allaboutarchaeology what is archaeology Site Project do's and don'ts misconceptions jobs things to read and do Illustrated Glossary links
points chipped stone gorund stone pots clay bone other material
Douglas Complex Soloman River Phase complexes in Kansas describe points radiocarbon dating rock art all about pottery lesson plans for archaeology


What Archaeology IS..

Archaeology is the study of past societies using material remains.  The material remains are items left behind by human beings – their garbage, things they lost and objects that were too big for them to move.  People also leave behind different kinds of traces of their presence, traces that archaeologists call features.  These include storage pits, fireplaces, mounds, house pits, and the like.


There are many kinds of archaeology.  Biblical archaeology studies remains from the Holy Land during the periods of the Old and New Testaments.  Classical archaeology studies the remains of the civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.  Historical archaeologists study societies that left written records, while prehistoric archaeologists study the remains of societies that did not have writing that we can read.  In Kansas, the first written records date to AD 1541, so most of the material on this web page is prehistoric archaeology.


Return to the top of the page

If you Own a Site


Don't be afraid to report it. Neither the state nor the universities nor any museum have the right to confiscate your collection nor to force an excavation project on you. They do not have that power. Some unscrupulous collectors purposefully mislead landowners about this; they want to collect year after year without ever sharing information.

If you report a site, personnel at the Kansas State Historical Society will help you with the process, and they won't make the location public. You won't have a flock of strangers bothering you because you reported a site. Records of archaeological site locations are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act; because sites are scarce and non-renewable resources, they are protected.

You can start by emailing
Or you can write to
Public Archeologist
Kansas State Historical Society
6425 SW Sixth Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615-1099

There are several benefits to reporting sites on your property. Having your sites recorded may cause some destructive projects to be routed away from your land. All federally licensed and funded projects are required to have a survey to determine whether a variety of resources, including archaeological sites, are in the project area. Known sites have to be tested and significant sites have to be excavated, all at a cost to the project.

Important sites can be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is a voluntary procedure on the part of the landowner. It does not involve relinquishment of title nor does it require public access to the site, and you can continue to use the land as you have previously. Having a National Register site does mean that most projects will be routed away from the site if at all possible.

There are provisions under Kansas law for giving an easement for archaeological purposes to the state or other non-profit organization such as a university. There can be tax benefits for such a donation.

If you find human skeletal remains or burial goods, you are required by state law (or federal law if you are on federal or tribal land) to report them. An accidental find of this nature is not regarded as criminal activity; in fact it happens fairly frequently. You will not be subject to a fine if you report it, although there is a fine if you don’t. The proper procedure is to call the local law enforcement agency, which is usually the police or sheriff’s department. Usually they will then call in an archaeologist or forensic anthropologist to determine what should be done. The remains may be reburied in place if that is a safe and reasonable solution, but it is more likely that they will be excavated for later reburial or repatriation.

Return to the top of the page

If You Have a Project . . . .

Return to the top of the page

Rules for Collectors: Dos and Don'ts

Rule # 1: Do ask permission

Always ask permission from the landowner/tenant

            Always, Always, ALWAYS!

If you collect without asking permission, you are trespassing and you are stealing; simple as that.

Rule # 2: Don't Buy and Sell

            If you collect, do it yourself, following the guidelines laid out here. If you do the collecting, every item you find will have a story and a memory associated with it. If you buy, all you get is a thing, and the value of your collection will go down, not up. A well-documented collection in which the origin of every item is known has enormous potential for providing information about the past; one with artifacts from different regions and sites mixed together, combined with the fakes that are all over the market, is pretty much worthless.

            And fakes are a real problem. Lots of people flake their own artifacts and then sell them. They may do so honestly, but once an item is in someone else's hands all bets are off. People who want to make a point look old know how to do it, and even an expert cannot tell a well-made replica from a fake. Furthermore, the more desirable an artifact is to collectors, the greater the chances of it being a fake.

            An inevitable effect of buying and selling artifacts is that it leads to the wholesale looting of sites. This is happening all over the world. In one region of New Mexico, sites have to be protected with chain link fences topped with barbed wire to keep the looters out. There is a national organization called the Archaeological Conservancy whose job it is to buy and protect important sites from looters. If you enjoy your hobby of collecting things from the past, don't add to the destruction of the past by buying and selling artifacts.

Rule # 3: Do Keep Records

            The single factor that is most important in letting collected artifacts retain their information value is the presence of good records about their origin. If you keep your collection organized according to where the items came from, you eventually will be able to see patterns even without training. Different kinds of points will come from different sites; one site will have lots of scrapers, another site only a few; certain kinds of stone will show up on only some sites; different kinds of stone may turn up only at certain spots within a site. You will be looking at the products of different groups of people from different eras and at different activity areas within a site.

            To record site information really well, you need to do three simple things:

            make a record of where the sites are

            keep a notebook

            label the artifacts by which site they came from.

Do Record site and artifact locations

            The record of where the sites are can be as simple as using a county road map or aerial photos (available from the county NCRS office). You can find and print off both maps and aerial photos from the Terraserver web site ( Using a combination of both a map and an aerial photo is great; the map shows where the site is, while you can use the aerial to see exactly where in a field you are with respect to the trees and other features.


            You can also record site locations using the legal description, if you are familiar with this system. A precise legal description might be the NE 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of the NW 1/4 of Section 2, Township 12 South, Range 2 West. You can figure out legal descriptions most readily from topographic maps, which are available from the Kansas Geological Survey, 1930 Constant Ave., Lawrence, KS 66047-3726. Topographic maps of whole counties are available as are more detailed quadrangle maps and are handy for use in the field. Even putting a site location on your map without figuring out the legal description is far better than nothing. The image is as good as the written record.


            An even better way of recording locations is to use a GPS unit. These are widely available and allow you to record locations quite precisely. It is easiest to use the UTM locations, which are meters east and north of a known location. A GPS unit allows you to record locations within a site and so gradually to build up a picture of the site over many return visits. You can use a piece of graph paper to do this, recording the edges of a field while walking the perimeter and then collecting and recording the locations of artifacts within the site. Some collectors enjoy trying to put together broken artifacts by finding all of the pieces over repeat visits. Knowing the exact spot where you found an item last year is a great place to start.


Do Keep a notebook  

            Keep a notebook with you in the field. You can use it to record anything you want, and you will find it both useful and enjoyable later. Consider the following entry from a notebook kept by the late Dick Stauffer:


16 Apr 1960    Heard peculiar snort-stomp sounds.  I’m staring at antlers – a buck.  He’s pawing,  hoofing the ground – some 75 yards away.  I go about my business; he in turn does the same.                                                                           


            If you record what you find on each site visit, you can sort things out at home even if a bag breaks and artifacts from different sites get mixed together. 


            Notebooks are also helpful when you meet someone who gives you a lead on another site.


            If you are using a GPS unit, you can record the exact location of all of your finds and keep them with the site record ready for your next visit. 


            If you use a small loose-leaf notebook, you can reorganize notes when you get home so that all of the information on each site is in a single place. If you do this, be sure to date the pages to help you remember each visit.  And, regardless of what kind of notebook you take with you, you will find a strong rubber band handy to keep the pages from turning in the Kansas wind.


Do Number the artifacts

            As you find sites, you can assign each one a number so that they do not become mixed with items from other sites. This need not be fancy; you can just start with site 1 and go from there. Whatever system you devise, be sure to write the site numbers on your maps and aerial photos.


            You will want to use permanent ink of some sort and to keep the site numbers fairly small. A good policy is to look at the specimen and decide which is its good side for photography and to put the number on another side. Don't use tags with glue on the back; many eventually drop off.  For dark and coarse-grained items, you will want to use a bit of white paint or white-out to give you a smooth surface on which your site number will be visible.


