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Projectile Points
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ADENA

Defining Attributes
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A large, finely-flaked point, normally made from chert, with a broad, triangular/ovate blade that is sometimes serrated and terminates with a medium-to-long, narrow-to-broad, square or rounded, “beaver tail” stem.

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Chronology

This is the characteristic point style of the Adena culture, 800 BC to 200 AD.  Radiocarbon dates from Adena sites in Maryland and Delaware range from 2735 to 1615 BP, with most between 2445 and 1960 BP (roughly 650 BC-50 AD in calendar years) (Dent 1995). Recent excavations at the Pig Point site in Anne Arundel County have produced dates ranging from 2160 +/- 30 BP to 1750 +/- 30 BP (Luckenbach 2013). Lowery (2012) suggests that the Maryland Adena period lasted from approximately 500 BC to 100 AD (calendar), and was part of a Delmarva Adena-Hopewell Complex that continued to 450 AD or later.

Description

Blade: The blade is generally ovoid in outline; some of the narrower specimens could be described as lanceolate.  The blades when first made were excurvate, but as they were resharpened, the edges tended to become straighter.  Shoulders are weak-to-moderate in development, and never barbed.

Haft Element: The type is often divided into two variants, based on the shape of the base: long rounded and square stemmed.  The classic form is often called a “beaver-tail.”  In general, the stem is broad, long, contracted, lobate or “beaver tail,” or square in outline.  Bases can be ground.

Size: A majority of Adena points measure between 34 mm and 150 mm in length, with an average of 70 mm.  The width ranges from 17 mm to 43 mm, with an average of 28 mm, while the thickness ranges from 7 mm to 17 mm, with an average of 10 mm.  However, points that are far larger than this are often found.  

Technique of manufacture: Most classic Adena points display excellent soft percussion flaking, followed by pressure flaking.

Material: Adenas are made primarily from cryptocrystalline materials, although other stones are sometimes used.  In the area surrounding Zekiah Swamp on the lower Potomac, Wanser (1982) found that 4 of 6 inventoried Adena points were rhyolite, with 1 quartzite and 1 chalcedony. 

Discussion

The Adena type is most common in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  It is found in lesser numbers across much of the Eastern U.S. from southern New England to north Florida, although it is rare in the Carolinas and much of Virginia (Justice 1987).  There are many Adena varieties, some of which are considered knife forms.  The point evolved out of large-sized, broad-bladed Archaic prototypes.  It is thought that the classic Adena type developed from the earlier Cresap point, and that the Adena-Robbins emerged as a later version of the classic Adena.  When found in Maryland or Virginia, the point is often made from non-local cryptocrystalline stones, suggesting that they were traded into the region from the west.

Adena points have been found at several sites on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, part of the Delmarva Adena complex that existed between 1,800 to 2,500 years ago.  Most of these points, often associated with caches, have been recovered along eroding shorelines or through non-professional collecting.  The sites include Maiden Point (18TA233), Henckel Farm (18TA347), Benoni’s Point (18TA345), Martingham (18TA405), and Sandy Hill (18D030), an Early Woodland base camp that also contained numerous human burials.  The Denton Adena cache (18CA181) contained seven large Robbins leaf-shaped Adena blades/bifaces made of Flint Ridge chalcedony (Lowery 1995). On Maryland’s Western Shore, the West River site (18AN18) had a number of Adena points made of chert, chalcedony, and jasper (Ford 1976).  Pig Point (18AN50), a large Adena mortuary complex along the Patuxent River, is the first professionally-excavated Adena period site in Maryland.  A number of large, “killed” (broken) Adena-Robbins points, all made from non-local chert and chalcedony, have been recovered at the site (Luckenbach 2013).

Defined in Literature

The point was first described and named by William C. Mills in 1902, from points he found at the large mound on the Adena Estate in Ross County, Ohio, the type site for the Adena culture.

Other Names Used

Robbins; Beavertail

References

Dent 1995; Ford 1976; Justice 1987; Lowery 1995; 2012; Luckenbach 2013; Mills 1902; Wanser 1982

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Maryland's Prehistory

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Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab Updated: 12/30/12

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