GALLERY
OF
ARCHAEOLOGY

  THIS MONTH---LOWE & SAWMILL POINTS FROM NORTHERN BELIZE, PLUS A CAST OF A LOWE POINT FROM THE LOWE RANCH IN BELIZE.

Removing a mastodon tusk from clear Florida waters.
PICTURE CREDITS
FLORIDA DEPT. OF STATE BUREAU OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESEARCH,DR. JIM DUNBAR &
ARCHAEOLOGICAL LABORATORY, CENTER FOR WESTERN STUDIES, AUGUSTANA COLLEGE

    Beginning in the early 1970's I've seen and handled a large number of prehistoric stone artifacts from all over the world through various casting and photographic projects. Some of them have stood out as being especially important, or exhibiting a high degree of the craftsmen's skill or they may have shown some type of special uniqueness. In the "Gallery Of Archaeology" I will illustrate some of the things that keep me interested in this subject---------------The Stone Age lasted for millions of years which represents almost all the time that humans have been using tools. It's literally a technology that has shaped the world!

Peter A. Bostrom

Oldowan flake tool.
IT ALL STARTED
WITH A SIMPLE FLAKE!

THIS EXAMPLE FROM OLDUVAI GORGE, TANZANIA
MADE BY HOMO HABILIS 2 MILLION YEARS AGO

UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY, DEPT. OF ANTHROPOLOGY COLLECTION

PAGE 1
LOWE & SAWMILL POINTS
NORTHERN BELIZE
LATE ARCHAIC
PAGE 1 OF 1 PAGES
COPYRIGHT JUNE 30, 2014 PETER A. BOSTROM
An Archaic period Lowe point from Belize.
LOWE POINT----BELIZE

Abstract image of a Lowe point from Belize.

ABSTRACT
LOWE & SAWMILL POINTS
NORTHERN BELIZE
LATE ARCHAIC

    This article illustrates and describes two different types of Late Archaic projectile points from Belize. Lowe and Sawmill points were described by Kelly in 1993. They are distinctly different from each other and they seem to be unique to northern and western Belize. These points are reported to date to the Late Archaic period, even though they may seem older if compared to Early Archaic points in the U.S. Five of the twelve points illustrated here were previously reported by Kelly in 1993. The Archaic period in Mesoamerica (from Mexico to Panama) is known as a time when people began to change from hunter-gatherers to permanent settlements and agriculture.

    "All that is known of preceramic projectile points in Belize has been learned over the past 14 years (1979-1993) through the efforts of the Belize Archaeological Reconnaissance and the Colha Project Regional Survey."--------1993, Thomas C. Kelly, "Preceramic Projectile Point Typology In Belize," Ancient Mesoamerica, Vol. 4, No. 2, p. 205.
     "The Belize Archaic begins with the start of the Holocene epoch at approximately 8000 B.C., although there is little information of human activity until ca. 3400 B.C."----2006, Jon C. Lohse, Jaime Awe, Cameron Griffith, Robert M. Rosenwig, & Fred Valdez, Jr., "Preceramic Occupations In Belize: Updating The Paleoindian And Archaic Record," Latin American Antiquity, Vol. 17, No. 2, p. 216.
      