Rule # 4: Do Report your sites

            Some collectors are afraid that if they report their sites that professional archaeologists or other collectors will beat then to the good artifacts. Some also fear that their artifacts will be confiscated. These fears are groundless. Professional archaeologists excavate only a few sites in Kansas per year, and this keeps them very busy. And the site locations you report are secret; other collectors will not learn the locations from the state historical society.



Rule # 5: Don't Dig without guidance

            Excavation destroys sites. Careful excavation requires thorough training, and even so, professional archaeologists leave parts of sites intact whenever they can because they know that the future will bring new techniques that will generate kinds of information they can only dream about today. 


            Good excavation is slow and painstaking work that requires good technique and excellent record keeping. If you want to try your hand at excavating, attend the annual  KATP.                                                              



Return to the top of the page

Common Misconceptions

Generations of collectors come and go without having much contact with the scientific literature that has accumulated over the years. They do tend to have contact with other collectors, and as a result, some misconceptions or myths about artifacts have built up and are widespread. We try to clear up some of them here.


That's one big arrowhead!

            Stone arrowheads tend to be quite small because of the materials available to Native Americans. A well-designed arrow requires a balance between the weight of the point and the strength of the shaft. Stone points are thicker than metal points and weigh considerably more, and the wood available for shafts was fairly weak. Even the metal points used in the historic period tend to be less than 2 ½  inches long and an inch wide. A good way to decide whether your point is an arrowhead or a spear head is to look at the width of the base, between the notches if it is notched or at the junction of the blade and haft if it is stemmed. This is an indication of the diameter of the shaft to which it was attached. Arrow shafts were less than ½ inch in diameter.


Bird Points

            Many people believe that small arrowheads were designed for shooting birds. This idea derives in part from the misconception that most spear points were actually arrowheads. See That's one big arrowhead!. A good argument against small points being designed especially for birds comes from the village sites of the Great Bend Mosaic. These sites contain thousands of so-called bird points (M01) and hardly any larger points (most of which are clearly old points that the Great Bend people had picked up). Yet the sites are filled with literally tons of bison bone – animals that had to have been hunted with those tiny points.


Blunts or big bird points

            In some time periods, the natives of Kansas reworked their spear points into what some collectors call blunts or bunts (M02). These are always made on spear points, not arrow points, and they are tools, not weapons. They always have a steep rounded end flaked from one edge and were used as scrapers. Note the similarity between the working edges on these two specimens (M03).



Ogham is a form of writing that was used in Ireland and to a lesser extent in Wales and Scotland for writing on stone monuments in the fifth and sixth centuries AD.  The symbols consist of straight lines that either extended from or crossed the corner of a stone or across a horizontal line if written on parchment.  Most known examples of the use of Ogham on stone are boundary markers, and all of them look like this.



            A man named Barry Fell wrote a series of books that claimed that there are Ogham inscriptions in the Americas (and Africa), but no Ogham expert agrees with him, and his examples look nothing like Ogham monuments (image). Nor are there any professional linguists who agree with his supposed translations.  A link to a reasonable (and amusing) summary of the various arguments can be found at The following is a link to a website that deals with Celtic inscriptions on stone. 



            Some collectors have begun to call a certain form of knife a Sekan, which is short for Southeast Kansas stiletto. There are two problems here. First, these knives are not restricted to southeast Kansas but instead are found over a much wider area. In Kansas, they were made by the ancestors of the Wichita Indians who had their villages in central Kansas. They hunted widely in eastern Kansas, leaving these distinctive tools behind, but they also ranged at least as far north as Waconda Lake on the Solomon River and southwest into Texas. In Nebraska, knives of the same type are found in Pawnee villages and camps. One was even reported from Pecos Pueblo in New Mexico.

            The second problem is that these tools were not used as stilettos, which are stabbing weapons. When they were brand new, they were ovate in shape without the distinctive beveling and concave blade shape that led to the name (M06). Because they were mounted on wooden handles, they were resharpened with the blade held away from the person doing the work. A right handed person would hold the handle in his or her left hand and the flaking tool in their right, removing flakes from the bottom side of the left edge of the blade. Repeated resharpening of this kind (called unifacial resharpening) eventually produces a beveled edge with the steep side down.  To resharpen the opposite edge, the person simply turned the blade over and repeated the process (G02). 


            The process of resharpening also changed the outline of the blade. Originally it would have been convex, but repeated use and resharpening affects the middle of the blade more than the tip or the base, and eventually it became straight and then concave. When it got really narrow, the knife was likely to break, and it was time to throw it away or to turn the remnant into a pipe drill (CS27).


Only men made stone tools

            Boy is this one silly. Prehistoric Native American societies were dependent on stone for both men's and women's tools. While men did most of the hunting and are likely to have made and maintained the points, women did a lot of the butchering and hide working and are likely to have made and maintained their own tools. One cache of stone items found in MacPherson County contained a few cutting and hide scraping tools that almost certainly belonged to a woman along with a large supply of large stone flakes from which she could make other tools in the future (image needed).  While we cannot project back in time which gender had which tasks with any certainty, among the historic Pawnees, women owned the axes and stone mauls, and men did the hideworking of elk and deer and would have owned bone beamers.


Images in stone

            Many people see images in pieces of stone that they find. But the Native Americans who lived in Kansas hardly ever sculpted pieces of loose stone into images. They did, however, carve images onto rock walls (M08). To tell whether a piece of stone you have found might have been carved, try cutting a similar piece of stone with a sharp piece of flint or pecking (a line into a surface with a hard stone. That will show you what the image would look like if it had been made by human hands.


There are lots of good guides to point styles

            Actually, there are a lot of misleading guides out there, which is one of the reasons for this web page. There are books published by collectors who buy and sell artifacts, and these are uniformly filled with misinformation. One illustrates supposed Besant points (found only in the northwestern plains) from Tennessee and Texas that don't even look like Besant points. They tend to give ages of points in the thousands of years, whereas most styles did not last nearly that long. 


            There is a set of old bulletins of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society that are better in some ways, but they were written in the 1950s and 1960s before radiocarbon dates were widely available. Hence the ages were based on guesswork and (unfortunately) on collections from some sites now understood to be of mixed ages.


            The best guides currently on the market are by Noel Justice, a collector and flintknapper who understands how the points were made. His region of expertise, however, lies well to the east of Kansas, and his most complete book includes only a few styles that range as far west as Kansas. 


Return to the top of the page

Careers in Archaeology


Return to the top of the page

Things to Read


Hoard, Robert J., and William E.  Banks

2006    Kansas Archaeology.  Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.


O'Brien, Patricia J.

1984    Archeology in Kansas. Public Education Series            No. 9. Museum of Natural History, University of             Kansas. This is a concise book written for the general    reader.


Wedel, Waldo R.

1959    An Introduction to Kansas Archeology. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 174. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. This was the first       substantial book on Kansas archaeology, based            primarily on Wedel's own excavations combined with careful historic research.


1986    Central Plains Prehistory. University of          Nebraska Press, Lincoln. Written near the end of Wedel's long and productive career, this is a summary of the archaeological sequence on one river basin.



KSHS publications

KU publications


Blakeslee, Donald J.

1999    Waconda Lake: Prehistoric Swidden-Foragers in          the Central Plains.  Central Plains Archaeology, 7(1). Available from NAPA (link needed)         This is a report intended for a professional audience.  It resolves some issues and raises new questions about the Middle Ceramic period.


Current Archaeology in Kansas is an annual publication of the Professional Archaeologists of Kansas (link needed).


