are little indentations on the surface formed during fabrication. Native Americans would not have bothered to smooth the surface.

- Look for sharp edges and tips. Projectile points were made to kill - sometimes you will find a rock that is shaped like a point, but with thick edges and the like. Ask yourself - if it is placed on the end of a spear, could it easily penetrate your skin? (note: for all young male readers, do not try)

- With that fancy "internets" thing, archaeologists have amassed a large amount of reference data referring to point type and location. This data can generally be used to accurately date a point if the location is known, and is a great way to identify your find. Here is an example site:

Congratulations, you have now saved the day! The investors are abuzz with excitement, and Muffy is already talking about new boots for her arrowhead-finding expeditions. Perhaps your business can expand, and you can buy that townhouse in Tampa. Now, if you only knew what an atl-atl was.


Autumn said...

Thought of you when we were at the Native American Museum in D.C. this past weekend...lots of wonderful history! Thanks for the info - very interesting!

LisaB said...

So THAT'S the way to save a dinner party! I had no idea!

Love it ;-)

Jarod said...

Autumn - I bet that was fun. Hopefully you got to ride your Harley around DC!
Lisa - There's also the "show up as an early hominid" approach, which can be a big hit.

Autumn said...

Yes, I did! We were up there for the 20th Anniversary of the Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom - 400,000 motorcyclists joined together to remember and raise awareness for POW/MIA. Very moving and humbling experience...

Tai said...

And I thought dessert would save dinner!
VERY interesting stuff, thanks!