"Clearly, the most important research issue for the Archaic in Belize is better defining the long time span represented in this period. No absolute dates are available until ca. 3400 B.C., leaving close to 5,000 calendar years uncharted from the end of the Paleoindian period (itself also undated by absolute means)."----2006, Jon C. Lohse, Jaime Awe, Cameron Griffith, Robert M. Rosenwig, & Fred Valdez, Jr., "Preceramic Occupations In Belize: Updating The Paleoindian And Archaic Record," Latin American Antiquity, Vol. 17, No. 2, p. 221.
    "In the more environmentally productive lowlands (
in Mesoamerica), Archaic period sites are known from the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastal plains as well as in Belize. For a number of different reasons, though, it is difficult to piece together a coherent picture of change over the thousands of years of the Archaic period in most of the lowlands. Generally, the number of known sites is very small"---------1997, Stephen A. Kowalewski, "Ancient Mesoamerica: A Comparison Of Change In Three Regions," p. 39.
    "The Archaic is the base on which the Formative stage of Mesoamerica culture was built, when village agriculture became dominant."
------2010, Susan Toby Evans & David L. Webster "Archaeology Of Ancient Mexico And Central America," p. 33.
    "The Archaic Period (7000 to 1500 B.C.) in the general Mesoamerican chronology refers to the time interval between when prehistoric people relied completely upon wild plants and animals in the preceding Paleoindian Period to when farming was of utmost importance, beginning in the subsequent Formative Period."
----1996, Brian M. Fagan (Editor in Chief), " The Oxford Companion To Archaeology, p. 442.
     "This cultural stage (Archaic Period) followed the cessation of Paleoindian hunting of now-extinct Pleistocene animals and preceded the Formative period when agriculture, village life, and pottery began around 2000 B.C. in Mesoamerica and Central America."----1996, Brian M. Fagan (Editor in Chief), " The Oxford Companion To Archaeology, p. 30.

Lowe points from Belize.
 
LOWE & SAWMILL POINTS
NORTHERN BELIZE
LATE ARCHAIC

     The twelve Lowe and Sawmill points, identified in this report, were found in northern Belize. They represent fairly rare examples of projectile points from the Late Archaic period in this area of Mesoamerica. Five of these points were described and illustrated in 1993 by Kelly in an article called "Preceramic Projectile Point Typology In Belize." He states in his report that "Sufficient numbers of preceramic projectile points have now been found in Belize to define two morphologically distinct projectile point types, Lowe and Sawmill." Archaeologists have only recently, in the last three decades, begun to develop general ideas and theories about what types of tools people were using during the Archaic period in Belize.


CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER IMAGE
LOWE POINTS
LATE ARCHAIC
NORTHERN BELIZE

    All of the points illustrated in this picture are reported to be from Belize and fit the typological definition of Lowe points. Kelly's type description of Lowe points in 1993 was done with a very few examples. In fact, one account reports there were only 15 known examples in the year 2000. In the above picture, numbers 1, 2, 5, & 6 were illustrated in Kelly's 1993 description of Lowe points. Numbers 1, 2 & 6 are reported to have been found on the Lowe Ranch, where the name for this point type originates.
     There are three consistent and overlapping radiocarbon dates that may date Lowe points (Kelly, 1993). Two samples of charcoal from the Ladyville 1 site and another from the Pulltrouser Swamp site were the location sources. Two Lowe points were found within a 5m radius of the hearth where the first sample was taken at Ladyville 1. Only one Lowe point was found on the Pulltrouser Swamp site. Kelly suggests a tentative (not definite) date for Lowe points at 4500 to 3900 years ago.
    Lowe points are curiously similar, in some ways, to the very much older Hardin Barbed points that occur more than 2,000 miles north of Belize in the U.S. They are both resharpened by beveling the edges and the stem edges are ground. Many Hardin Barbed points also have sharp serrated edges, a similar stem design, wide angled barbs, and can be thick heavy-duty points. But they are typologically different from Lowe points. Most of the points illustrated here have fairly long end-thinning flakes. In fact, Kelly describes them as "flake scars that are indistinguishable from flute scars." Although not many Lowe points have been found, they seem to tend towards massive barbs, very wide blades and straight parallel sided stems. Kelly describes Lowe points as resharpened with parallel "oblique" flaking that leaves sharp serrated edges but oblique angle flaking does not appear on all of them.
    Most examples of Lowe points are heavily patinated with off-white and yellow colors. Freshly broken points show the patination continues through the center, indicating a probable greater age than the area's more recent Maya culture stone tools.
    The Lowe points illustrated here are made of Colha chert. The longest point, in the second row, measures 3 3/4 inches (9.5 cm) long. Its massive stem measures 1 3/8 inches (3.5 cm) wide. The widest point in this group measures 2 3/8 inches (6 cm) wide. Three of the points also have impact fracture damage on their points (distal ends).