Kansas Anthropologist is published annually by the Kansas Anthropological Association. Membership costs $22 for an individual and includes a subscription to the journal.  (link needed)


Central Plains Archaeology is an annual publication of the Nebraska Association of Professional Archaeologists.  It carries articles pertinent to Nebraska and surrounding states.  Membership currently costs $15.  (link needed)


Plains Anthropologist is a journal for professionals. A subscription currently costs $45, $30X for students. (link needed)


Things to do

KAA digs (link)

KAA meetings/own chapter (link)

AASCK (info)

your local museum



other links



KU collections




Return to the top of the page

ILLUSTRATED GLOSSARY improved October 2010

Abraded sherds
Rarely, sherds with abraded edges are found in Kansas sites.  Those that have convex edges may have been used to smooth the interiors of pots, but abraded sherds with straight working edges are more common (1G001), and their function is unknown.

This is a nickname for a category of stones.  ‘Agate’ refers to stones that have some translucency and (most often) for ones that have bands of different colors (1G002). Some of the prettiest points made by modern flintknappers are made from brightly colored agates. Many varieties of chert are also banded, but they lack the translucent quality of agate.

alternately beveled
If you have a chipped stone tool on which beveling is visible on one edge (left or right), turn it over and see whether there is beveling on the other face that shows up on the same side (1G003). If so, the item is alternately beveled. Harahey knives(1G004) are diamond-shaped and alternately beveled so that each face has two beveled edges located kitty corner from one another, no matter which end and which face are up.  Repeated unifacial resharpening of a tool edge creates alternate beveling.

Here's where you can amaze your friends. A right handed person who resharpens a tool will produce a pattern of alternate beveling in which the bevel will be visible on the left hand side of the far (distal) end of the tool.  About 90% of alternately beveled tools have this form. So, you can look at a tool and (if it is alternately beveled) you can say whether it was used by a right- or left-handed person (1G005).
Any addition to a ceramic jar or bowl, such as a handle (1G006), lug (1G007) or tab (1G008).

A level of classification for archaeological units that is no longer commonly used. A set of similar sites would be grouped into a focus and a set of focuses in an aspect, such as the Great Bend Aspect.

The set of items found in a site is called the site assemblage. All of the objects from a single feature are called a subassemblage.

A device for throwing a light spear or dart with increased range. It consists of a handle, shaft and hook. The spear is held with forefinger and thumb, while the other three fingers hold the handle. The butt of the dart is concave and it fits against the hook at the far end of the atlatl shaft (1G009).  The atlatl increases the length of the arm and enhances the flicking motion of the wrist. Stone weights called boatstones and bannerstones were attached to some atlatls.
A fancy way of saying that a point has basal ears )(1G010).

A projection from the base of the blade of a projectile point. Barbs can project laterally, flare or point down (1G011).

basal grinding
Purposeful blunting of the base of some types of projectile points, especially early ones. Basal grinding may be confined to the point base or it may extend along the lateral edges of a lanceolate or stemmed point or into side notches. It is best detected by feeling the edges with your fingers to compare the basal edges to the blade edges.

basal notch
Refers to a point with a single notch at the center of the base. Some arrow points of the Middle Ceramic period have basal notches (1G012). When a stemmed point has a basal notch, however, the point is usually described as either stemmed indented base or bifurcated stem.

basal thinning
Purposeful thinning of the base of a point by the removal of a line of fairly narrow flakes from one or both faces (1G013). To be called basal thinning, the line of flake scars must extend far enough into the point to have been useful in hafting; a line of short flake scars can result from just the shaping of the base (1G014). The flake scars from basal thinning are more numerous, narrower and shorter than flute scars.

The base of a point is the proximal edge, although many people call the lateral edges near the base the basal edges.  The bottom of a pot is also called the base.  In Kansas, vessel bases tend to be conical in the Early Ceramic period (1G015), globular in the Middle Ceramic period (1G016), and either globular or flat (1G017) in the Late Ceramic period.

A base-notched point is one that has two notches extending up either vertically or diagonally from the base (1G018).

Before the Christian Era of before the common era. Some people attempt to be politically correct by replacing BC (before Christ) with BCE. The numbers in calendar years remain the same.

Beveled lip
Describes a lip on a direct rim that lies at an angle to the rim (1G019).  Beveled lips usually face to the exterior of the vessel, and they sometimes are decorated with the same motifs that appear on the faces of collared rims.

Appearing on both faces or flat sides of a two sided artifact. The term is applied both to purposeful flaking and to evidence of wear.

bifacially beveled
An edge of an artifact that becomes markedly steeper near the edge on both faces (1G020). Some projectile points were purposefully made with bifacial beveling to create an especially strong blade edge.

Split into two parts. This term is usually restricted to the description of stemmed points that have a central basal notch (1G021) as opposed to a stem that has a concave base, in which case stemmed indented base (1G022) is more appropriate.

The portion of a ceramic vessel that is below the neck, consisting of the shoulder and lower body (1G023).  The surface of the lower body is usually not given the same attention as the rim or shoulder, so that a jar may have a smoothed or decorated shoulder and a cord-roughened body (1G024).

This vessel form is fairly rare in Kansas, occurring most frequently in the Great Bend Mosaic. Water bottles have fairly tall, insloping rims and narrow mouths (1G025).

A low ceramic vessel that lacks a rim (1G025).  In Kansas some bowls have more or less vertical sides, while others curve to create a smaller mouth.  The latter have the same general form as Mississippian seed jars but are usually much smaller.

BP stands for radiocarbon years Before Present, with “present” defined as AD 1950, the approximate date of the invention of radiocarbon dating. BP is used because radiocarbon years are only an estimate of the age of an item based on how much radioactive carbon it still contains.  The amount of 14C present in living things has varied over time, making radiocarbon years different from calendar years.

BP dates do not convert to BC/AD dates (also called calendar dates) simply by subtracting the BP date from AD 1950, but many people have taken that shortcut rather than using an up-to-date conversion table. So beware of AD/BC dates in books and reports unless the author specifies how they were calculated. A simple conversion table intended only to show the nature of the differences is on this web page (link to 3A)

A fossil mollusc colony found in some Kansas cherts.  Bryozoan fossils often resemble fragmentary nets (1G026).

bulb of percussion
When a flake is removed from a core or nodule by striking it with some sort of hammer, there will be a thick, convex spot on the inner surface of the flake just below the striking platform. This is the bulb of percussion (1G027).

bulbar scar
On a flake scar, the bulb of percussion will leave a negative impression – an indentation just below the striking platform(G028). This is evidence that the flake was removed by a blow of some sort but not necessarily that the blow was delivered by a human being. The presence of a bulbar scar, however, does serve to separate out flake scars produced by percussion from those produced by natural flaws in the stone, frost cracking, and so on.

A term that refers to the shape of either the haft element (1G029) or the basal ears (1G030) of a projectile point. It means rounded.

A group of artifacts that were stored together in a compact group. Some caches were simply for storage; others were religious offerings.

cache pit
A pit dug in the ground for the storage of food and other items. When used for food, eventually insects, rodents or fungus would find their way into the pit and it had to be abandoned. Since empty pits were a hazard in societies without electric lights, the old pits were usually filled with trash, solving two problems at once (1G031).

caliche (kah-LEE-chay)
A calcium carbonate deposit that forms in some semi-arid soils. Caliche can form thick beds, such as the capstone of the Llano Estacado in Texas, little pebble-like bodies in soils, or a rough grayish deposit on the surface of artifacts (1G032).

A general term for the family of animals that includes dogs, wolves and coyotes. Very often it is impossible to determine which species is present from a few bones or teeth, so this term is a handy copout (1G033).

chalcedony (kal-SED-o-nee)
This is the name applied to varieties of chippable stone that are translucent but lack the bands of color typical of agates. Chalcedonies that occur in Kansas sites brown Knife River chalcedony and pinkish Flattop chalcedony (1G034).

