Crowfield Points
By Michael McGrath
Copyright CHIPS The Flintknapper's Pulication 2010          Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited
  

Crowfield points are a lower great lakes Paleo phenomena whose distribution is from Ontario, Canada down into Pennsylvania, throughout the eastern great lakes regions and sparsely into Ohio.  Probable Crowfields may even have been found as far east as at the Reagan site in Vermont.  Many call the Crowfield point our Northeastern equivalent to the Folsom point, but there are many differences that make the Crowfield point a distinct projectile of its own.

Crowfields range from 40-65 mm in length (1 ¾ inches – 2 ½ inches approx.), 22-35 mm in maximum width (1 inch – 1 ½ inches approx.), 3-5 mm think (less than ¼ inch – a little over ¼ inch approx.), with a basal width of 13-23 mm (1/2 inch – a little less than an inch approx.).  This all approximates to a pentagonal type shape and an extremely thin point (Fig. 1, Type Site Crowfield cast profile).  Oh and did I mention that these babies have multiple flutes!  The average Crowfield is 54 mm long (approx. 2 ¼ inches), 30.8 mm wide (approx. 1 ½ inches), 4.6 mm thick (approx. ¼ inch ), with a basal width of 17.9 mm (approx. a little less than ¾ of an inch).  A proper Crowfield should also have needle like ears, shallow basal concavity, and a flat biconvex to plano convex cross section.  The multiple flutes (2 -3 per side) should extend ½ - ¾ of the length of the point.  Around the base and ears, there should also be short, abrupt retouch flakes similar to a Folsom point and parallel to the retouch flakes on the opposite basal side.  Basal grinding is usually moderate to heavy.  Most Crowfield points were made from Onondaga Chert, with some others being made of Collingwood (Fossil Hill Formation), Upper Mercer chert, Kettle point chert, and southern most ones being made from Pennsylvania Jasper on rare occasions. 


  

Crowfield points are very rare finds, and are a very valuable artifact.  The type site for Crowfields was the Crowfield site that is located just west of London, Ontario, Canada.  This site was excavated by professional Canadian archaeologist Chris Ellis, and avocational archaeologist D. Brian Deller between 1981 and 1982.  This site produced some 4,500 fractured artifact fragments, much of which was in a cache uncovered during the exploration.  A lot of work went into matching up those fragments to produce 182 + Crowfield era artifacts with a few mostly whole and assembled Crowfield points (Fig. 2 & 3 cast from type site) .

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
  

Another site in Canada that had a heavy Paleo Crowfield showing was the Bolton Site.  Ellis and Deller also excavated this site during the summer of 1990.  The Bolton Site lies southwest of Strathroy, Ontario.  Some Crowfields and Crowfield performs were recovered there along with 28 channel flakes (flutes).   

To make a proper Crowfield point, the modern knapper should start with a nice flat spall of Onondaga Chert.  The spall should be quite thin to start, and light percussion work should be carried out with opposing flakes taken from each side until you have a reasonably thin and convex piece.  From the shoulder of the piece toward the tip, it’s important to send your flakes from the tip at an angle into the piece instead of parallel or opposing each other.  This is important because it thins the tip and allows the flute to a thin area to terminate without taking the tip off should your flute run that far.  If your preform is already really thin, these angular flakes can be removed with a pressure flaker.  This method was stumbled upon by Dan Long after studying many of the originals.  Dan also work the piece from the shoulders toward the base with opposing flakes to build a median ridge with which to flute. When I do this percussion work, I often produce the usual tear drop piece or perform and turn it so that the “tip” is the base and the “base” is the tip of the Crowfield.  The method is probably not in line with the ancient ones, but it works for me as you can see in figure 4.  These reproductions represent my best attempts to produce Crowfields.


Figure 4
  

Now that the “easy” work is done it’s time to flute!  Fluting can be done with a jig or by percussion.  I’ve used a jig and found it difficult to pop off multiple flutes with any success due to the thinness of the Crowfield preform.  Canadian knapper Dan Long uses a fluting jig with great success (Fig. 5).  He first removes a central flute or main flute and then removes secondary flutes on either side by utilizing the outer ridges left by the central or main flute.  Each knapper should try multiple ways of fluting to see what works best for them.  Three strategies can be employed to flute a Crowfield:  The first being Dan’s way as described above, the second one involves preparing two or even three fluting nipples on the same side and removing them starting with the two outside nipples and then finishing with the center one or a knapper could simply prepare a fluting nipple on each side like is normally done on a Folsom or Clovis point and see what results you get from there and then go after secondary flutes if the knapper is so inclined.  I favor the multiple fluting nipple method when I make them using direct percussion with my ¼ inch copper bopper.  If you think “Oh gosh, I’m fluting this thing” it will psych you out, so I just “pretend” I’m taking a basal thinning flake and hit the fluting nipple platform in that manner.  I’ve found my direct percussion fluting is more successful by thinking “basal thinning flake” than setting up the big dramatic flute. 



Figure 5
  

If per chance your Crowfield has survived the multiple flutes, now it’s time to finish up the base with those abrupt Folsom like pressure flakes to make needle like ears and to clean up the piece over all.  Basal grinding should be moderate to heavy when finishing the base.  Don’t over pressure flake the tip and the blade.  I usually finish up the tip with a little pentagonal edge jutting out like some of the originals had, but certainly your basic pentagonal shape is also acceptable and that’s how Dan Long makes his.   

I’m not an expert at knapping Crowfields, but I’ve had some success with this difficult point type.  I made a break through when I started looking at many pictures of Crowfields and noticed that most were not perfectly multiply fluted on both sides.  Most were fluted great on one side with some fluting on the other.  Another impediment for me was the Chautauqua Crowfield point cast (See Val’s illustration) from Pete Bostrom’s Lithic Casting Lab website.  At 3 mm thick, it was at the extreme end of thinness with the average being 4.6 mm.  It’s length was 73 mm (approx. 2 ¾ inches) which was also way beyond the average Crowfield length.  The Chautauqua Crowfield was also well fluted with one flute extending nearly to the tip!.  I thought this cast was the norm until research revealed that it pushes the limits on just about all Crowfield characteristics.  Even the Chautauqua knapper had a hard time getting flutes to come off the second side due to the thinness of the piece.  Realizing that the Chautauqua Crowfield was the holy grail of Crowfields really freed me to just go for it and be happy with what I had in the end like most ancient Crowfield knappers probably did.  The results are that I set to making my Crowfields thinking like a Paleo hunter.  I want my base to be extremely thin and will flute only the amount of times necessary to accomplish that.  For some Crowfields I make, I wind up with two flutes on one side and short basal flutes on the other side.  Or, sometimes it’s one good flute on one side with 2 shorter flutes on the other. I think you get the picture here.  For more research on Crowfields, you can look up the below web links:

http.//anthropology.uwaca/cje/Crowfield.htm

www.ssc.uwo.ca/assoc/oas/points/crow.html

If you want a challenge, try a Crowfield.  It’s an under knapped point type that I’d like to see some of our master knappers attempt.  So, what do you say Jim Redfearn, D.C. Waldorf, Dan Theus?


References:

The Pennsylvania Fluted Point Survey, by Gary L. Fogleman and Dr. Stanley Lantz, Fogleman Publishing, 2006

Ontario Archaeological Society website

Personal Communications with Dan Long, 2010

Photos of Casts and some points from Dan Long, 2010