     The Archaic period in Mesoamerica lasted a very long time. It begins when people change from a nomadic hunting and gathering way of life to a more localized and specialized way of acquiring food. A trend towards the development of primitive horticultural skills and fixed settlements are the two great transformations that occur during the Archaic period. A precise timeframe for this period in Mesoamerica, and particularly in Belize, is still a little mysterious. Some papers place the beginning of the Archaic period as early as 11,000 years ago and others as late as 7,000 years ago. But a good current frame of reference (Lohse, 2006) suggests a date of 9,000 years ago for the beginning of the Archaic period in Belize.

Sawmill points from Belize.
SAWMILL POINTS
LOWE RANCH
NORTHERN BELIZE

     Both of these points are described in Kelly's 1993 paper on projectile point typology in Belize. They are reported to have been found on the Lowe Ranch in northern Belize. Sawmill points are unique to Belize. Their most striking feature is the fine parallel oblique pressure flaking and "fluted" stems. Sawmill points have expanding stems that are ground and concave. Only one Sawmill point is reported to have been found in situ during excavation. Kelly reports one point found on the Ladyville 1 site that was located 14 inches (35 cm) below the surface and 8 5/8 inches (22 cm) above sterile gray clay. No other artifacts were found directly next to the Ladyville Sawmill point. However, a Lowe point was found about 2 meters away. Delicately flaked end-scrapers are also reported to have been found with Sawmill points. Based on observations of slight differences in patination, Kelly suggested in his report that Lowe points may be older than Sawmill points. Both of these points are made of Colha chert and the point on the right measures 3 3/16 inches (8.1 cm) long.
    The point on the left was complete when it was illustrated in Kelly's report but apparently lost its tip sometime later with a fresh break. The point on the right is shown in Kelly's report with its tip missing but not with the broken and reglued piece, which may also have broken sometime after his report. They seem to have had rough handling after the report was done.

     The end of the Archaic period in Belize is defined as the beginning of agriculture, when people began to rely more on plants for food. The main artifact evidence for this period is the appearance of ceramics. A recent estimated time-frame for the end of the Archaic in Belize is 3,900 years ago (Lohse, 2006). At present. a good estimated range of time for the Archaic period in Belize is between 9,000 and 3,900 years ago, a 5,100 year span-of-time.

Sawmill point from Belize.
CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER IMAGE
SAWMILL POINT
LATE ARCHAIC
NORTHERN BELIZE

     This point is very similar to a point that is illustrated in Kelly's report and referred to as an aberrant point. In-other-words, unusual, untypical or uncommon. But he still suggests it might be a reworked Sawmill point. Although the stem is small and contracting, it is thinned on one side with one long narrow flake removal which is a common trait of Sawmill points. The edges are also resharpened with parallel oblique flaking. Even though the width of this point is wider by 3/16 inch (5 mm) than the longest Sawmill point found so far, it still may fall within the Sawmill type as more of these points are recorded.
    The damaged area on the edge near the tip of the point may indicate it was used as a projectile, as Sawmill points are thought to have been used. The broken area was retouched in a way that would have made it once-again usable as a projectile point. One side of this point (right side) also has what appears to be a fairly deep round pot-lid type of flake removal which usually occurs with heat, as could happen in a brush fire, but there is no sign of heating on the stone. This point is made of Colha chert and it measures 2 5/16 inches (5.9 cm) long and 1 15/16 inches (4.9 cm) wide.

     Only two types of Archaic projectile points have been reliably defined in Belize. Both of them "presently" date to the Late Archaic period. They were named Lowe and Sawmill points by Kelly in 1993. Both are distinctly different from the other and they seem to be unique to northern and western Belize.