The proper name for what most people call flint. Cherts form in limestones after the limestone is deposited and are composed primarily of silica.  Chert is a general term that includes flints, jaspers and chalcedonies, but most people do not use it that way. The Flint Hills are named for the cherts that occur there.

There can be enormous variation in the appearance and quality of cherts from a single geologic formation and even from a single source. Often, the texture and color vary within a single nodule. To make things even more difficult, cherts from different geologic formations can resemble one another. As a result, correct identification of chert types is often difficult, and the smaller the artifact, the more difficult the identification becomes.

Cob roughened
Miniature vessels roughened by rolling a corn cob (without kernels) across the surface (1G035) are rare in Kansas, restricted to the southern part of the state.

Coconut jar
This is a vessel that has the size and body shape of a normal jar but lacks a rim (1G036).  Hence some people prefer the term “rimless jar.”  Vessels of this form occur in the Middle Ceramic period, and some are perforated for suspension.
Coil break
Vessels that were formed by the coiling method often break along one or more of the coils.  The resulting edge of the sherd will be fairly straight and either concave or convex in cross section (1G037)

Coil breaks also show up on some vessels manufactured by the paddle and anvil method because the rim was added as a slab or coil to the body of the vessel after it had been paddled to the appropriate size and shape.  Thus a coil break at the junction of rim and shoulder should not be taken as evidence that the complete vessel was manufactured by coiling.

A method of vessel manufacture that uses snake-like coils of clay to build up the walls layer by layer.  If a vessel has not been completely smoothed prior to firing, one can detect traces of the coils on either the vessel exterior or interior.  Otherwise, coil breaks on sherds allow one to determine that the technique was used.

Collared rim
A collared rim is one that becomes thicker below the lip and then thins down fairly abruptly above the neck (1G039). On some vessels of the Smoky Hill phase and (more commonly) the Pomona variant, direct rims are given the appearance of having been collared by tapping with the edge of a cord-wrapped paddle just above the neck, thinning the rim at that spot (1G040).

Refers to the pattern of flake scars seen on (especially) some PaleoIndian period points in which the flakes are at right angles to the long axis of the point and the flake scars that come in from opposite edges are lined up with one another fairly well (1G041).

Christian era (or for some, “common era”), a politically correct term intended to replace AD.

This refers to the evidence in a site that reflects a single usage of the site. Sites can be single component or multi-component, and in multi-component sites, the components can be stacked above one another (vertical stratification) or at least partially separated horizontally (horizontal stratification) or thoroughly mixed together (secondary context). An individual  component may be formed in a single day or over a long period of years.

A natural formation that develops inside soils and rocks.  Concretions come in a wide variety of unusual shapes, and some were collected by Native Americans (1C042).

A stone formed by sand and pebbles that have become cemented together.  In rare cases, the cementing is so complete that the stone can be flaked like chert (1C043).

Refers to the shape of a projectile point which is more or less lanceolate but with a constriction fairly near the base (1G044). This differs from an expanding stem point by the gradualness of the change from the convex distal portion of the blade to the concave proximal portion; that is, a constricted point lacks a well-defined shoulder area (1G045).

The relation an artifact has with all of the other items that surround it. The majority of information contained in an archaeological site lies in the contexts of the various items in it. The function of a tool may be revealed by the objects with which it is found.   

When a cultural deposit has not been disturbed since the items in it were deposited, it is said to be in primary context, while a deposit that has been disturbed by natural forces such as erosion or by human actions such as plowing or looting is said to be in secondary context.

contracting stem
A stem of a point or tool that contracts as it extends away from the blade or bit (1G046).

Cord impressed
This is a technique for applying decorative motifs to the surface of a vessel by carefully pressing a twisted cord into the wet clay on the finished vessel.  Cord impressed designs are rare in Kansas but do occur occasionally late in the Early Ceramic period (1G052) and also in the Middle Ceramic period (1G053).  Cord impressed designs are far more common in the northern plains.

This term is usually used as a synonym for cord-roughened, but there is a need to differentiate two varieties of the latter, so we are reserving cord marked for the kind of cord impressions that occur on Early Ceramic vessels as a result of rolling a cord-wrapped stick across the exterior surface of a vessel (1G051).  This method of surface roughening occurs early and is eventually replaced by cord-roughening, in which the surface is textured by a cord-wrapped paddle.  Cord-marked vessels, as defined here, have long parallel to nearly parallel cord marks over the entire surface, usually oriented vertically (1G047). to diagonally (1G048) and more rarely horizontally (1G049) on the vessel.

Cord roughened
A vessel that has been shaped with a cord-wrapped paddle and anvil has this variety of surface texturing.  A flat paddle coming into contact with a convex vessel surface created cord roughening on a roughly circular patch of the surface.  On the lower portions of a vessel, the tendency is for the orientation of the cords to change from patch to patch (1G050), distinguishing the products of this technique from cord marked vessels (1G051).

Cord wrapped stick impressed
This is a method of applying decoration used in the Early Ceramic period.  A thin stick or rod was wrapped with string or some other kind of cord and then pressed into the clay, either on the lip or on the upper edge of the rim face to create a series of rectangular textured impressions (1G054).

As applied to pottery, this term refers to the central portion of a sherd in terms of its thickness.  In Kansas, pottery was often fired for relatively short periods of time at fairly low temperatures, so that the center of the vessel wall was not fired as thoroughly as the exterior surfaces.  Consequently, the core is often a different color from the surfaces, usually a shade of gray (1G055).

corner notched
A point on which the notches point diagonally up toward the tip and have removed the corners of the preform (1G056). Corner notched points grade into expanded stem points with increasing notch width and into base-notched and side-notched points depending on the exact placement of the notches and one's estimate of where the corners of the preform lay. 

corner removed
Corner removed is used to describe points which have a small wide portion of the basal corners removed producing a wide, very short stem (1G057).

The outer layer of a nodule. The cortex on chert cobbles from bedrock sources is limestone (1G058), while the cortex on stream cobbles is a thin layer of hard rock that may have a pebbly structure (1G059). If the outer layer is a solid brown color, you are probably looking at the patina or rind that develops on upland chert gravels (1G060).

The name of a geologic period during which bedrock formations were deposited that are exposed in western Kansas. 

crinoid stem
Fossil fragment of a marine animal.  The stems of crinoids are a stack of interlocking disks that usually have broken into their respective parts.  Crinoid stem impressions are typical of the Peoria variant of Warsaw chert (1G061).

This term refers to a kind of wear on the edge of a chipped stone tool that results from applying a lot of force on a hard material. The result is a series of short flakes that end in step fractures (1G062).

decortication flake
A flake on which there is cortex present on the dorsal surface (1G063). Decortication flakes are usually produced early in the sequence required to make a chipped stone tool, and many decortication flakes in a site suggest that it lies near a quarry or other source of the raw stone.

Name for a group of sponges that contain large silica spicules.  Demospongia fossils occur in some Permian cherts (1G064).

A mineral inclusion in a chert that takes the appearance of a black mossy growth.  Dendrites are common in Hartville uplift chert but also occur in Smoky Hill jasper (1G065), making these two stone sources difficult to differentiate on occasion.

Dentate stamping
This decorative technique involves rolling a thin convex toothed edge across the wet clay to fill in a zone to create a design.  Dentate stamping (1G066) occurs in Hopewellian-influenced Early Ceramic complexes such as Kansas City Hopewell, Schultz phase and Cuesta phase.

diagnostic artifact
An artifact that is distinctive of a particular time period or archaeological unit. The presence of diagnostic artifacts in a collection from a site allow the archaeologist to say which and how many time periods are represented in it. Artifacts of Kansas is our attempt to document the many kinds of diagnostic artifacts in this state.

