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Adena
Associated Dates: 3000 - 1100 Y.B.P. - Late Archaic - Woodland

Morphology: Stemmed

Location: Eastern to Southeastern United States

*NOTE: The Adena family of points is a large one. This first section contains general Adena points. For examples of other Adena types, refer to their appropriate sections.

**ALSO NOTE: Adenas may be one of the most commonly mistyped point types. Included in this section is the J.C. Floming (Arrowheadsplus dot com) essay on points commonly mistaken for Adenas. This follows the “General Description.”

General Description: The Adena projectile point and blade is a medium to large sized, thin, narrow, triangular/ovate blade that is sometimes serrated and terminates with a medium to long, narrow to broad, rounded, "beaver tail" stem. It has long been recognized as a characteristic type found associated with the Adena culture which originated in and around the Ohio Valley. Most classic Adena specimens display excellent woodland flaking knapping skills. Bases can be ground. The blade edges are usually excurvate in outline. The blades when first made were wide and had excurvate edges but as use and reworking were performed, the blade edges tended to become straighter. The shoulders vary from tapered to narrow and weak to horizontal and even sometimes are weakly barbed (although this is rare). The cross-section is biconvex with wide proportions

It is thought that the classic Adena type developed from the earlier Cresap point type and that the Adena-Robbins emerged as a later version of the classic Adena. Many of the medium to larger Adena blades are considered as historically being utilized as blade or knife forms.

The distribution range of the classic Adena point type is quite wide….It is found in virtually every state of eastern North America.* The majority of the points are found in the central Ohio Valley and along major tributaries of rivers in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee and parts of Pennsylvania. *[ The Adena flourished along the Ohio River and had significant complexes is Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and eastern Indiana. There is no evidence of any Adena in Illinois except extreme southern Illinois where the Ohio River converges with the Mississippi. There is no evidence of Adena in Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and states west of the Mississippi River. Unfortunately many generically refer to almost any "Beaver Tail" type point as Adena. – J.C. Floming]

The typical classic Adena point measures between 34 and 150 mm long with the average being 70 mm in length. The width ranges from 17 mm to 43 mm with the average being 28 mm. The thickness ranges from 7 mm to 17 mm with the average specimen being 10 mm thick. The point was first described and named by William C. Mills in his 1902 book, "Excavation of the Adena Mound" for points he found at the large mound on the Adena Estate of Governor Worthington in Ross County, Ohio. This site was the place that the Adena culture was first defined and studied.

ABOVE: ADENA01: Adena point; described below

About the Point Above (Left): The small Adena point pictured at the left was found in 1972 in a cornfield along the banks of Fourmile Creek near the town of Oxford, Butler Co., Ohio. The point is made from a satin black flint. The blade is quite thick for its size. This specimen exemplifies a typical exhausted Adena point, near end of life, with straight blade edges and a thickness that is characteristic of a much larger blade. Overall, the point measures 46 mm in length, is 26 mm wide across the shoulders, and is only 8 mm thick in mid blade. The stem is 17 mm long and is 19 mm wide.

ABOVE: ADENA02: Adena point; described below

About the Point Above: The small Adena point pictured at the left was found in 1977 on the surface of a washout at the Baldwin Station site, along the Housatonic River, Milford, New Haven Co., Connecticut. The point is made from milky quartz which is very fine grained. Overall, the artifact is very thin for the material used. The stem is tapered and not as bulbous as the specimen on the left. Overall, the point measures 38.5 mm in length, is 25 mm wide across the shoulders, and is only 7 mm thick in mid blade. The stem is 15 mm long and measures 13 mm wide. (TEXT SOURCE: Art Gumbus, Lithics-Net)

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IS IT AN ADENA?

The following essay by J.C. (Jonathan) Floming of Arrowheadsplus dot com is one of the more cogent descriptions of the Adena group of points – and the points most likely to be confused with Adena. The main Adena section will be found following J.C.’s excellent article, reproduced here with J.C.’s kind permission. (Please note: to avoid confusion, images of points in this article are not included in the ADENA POINT THUMBNAIL GALLERY. The gallery can be found following this article.)

“Adena seems to be a generic catch all phrase used by a great many people when it comes to identifying stemmed points or ‘Beaver Tails.’ There appears to be a great amount of confusion in determining the differences between the many stemmed point types that are encountered especially those that occurred during the late Archaic and early Woodland cultural periods."

The Adena flourished along the Ohio River and had significant complexes is Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and eastern Indiana. There is no evidence of any Adena in Illinois except extreme southern Illinois where the Ohio River converges with the Mississippi. There is no evidence of Adena in Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri and states west of the Mississippi River. Unfortunately many generically refer to almost any "Beaver Tail" type point as Adena

Let us discuss the four stemmed point types that are most often erroneously identified as Adena. We will identify the typological diagnostics, that is, the differences in manufacturing that are unique to each individual point type, establish the known distribution areas, and determine the correct culture that manufactured each.


Mason

    

ABOVE:Two examples of Mason points; from J.C. Floming, Arrowheadsplus dot com

The Mason point is a very well made, thin, finely flaked point that has a triangular blade with excurvate edges. It has a contracting stem which is heavily ground. The blade shoulders are weak and obtuse but never barbed. The widest area on this point is half way from the tip to the shoulders. This point is not heat treated. It is found in Illinois, Indiana, eastern Missouri, and Wisconsin. It is attributed to the Red Ochre culture (1,000 BC) and related to Turkey Tail and Florence points.


Waubesa

    

ABOVE: Two examples of Waubesa points; from J.C. Floming, Arrowheadsplus dot com


Dickson

ABOVE: Dickson point; from J.C. Floming, Arrowheadsplus dot com

The Dickson is a thin to medium thick point which is very well made. It has a contracting stem with a straight to slightly incurvate bottom which is thinned. The blade is triangular with weak barbs that can droop slightly, be at a 90 degree angle or may turn up slightly. A large percentage of these blades are beveled. Dickson points were made by the Hopewell and date around 350 AD. This point is often erroneously called an Adena Dickson. This is incorrect. They can be found on ":classic": Hopewell sites in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri and Michigan. They are also sometimes found in east Kansas, NE Oklahoma and NW Arkansas and are often confused with Gary types.


Florence

    

ABOVE: Two examples of Florence points from J.C. Floming, Arrowheadsplus dot com

Florence points are medium to large sized [points] that can be very thin but the majority are medium in thickness. They are well made and show medium percussion flakes and moderate edge re-touch. They have an unusually long contracting stem with angular to rounded corners. The triangular blade is most often excurvate with the widest area about mid way. The blade has weak corners which may be slightly barbed. This point type dates to the late archaic period (1000 BC) and are associated with the Red Ochre culture. They are found with Mason points. The stems are ground and there is a variant form which has a very unusual beveled base.

There are a great many COA's and "price guide" publications that mistype these points all too often. There are even some that go as far as to invent new names such as Adena Dickson when there is no such point type. This problem must be addressed as it truly distorts the archaeological record. The rule of thumb is if a point is found west of the Mississippi River that looks like it could be an Adena, it is most certainly not..

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Work In Progress - To Be Continued

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