Two Lowe points with long narrow flake scars highlighted.
LOWE POINTS---FLAKING PATTERN
LATE ARCHAIC
NORTHERN BELIZE

     Both of these Lowe points exhibit "the unique" long and narrow flaking pattern that represents one of the diagnostic traits of Lowe points. It is interesting that the flakes are long enough and wide enough to suggest that some of them may have been removed indirectly. This would be considered as Paleo and Early Archaic projectile point production technology in the western U.S. The fact that Lowe points are considered Late Archaic in Belize is very interesting. There is undoubtedly much more to learn about Paleo and Early Archaic lithic technology in this region of Mesoamerica. The point on the right measures 3 5/8 inches (9.2 cm) long.

    Lowe points were first illustrated and described in Kelly's 1993 report on "Preceramic Projectile Point Typology In Belize." They were named after the Lowe Ranch where several examples were first reported. "Classic" examples of Lowe points have sharply defined, massive and widely angled barbs. The stems are ground on the edges and the stems also tend to be very large and parallel sided and straight to concave on the basal ends. The cutting edges are beveled from resharpening and they are often sharp and serrated. Some examples were resharpened with parallel oblique flaking. Their most interesting diagnostic trait are end thinning flake removals. The stems are thinned from the base in a way that Kelly (1993) described as "flake scars that are indistinguishable from flute scars." Lowe points are massive heavy duty beveled points that some suggest were probably only used as knives. But it's very likely they were used for both projectiles and knives. Many of them do have point impact damage.

A Lowe point from Belize.
CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER IMAGE
LOWE "TYPE" POINT
LOWE RANCH
LATE ARCHAIC
NORTHERN BELIZE

     This is an excellent example of a Lowe point. It was found on the type site location in northern Belize on the Lowe Ranch, where the name for this point was borrowed. The Lowe point type and this point were first illustrated and described in Kelly's report on "Preceramic Projectile Point Typology In Belize." The sharply defined barbs, very large parallel sided stem, and the long narrow flake removals from the  blade edge and base of the stem are some of this points most noticeable features. Lowe points are massive heavy duty points with widely angled barbs and ground stem edges. The blade edges are beveled from resharpening and they often have sharp serrated edges. The stems are also thinned from the base with flake removals that Kelly describes as "flake scars that are indistinguishable from flute scars." This point is heavily patinated and most probably made of Colha chert. It measures 3 1/16 inches (7.7 cm) long and 2 1/4 inches (5.7 cm) wide.

    Based on observations of slight differences in patination, Kelly suggested in his report that Lowe points may be older than Sawmill points. Most examples of Lowe points are heavily patinated with off-white and yellow colors. Freshly broken points show the patination continues through the center.

A Sawmill point from Belize.
CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER IMAGE
SAWMILL POINT
LOWE RANCH
LATE ARCHAIC

NORTHERN BELIZE

    This Sawmill point was illustrated by Kelly in 1993. It was complete when it was illustrated but apparently lost its tip sometime later. It was found on the Lowe Ranch in northern Belize. A paper published in 2006 (Lohse) suggests that Sawmill points may be less common than Lowe points. According to current data, their distribution area in northern and western Belize also seems to be smaller. As can be seen in this picture, Sawmill point's most sticking features are their fine parallel oblique flaking along the edges and "fluted" expanding stems. This point is made of Colha chert and measures 2 13/16 inches (7.2 cm) long.

    The most recently reported age range for Lowe points is mainly based on two radio carbon dates that were taken from the Ladyville site and the Pulltrouser site. Both sites are in northern Belize. The Ladyville charcoal sample came from an exposed hearth where two in situ Lowe points were found within a 5 meter radius of the sample. Another charcoal sample was taken from the Pulltrouser site where another Lowe point was found nearby. The average of the radiocarbon dates suggests that Lowe points date somewhere between 4,500 and 3,900 years.

A Lowe point from Belize.
LOWE POINT
LATE ARCHAIC
NORTHERN BELIZE

     This Lowe point is reported to be from northern Belize. It's an excellent and "classic" example of these large wide points. The most impressive feature is its well defined and massive barbs. Remnants of the original flake surfaces seem to be present on both sides. This point doesn't seem to have been resharpened more than once. The tip of the point apparently needed repairing from a minor impact. One of the basal corners appears to be broken but the edge surface is original outer cortex surface, so maybe not. This point is made of Colha chert and it measures 3 5/8 inches (9.2 cm) long and 2 7/16 inches (6.2 cm) wide.