Diorite is a dark gray to greenish gray igneous rock  that was used to make ground stone celts (1G067) and other tools.  Diorite is appropriate for making ground stone but not chipped stone tools.  Nevertheless, one occasionally sees diorite artifacts that were roughed out by chipping prior to pecking and grinding.

Direct rim
This term refers to a rim that is unthickened in cross section, with either parallel or nearly parallel surfaces.  Direct rims vary in their orientation from slightly insloping (1G068) to highly flaring (1G069).  The term is usually used to refer to rim forms of the Middle and Late Ceramic periods.

A word that describes the end of a point or tool that lies farthest from a person's hand when held for normal use or to the end of a bone that lies farthest from the spine of an animal (1G070).

Refers to the outer surface of a flake or a tool made from a flake (1G071); the inner face is called the ventral surface. A decortication flake has cortex on its dorsal surface. Usually, the flaking on end scrapers is restricted to the dorsal surface.

This term refers to projections from both sides of the basal edge of a point, as opposed to barbs, which project from the base of the blade. Ears vary in how sharp they are and whether they project down, flare or project laterally (1G072).

edge grinding
Purposeful dulling of the edge of an artifact, usually on the haft element.  Also called basal grinding.  Edge grinding prevented the stone tool from cutting through the binding that holds it onto a handle, shaft or foreshaft. Edge grinding is best detected with your fingertips, comparing the dullness of the edges of the haft to those of the working edge of the artifact.

An effigy is an appendage or free-standing figure in the shape of either an animal (1G073) or a human (1G074). Animal effigies are called zoomorphic, while human effigies are called anthropomorphic.

end snap
When a flintknapper is making a biface by percussion flaking, and common error occurs when thinning the base without providing adequate support for the pointed end of the biface. The shock from the hammer blow is concentrated by the narrowing of the biface, causing the distal end to come off (1G075).

A process for applying a design to pottery in which a vessel with a slip is first fired and then the design applied by cutting through the slip. This technique is rare in Kansas sites but may occur on trade wares from the Caddoan area.  Check out
under Middle and Late Caddoan for numerous examples of engraved vessels.

expanding stem
The stem of a point that expands toward the proximal end (1G077). Expanding stems can differ in length, width and the shapes of the lateral edges.

Fabric impressed
This term has been used to describe a type of surface texturing on vessels. In Kansas, it has been used to describe some Early Ceramic vessels that are textured on the interior surface. At least some such vessels, however, are actually cord marked rather than fabric impressed (1G078). That is, the texture was applied by rolling a cord-wrapped stick across the interior of a conical vessel. In such instances, the lines of cord impressions are always at a right angle to the axis of the vessel.  Other vessels of the same time period were smoothed with a toothed tool, leaving parallel grooves on the interior (1G079).

In ceramics: the front surface of a direct rim or the panel created by forming a collared rim (1G080). During the Middle Ceramic period, the faces of direct rims are rarely decorated (1G081) but the faces of collared rims frequently are decorated (1G082).
One of the flat sides of a two-sided tool such as a knife or point. A tool that has flakes removed from only one face is called unifacial; one with flakes removed from both faces is bifacial.

This term is usually applied to a particular form of blunting found on the bases, sides of stems and shoulders of some styles of points. Faceting is created when burin blows are used to create a flat edge on one or more of these edges (1G083) or when an original flat surface from the nodule is allowed to remain at the base (1G084).

An item or set of items in a site that was/were a functional unit of some sort. A fireplace is a feature; so is a house or a tool kit or a burial. 

A coil of clay added to the surface of a vessel (1G085). Fillets occur in both the Middle Ceramic  and Late Ceramic period, but they are not especially common.

Firing cloud
When vessels are being fired and are placed close together, not enough oxygen will reach the parts of their surfaces that are in close proximity to allow full oxidation, producing an area of different color (1G086). Firing clouds can also be produced when the fuel from the fire happens to fall against a portion of a vessel.

Properly, flint is a high-quality chert that occurs in a bed of chalk. Some people say it has to be black because the flint used in English flintlocks was black (1G087). Since we find French gunflints in Kansas, made from a honey-colored stone (1G088), such restriction on the color of the stone is not appropriate.

The process of manufacturing chipped stone artifacts by percussion and/or pressure flaking.
A large flake scar that extends up from the base of a point that was used to thin the base. Clovis points sometimes had more than one flute on each face (image needed), while Folsom points have large single flutes on each face(1G089). Some Dalton points are also fluted (1G090).

A term for a set of similar sites in a classification system that is no longer in use. The Little River focus and the Lower Walnut focus are such units within the Great Bend Aspect.

A detachable distal end on a spear, dart or arrow shaft. The stone (or bone, antler, etc.) point is attached firmly to the foreshaft and the foreshaft fits in a socket on the end of the main shaft. This allowed for rapid reloading of thrusting spears when hunting large dangerous animals and for ease of recovery of dart and arrow shafts (which normally were harder to make than chipped stone points).

Frison effect
Named for the fine archaeologist from Wyoming, George Frison, it is the gradual alteration from the original form of an artifact via use wear, breakage and resharpening. A heavily used and resharpened artifact can look very different from its original form (1G091).

Fusilinids are single-celled animals whose shells look like grains of wheat (1G092) or miniature footballs (1G092b).  They are abundant in some Pennsylvanian and Permian cherts.

An ore of lead sulphide, galena can occur as silvery cubic crystals, although these can be obscured by a layer of whitish oxide (1G093).  Galena was collected and traded in prehistoric Kansas.

glacial till
The sands and gravels carried by glaciers are called glacial till or drift.  In Kansas glacial deposits are restricted to the northeastern corner of the state but are also present in adjacent parts of Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa. The most commonly used varieties of stone from these tills are granite, Sioux quartzite and Kansas pipestone.

A surface coating or design element added to the surface of a vessel that melts during firing. Glazes show up on some Puebloan pottery traded into Kansas during the Middle and Late Ceramic periods (1G094), but native potters did no use glazes.

Granite is a coarse-grained igneous rock available in Kansas in the glacial tills in the northeastern part of the state.  It is comprised of crystals of quartz, feldspar and mica.  Depending on the variety of feldspar present, it can have either a pink or a white tone (1G095).
This is a term for a kind of temper added to the paste that is made from crushed potsherds. Note that some modern potters use this term to refer to any kind of tempering material, but in archaeology it is restricted to crushed sherds. When the particles of grog differ in color from the paste, they are easy to see (1G096), but when it is the same color, one has to go by the angular breaks on sherd edges to determine the temper type (1G097).

groove and snap technique
This is a technique for making blanks for tools and ornaments from pieces of bone. A graver or other sharp stone tool is used to cut two ring shaped grooves around the circumference of a bone, and the ends are then snapped off (1G098). If an awl is desired, long grooves in a zig-zag pattern are incised into the bone before the ends are snapped off. These are then pried apart and ground to a point (1G099).

Also called a haft element. The portion of a point or tool that has been shaped in order to fit onto a handle of some sort (1G100).

haft wear
A polish or striations produced when a stone tool rubs against its handle.  Haft wear can be seen occasionally on tools that received fairly heavy use (1G101).

heat treatment
Some varieties of chippable stone can be improved by prolonged exposure to high temperatures which fuse some of the tiny flaws in the stone. Heat treatment can be detected by changes in color (especially in yellowish and brownish stones which turn to pinks, oranges and reds) (1G102). Flake scars from flakes removed after heat treatment may have glassy surfaces.

hinge fracture
A flake or flake scar that ends abruptly in a recurved edge (1G103). Hinge fractures are usually the result of errors made during flintknapping.

In general terms, the time frame for which historic documents are available. When applied to a Native American site it implies that there are documents that refer to that site. It is also used for all Euro-American and African-American sites.

A short time frame in which one or more artifact types were widely traded or shared.

impact fracture
When a projectile point strikes bone or other hard and resistant material, a flake is driven down the length of the point from the tip (1G104). Occasionally, the same impact causes the haft to drive a flake upward from the base.

in situ
Latin for “in place.” An artifact is said to be in situ when it has been exposed but not removed from its location in the site. It is important to map, photograph and otherwise record items in situ so that there is no question about their context.

A method of applying decoration in which lines are cut into the wet clay. We distinguish between relatively deep and narrow lines called incising (1C40) and shallower, relatively wide lines, called trailing (1C105).

Non-clay particles accidentally included in the paste of a vessel as opposed to purposefully added non-clay particles called temper. Pomona pottery tends to be rich in inclusions because the potters used subsoil clays that contained a wide variety of non-clay particles, particularly iron-manganese oxide concretions (1G106).

This term is applied to opaque cherts that have intense colors in shades of red, brown or yellow. Smoky Hill jasper (1G107) was an important source of chippable stone. It outcrops in northwestern Kansas and southwestern Nebraska.

Any tool used for cutting (1G108).  Chipped stone knives have one or more fairly straight (i.e., not wavy) sharp edges.  Resharpening a stone knife may result in a beveled edge.  There are a wide variety of chipped stone knives in Kansas sites.

lag gravels
These are deposits of gravel found on hilltops and the ends of ridges that were produced by erosion of the soils that originally contained the stones. In some areas, lag gravels contain cherts and other chippable stones, and for much of Kansas prehistory lag gravels were a major source for the stone from which tools were made. Cherts from lag gravels can be identified by a caramel-colored patination rind on their exterior (1G109), and in the oldest gravels, this color often penetrates deeply into the interior of the stone.

Used to describe the overall shape of long points that contract toward the proximal end without recurving (1G110); points that recurve are called constricted base.

The very top of the rim of a vessel (1G111). The lip is the most frequently decorated part of Kansas jars (1G112).

Loop handle
A handle that is roughly circular in cross section (1G116) as opposed to one that is considerably wider than it is thick (1G117), which is called a strap handle.
A protrusion from either the top of the lip or the face of the rim.  A lug is fairly massive (1G113) compared to a tab (1G114)and could be used to lift the vessel.  Some lugs were perforated, presumably to allow suspension of the vessel by a cord (1G115).

A bone of the foot of animals. Deer and antelope metapodials were often used as raw material for the manufacture of awls (1G118).

Miniature pot
Miniature pots occur fairly frequently, but never in large numbers. Some are so small that they clearly are non-functional (1G119), while most could have been used to hold small amounts of something (1G120).  Some people guess that miniatures were children's toys or practice pots, but most were not made by the same methods as larger pots, and some were made from different clays. 

Mississippian period
Originally a term that referred to varieties of pottery, such as Upper Mississippian and Middle Mississippian ceramics. Later the term came to be used for the time period that begins at around AD 1000 and is simply called Mississippian. The Middle and Late Ceramic periods in Kansas are the time equivalents of the Mississippian period in the East. Middle Mississippian also refers to the cultural tradition that developed the great center of Cahokia near St. Louis. In Kansas, the Steed-Kisker phase is the only cultural unit that might be termed Middle Mississippian.

Mississippian chert
As it applies to stone sources, this is the name of a geologic period, deposits of which outcrop in extreme southeastern Kansas and in Missouri and Iowa. Mississippian limestones contain some excellent cherts, and they are the sources of the very glossy white and pink cherts found in sites in eastern Kansas (1G121).

A set of similar phases that share many traits and are roughly contemporaneous. A more precise definition for some of the units that would otherwise be called variants.

The opening at the top of a jar, bowl, or water bottle. Lacking complete vessels whose capacity can be measured, the diameter of the mouth of jars is used as one proxy measure of their size. The diameter can be estimated from the curvature of just a portion of a rim.

The portion of a notched point that lies between the notches (1G122). The width of the neck is an indication of the diameter of the shaft to which the point was attached.  In ceramics, the zone of attachment of the rim and shoulder of a pot (1G123). Necks vary in how sharply they are curved, and sometimes the neck was a zone for decoration.

Net roughened
Occasionally, one finds sherds that were roughened with a paddle wrapped with the remnants of a net rather than just with a cord. Such sherds have a surface dimpled from the knots that were part of the net (1G124). Such surface textures are found on some Early Ceramic vessels and on some Pomona vessels.

A form of wear on the used edge of a tool or flake that consists of fairly widely spaced small flakes removed from one or both faces (1G125). Nibbling is produced by using a tool against a relatively hard and resistant material.

A small point of clay added to a vessel, sometimes alone and sometimes as part of a line of nodes. Nodes are found on lips, rim faces (1G126) and on necks.

A naturally occurring piece of chert or similar chippable stone (1G127). Once flakes have been removed from a nodule, we  call it a core.

Refers to a limestone or chert that is rich in small round particles called oolites.  These bodies consist (before chert formation) of particles that have become coated with lime and rolled by water action, making them spherical.  Nehawka chert is often quite oolitic (1G128).

A term used to describe the overall shape of an artifact that is roughly oval in shape but which may have one or both ends pointed (1G129).

If oxygen is allowed to reach the surface of a vessel during firing, the iron in the clay will be oxidized, producing a reddish color (1G130). Red slips are produced in an oxidizing atmosphere (1G131)

Paddle and anvil
In this method of pottery manufacture, an anvil stone or other device, even a person's hand (1G132), is held against the inner surface of the vessel wall while the outer surface is gently paddled with a bone or wood paddle. This both thins the wall and gradually enlarges the vessel. Pots produced by this method have thinner, denser walls than those produced by coiling or slab modeling alone (1G133). This method was first used in the latter part of the Early Ceramic period and became the dominant method, sometimes used in conjunction with coiling.

Paint pot
Some vessel sections and sherds have red paint (not red slip) adhering to the interior.  Apparently they were used to hold powdered red ocher.  They tend to be fairly small vessels, and some are true miniatures.  Frequently  the vessel itself had been fired in an oxidizing atmosphere (1G134), giving it a reddish tint.  Whether this was done purposefully to produce a reddish pot, or whether the oxidation of the pot was a byproduct of heating the iron oxide in the presence of oxygen to make the paint as red as possible is not known.

The clay mixture used to make pottery, comprised of clay, temper and inclusions.

A chemical alteration of the surface of a nodule or artifact.  Chaldedonies tend to develop a white filmy patina quite quickly (1G135), while upland chert gravels develop a thick opaque caramel colored patina that turns red when heat treated (1G136). Artifacts that have laid flat in the ground may develop a patina on one face more than the other.

A method of shaping stone for ground stone tools that involves striking repeatedly with a stone hammer, powdering a small portion of the surface with each blow (1G137).

This is a food made from powdered buffalo jerky.  Pemmican was easily stored and transported.  Often the meat was mixed with dried berries before it was powdered, and it was either added to soups or mixed with bone grease before being eaten. 

Pennsylvanian chert
This is the name of a geologic period. Bedrock of Pennsylvanian age outcrops east of the Flint Hills. Several formations contain cherts that were used locally, but most of them are of rather low quality. The majority come in brownish tones which turn to pink and red when heated (1G138).

A term used to describe the overall shape of a point or other tool that has a five distinct sides – a base and two lateral edges that exhibit a fairly sharp angle separating their proximal and distal portions (1G139).