     Lowe points are curiously similar, in some technological ways, to the very much older Hardin Barbed points that occur more than 2,000 miles north of Belize in the U.S. They are both resharpened by beveling the edges and the stems are ground and sometimes "fluted." Many Hardin Barbed points also have sharp serrated edges, a similar stem design, wide angled barbs, and can be thick heavy-duty points. But they are typologically different from Lowe points. What is interesting is that Lowe points are currently considered to be approximately 5,000 years younger than Hardin Barbed points. The concept makes one wonder if there might also be "young" concave based fluted points found someday in Mesoamerica?

A Sawmill point from Belize.
CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER IMAGE
SAWMILL POINT
LOWE RANCH
LATE ARCHAIC

NORTHERN BELIZE

     This Sawmill point was illustrated in Kelly's 1993 report. It was found on the Lowe Ranch in northern Belize. This point exhibits all the distinguishing traits of a Sawmill point. The base is corner notched with an expanding stem that is ground and thinned. The edges are also resharpened with parallel oblique flaking that are long enough to leave only slightly beveled edges. This point is made of Colha chert and it measures 3 3/16 inches (8.1 cm) long.

    The other projectile point type that is unique to Belize is the Sawmill point. Their most striking feature is the fine parallel oblique pressure flaking that is long and wide enough to leave only slightly beveled edges. Their concave and expanding stems are also sometimes thinned with long narrow flake removals. Only one Sawmill point is reported to have been found in situ during excavation. A paper published in 2006 (Lohse) suggests that Sawmill points may be less common than Lowe points. According to current data, their distribution area in northern and western Belize also seems to be smaller. Delicately flaked end-scrapers are also reported to have been found with Sawmill points.

Two Hardin Barbed points from the southern Illinois area.
HARDIN BARBED POINTS
EARLY ARCHAIC
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS AREA

    Although Hardin Barbed points are found more than 2,000 miles north of Belize and are not typologically the same as Lowe points, they are curiously similar, in some technological ways. A good percentage of them have basally thinned or fluted stems. The stems are also ground along the edges. The bases can be widely corner notched with barbs that are large and wide. The edges will also often be sharp and serrated. It's interesting that Lowe points are currently dated as much as 5,000 years younger than Hardin Barbed points.

    It really is amazing that the U.S. has so many different types of projectile point styles but none that match the unique styles of Lowe and Sawmill points. Their flake removal technology is exceptional. They were made by craftsmen who were applying a high level of skill in the manufacture of their tools. There is no doubt that the quality of manufacture of Lowe and Sawmill points are very impressive to people who understand lithic technology.

"REFERENCES"

1983, Turner II, B. L., & Harrison, Peter D., "Pulltrouser Swamp: Ancient Maya Habitat, Agriculture, And Settlement In Northern Belize."
1985
, Perino, Gregory, "Selected Preforms, Points And Knives Of The North American Indians."
1987
, Justice, Noel D., "Hardin Barbed Cluster," Stone Age Spear And Arrow Points Of The Midcontinental And Eastern United States.
1993
, Kelly, Thomas C., "Preceramic Projectile Point Typology In Belize," Ancient Mesoamerica, Vol. 4, No. 2.
1996
, Brian M. Fagan (Editor in Chief), " The Oxford Companion To Archaeology..
1997
, Kowalewski, Stephen A., "Ancient Mesoamerica: A Comparison Of Change In Three Regions."
2006
, Lohse, Jon C., Awe, Jaime, Griffith, Cameron, Rosenwig, Robert M., & Fred Valdez, Jr., "Preceramic Occupations In Belize: Updating The Paleoindian And Archaic Record," Latin American Antiquity, Vol. 17, No. 2.
2010
, Evans, Susan Toby & Webster David L., "Archaeology Of Ancient Mexico And Central America."

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