Perforated lug
Some lugs found on Nebraska phase pots were perforated, either horizontally or vertically. In both cases, the presumption is that the perforations were for cords used to suspend the pot (1G140).

percussion flaking
The removal of flakes by striking with a hammer of some sort. The hammer can be a stone (1G141) or a piece of antler or bone (1G142). Percussion flaking can be used to produce a finished tool, such as a Clovis point (1G143) or the final stages of flaking can be accomplished with pressure flaking as in later points (1G144).

Permian chert
Bedrock of Permian age outcrops in the Flint Hills. The Florence formation, among others, has abundant chert. Since the cherts from different formations can be visually similar and outcrop in the same exposures, calling them all Permian is a safe strategy.

Currently the basic unit in the classification of archaeological sites – a set of sites from the same time period and the same region that share many traits.

Pinch pot
A pot formed by pinching out the shape from a single lump of clay. Most miniature pots found in Kansas sites are pinch pots, even though some were cord roughened by pressing a cord-wrapped pottery paddle against the outer surface to give them the same texture as pots produced by the paddle and anvil technique (1G145). Most pinch pots are crudely formed, with walls of variable thickness (1G146).

This is a method of decorating in which clay is pinched up either between two fingers or between the first finger and the thumb. Pinching occurs most often on fillets and the bases of collars. Sometimes finger- and thumbnail impressions are visible (1G147).

A kind of fracture that occurs in cherts and similar stones when they are heated quickly. Water in the stone turns to steam and blows of a portion of the surface. Potlid scars are roughly circular and basin shaped (1G148).  Occasionally, one finds the potlid flakes produced by this process; they may even have potlis scars of their own (1G149).

In the time period before written documents become available for an area. In Kansas, this is before AD 1541.

pressure flaking
A way of shaping a chipped stone artifact using a piece of bone or antler to apply inward pressure followed by a rapid twist to remove a fairly small and thin flake (1G150)

primary context
The situation that exists when a site or part of a site has not been disturbed since it was created. Primary contexts produce the greatest amounts of useful information.

This term is used two different ways. Sometimes it is used for the time frame immediately prior to the historic period and at other times it is applied to an individual site and means that 1) the site falls into the historic period (after AD 1541) but that 2) there is no historic documentation for the site.

The point of origin of the raw material from which an artifact was made.
The precise location of an artifact before it is excavated from a site.

Used to describe the end of a tool that lies closest to the user. The base of a point is the proximal end, while the distal end is the pointy part. Proximal is also used to describe the end of a bone that lies closest to the spine (1G151).

Punch and boss
This decorative technique was used during the Early Ceramic period. A small rod with a circular cross section was pressed into the wall of the vessel, producing a circular hole on the interior and a dome-shaped protrusion on the exterior. Typically, a line of bosses was combined with other decoration on the rims of Early Ceramic jars (1G152).

Some motifs were produced by creating depressions in the vessel surface with a tool or a finger.  Punctates sometimes were used to create a motif (1G153), to border a motif (1G154), or to fill an area in a larger design.
A kind of stone that is made up of cemented sand grains or quartz crystals. The cement is good enough that the material breaks through the individual grains when a flake is removed (1G156); otherwise the material is called sandstone.

Used to describe the overall shape of a point which starts out with convex edges near the distal end but gradually changes to concave edges near the proximal end or base of blade (1G157). On stemmed points, a recurved blade edge may result from resharpening.

Vessels fired in an atmosphere lacking in oxygen are said to be reduced. The result is that the surfaces of the vessel are gray or black (1G158). It is possible to fire a vessel with a reduced interior surface and an oxidized exterior by inverting the vessel over something that will burn when the fire gets hot enough (1G159).  The reverse pattern can also occur (1G160).  Black slips are produced in reducing atmospheres (1G161).

Sometimes, a tool retains material that accumulated during use on its surface(1G162).  Pottery may also retain residues in voids in the vessel walls.  Blood, lipids (which are constituents of fats), and even starch grains have been identified in recent years.  Residues are usually visible only if the material was charred.

The final series of flakes (usually pressure flakes) removed from an artifact to give an edge its final form are called retouch (1G163).
ribbon flaking
A pattern of flaking that consists of the removal of long narrow flakes that are diagonal with respect to the long axis of the point and are parallel to one another. Flakes removed from both edges are parallel to one another and can give the impression of the removal of a single long flake that extends from one edge to the other. Typical of the late PaleoIndian Allen point (1G164), it is also called oblique transverse flaking.

The portion of a jar above the neck (1G165). Bowls do not have rims. Rims can vary in form, including direct, collared and S-rims (1G166), and they vary in orientation from insloping to flaring (1G167).

Undulations on the ventral surface of a flake that are a byproduct of percussion flaking (1G168).  They look like the waves created by throwing a pebble into a pond.

A method of attaching a handle to a pot by creating holes (1G169) through which the ends of the handle are passed before being flattened against the interior of the pot (1G170).

A form of wear one the edge of a tool. Rounding can be produced by cutting relatively soft materials such as leather, but an extreme form of rounding is produced by using a chipped stone tool to cut pipestones such as limestones, Kansas pipestone and catlinite (1G171).

secondary context
A situation in which the items left in a site have been moved around by either natural or human actions, destroying the original relationships among the artifacts.

This is a crystalline form of gypsum that is sometimes jokingly called Kansas diamonds (1G172).  It is found occasionally in archaeological sites, but we do not know why prehistoric people collected it.

This term is used to describe the edge of a point that have been purposefully flaked so as to leave a series of teeth projecting out from the edge (1G173). When somewhat broader teeth are left on the edge(s) of a cutting tool, the edge is often called denticulate (1G174).

A fragment of a broken pottery vessel. It's spelled shard in Great Britain, but we ain't English. Sherds make up a large proportion of site assemblages from the last 2,000 years.  A sherd that makes up a fairly large proportion of a vessel is called a vessel section (1G175).

The area on a stemmed point where the stem joins the blade – where the width suddenly narrows over a relatively short distance (1G176).  In ceramics, the portion of a jar immediately below the neck (1G177). Shoulders vary in width, orientation and curvature. In Kansas, decoration below the neck of a vessel is usually restricted to the shoulder. 

side notched
A point on which the haft element is formed by a pair of notches that cut into its sides at roughly right angles to the axis of the point. Side-notched points vary in the width and depth of the notches and in how far up from the base they are placed (1G178).
silicified sediment
A kind of chippable stone that formed when the individual grains of a fine-grained sediment became cemented together tightly. The term is usually restricted to varieties of stone that are finer-grained than quartzites, which are made up of cemented sand-size granules. There is a silicified sediment found in gravels of the Ogallala formation (1G179)

Simple stamped
Use of a grooved pottery paddle rather than one wrapped with cord produces this kind of surface texture, which is marked by low rectangular ridges (1G180). Simple stamping first appears in Kansas in the 14th century and is also found in the Late Prehistoric Great Bend Mosaic.

A place where evidence of past human activities can be found. 

A slip is a coating on the exterior surface of a vessel made up of very fine clay particles. A slip is created by dissolving clay in water and letting the heavier particles drift to the bottom, followed by evaporation to thicken the solution. Slips were usually added to the surface of vessels before firing. Typical colors for slips, which are fairly rare in Kansas, are red (1G181) and black (1G182).

Smoothed-over cord roughening
Beginning in the latter half of the Early Ceramic period, the cord roughening on the upper portions of some vessels was partially erased by smoothing before the pot was fired (1G183). Smoothing over cord roughened surfaces is more common in the eastern part of the state than to the west.

The haft element of a point formed by rapid narrowing below the blade at the point called the shoulder. Stems come in a wide variety of lengths and shapes (1G184).

Strap handle
A handle that is significantly wider than it is thick is called a strap handle. Such handles are found on some vessels in the Middle and Late Ceramic periods (1G185). Strap handles are distinguished from the narrower loop handles (1G186).
The presence of vertical or horizontal separation between deposits of varying ages in a site. 

striking platform
The spot where a piece of stone is struck to remove a flake. When the striking platform remains on the flake, its form gives clues as to the object from which the flake was removed (1G187).

A tab is a thin piece of clay added to the lip or rim of a vessel (1G188) as opposed to a thick piece, which would be called a lug (1G189).  Tabs can be oriented either vertically or horizontally.  Some Great Bend jars have handles with small tabs at each end (1G190).

Generally, any projection from the body of an artifact. Some people call basal ears tangs. Here it is restricted to a rectangular to rounded haft element on scrapers, axes and adzes (1G191).

Non-plastic material added to clay in order to prevent shrinkage during drying and firing is called temper. The kinds of tempers used in Kansas vary widely, from sand (1G192) and crushed granite (1G193), grog (1G194), mica (1G195), limestone (1G196), calcite (1G197), and burned and crushed shell G198) or bone (1G199). Preferred temper types vary between archaeological complexes. Sometimes shell and limestones tempers are leached from sherds by acidic ground water, leaving flat (1G200) or angular to rounded voids (1G201).  In the Bluff Creek complex, sherds tempered with a mix of bone, limestone and whatever was handy; the result is called trash temper (1G202).

Thumbnail impressed
A method of decoration in which the damp clay is impressed by the end of the potter’s thumbnail, producing a curved indentation (1G203).

Tool impressed
Decoration formed by impressing the surface of the vessel with some sort of tool (1G204). Tool impressed decoration occurs most frequently on lips and upper rims.

A unit of archaeological classification that recognizes continuity through time in a set of phases.

This term is applied to decorative lines that are wider than they are deep. Trailed lines may be made with a tool (1G205) or with a finger tip (1G206), although the latter is quite rare in Kansas.

A category in a classification system for artifacts. Named types should have a known age and distribution.

The bone of a human forearm or an animal's lower foreleg.  Deer and canid ulnas were sometimes used to manufacture awls (1G207)

A tool formed by flaking only one face of an edge. Unifacial tools were used during all times periods in Kansas, but they are especially plentiful in the PaleoIndian and Late Ceramic periods (1G208).

A unit of archaeological classification that is bigger than a phase. It is used differently depending on the archaeologist, so some variants consist of a set of contemporaneous phases, some a set of sequential phases, and one consists of two sets of two phases each, with the sets following one another in time.

The inner surface of a flake – the one on which the bulb of percussion can be seen (1G209).

vertical tab
Some vessels have tabs that consist of more-or-less triangular extensions of the rim (1G008).

vertically perforated
Some lugs have a vertically-oriented hole through them (1G007), presumably so that the vessel could hang from a cord.

A poorly defined term that usually refers to shoulders on points that are both narrow and insloping (1G210). Some people use it to describe all very narrow shoulders regardless of orientation. 

A method of attaching a handle to a vessel by smearing out the end of the handle against the surface of the vessel (1G211); as opposed to riveting.

Synonymous with barb; a projection from the proximal end of the blade of a point.

A term first applied to a general style of pottery in the eastern United States, then to a cultural tradition and a time period. In Kansas, we use Early Ceramic for the time period that yields Woodland pottery. Also, in the Eastern Woodlands, the Woodland period begins at 1,000 BC, while in Kansas there is little evidence for pottery until about a millennium later. 

In the Eastern Woodlands and father north on the Plains than Kansas, the Early Ceramic period can be subdivided into two subperiods that are called Middle Woodland and Late Woodland. Over much of Kansas, the changes in ceramics that mark the difference between the two subperiods is not as clear as in these other regions, but over the eastern third of the state (with scattered occurrences farther west) there are sites and complexes that clearly belong in the Middle Woodland because they contain pottery decorated in Middle Woodland styles. What is not yet clear is whether there are non-Hopewellian Middle Woodland ceramics farther west.

Zoned decoration
Applied to decoration on some Early Ceramic vessels, this term describes decoration in which a trailed line surrounds an area that is textured by, say, dentate stamping, which contrasts with a smooth background (1G212).


Useful Links

Links Links to(PAK, AASCK, KSHS, KU, ec.)


North American Archaeology Organizations

Regional Archaeology Publications

Sponsors of Archaeological Research in Kansas

Web Links

  • About.Com: Guide to Kansas Archaeology
  • ArchNet, Guide to all things Archaeological, Everywhere
  • The entire E.B. Renaud Collection, including field notes, is now-online courtesy of the Penrose Library Special Collections/Archives Department, University of Denver, Colorado. Renaud directed the first systematic High Plains archaeological surveys beginning in the early 1930s. His report series provides the names and addresses of prominent collectors who assisted his team in their investigations, and helps establish a time depth for artifact collecting as a High Plains hobby.
  • e-tiquity, An electronic publication series of the Society for American Archaeology, edited by Dr. John Hoopes of the University of Kansas­Lawrence
  • The Dempsey Divide Project is a long-term study of the archeology, paleoclimate, and paleogeography of the Dempsey Divide, the upland area between the Washita and North Fork of the Red rivers in far western Oklahoma. Website features include a project synoposis, a PDF library of publications related to the project area, an inventory of modern flora and fauna, plus rainfall data collected since 1893.

    Job Search


Archaeologists use the term point to refer to artifacts suspected of having been used on the ends of projectiles, whether they were spears, darts (a light spear thrown with an atl-atl) or an arrow. Because the forms of points changed through time, archaeologists use them as guides to the age of sites. This has led to a large number of named types.

You can access our photographs of various point types by clicking on the point types buttons below. It lists various point types by time period and alphabetically within each time period. When you click on any name, you will be taken to a description of the point type and an illustration of it.

Note that it is sometimes difficult to identify a particular point with a named point type. In part this results from the Frison effect. But it is also the case that very few point types were named on the basis of finds in Kansas. We use names for types that were first defined in Texas or Illinois, or Michigan, and whether all of these names are appropriate for Kansas collections is not clear. Two competing tendencies make typing points difficult. One is that essentially identical types to have two or more names that were originally applied in two different places, such as Dustin (Michigan) and Lamoka (New York). In our web page, we have chosen to use the names developed closest to Kansa.

The other tendency is for people to extend the use of a name for a type identified elsewhere to a far different region and to points that are only similar rather than identical to the original definition.. While some types are quite widespread in their distribution, this tendency distorts the original point type definitions, both in terms of the forms of the points and their apparent age.

Which leads us to another problem. The time periods when many named point types were used are not precisely known. This is the result of several factors. One is that a great many point types were named before radiocarbon dating became widespread, so that the original age estimates were guesses. Another is that to define the age of a point type precisely, one needs a series of well-dated unmixed components. Only a few point types, such as Clovis, have this advantage. Many types, especially those from the various Archaic time periods, have not been well dated. If you come across an age estimate for a point type that has it lasting for a thousand or more years, be suspicious. The well-dated types were in existence for far shorter times.

Return to the top of the page

This web page was developed by the faculty and students of the Department of Anthropology at Wichita State University.  It is designed for people interested in archaeology.   Web site design, text, and graphics are Copyright 2006 by Wichita State University. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Rights are hereby granted for the educational use of images on these pages by nonprofit educational institutions. Any other use of materials on this Web site, including reproduction, modification, distribution or republication, without the prior written consent of Wichita State University, is strictly prohibited.  Using the material without consent you may be subject to penalties involving strange metaphysical phenomena from the images. (We want to see if you read this). updated December 14, 2010