Divorce and Remarriage
Copyright 2009 by INDIAN ARTIFACT MAGAZINE
Ovid Bell Press Inc. (Unauthrorized Reproduction Prohibited)
By Michael E. McGrath
Part of walking the fields and collecting artifacts is the all too
familiar “heart-breakerâ€�.  For those who might be
unfamiliar with the term, heart-breakers are large, or extremely
well made, or even a rare point type that appears to be whole
when you find it but is found to be broken when removed from
the soil or can even be obviously broken upon being found.  I
personally still enjoy finding heart-breakers as it gives my
imagination free license to think up what the whole point may
have looked like.  I, like most of you, still feel the
disappointment and disgust of wishing the heart-breakers were
whole.  Sometimes I even root around in the dirt with my hands
around where the point was sitting, just hoping that the other
piece is there.

Three of my most frustrating heart-breakers were from the same
site.  For some reason this site produces an over abundance of
large or high quality points that have been broken into heart-
breakers (Fig. 1).  Both drills in figure 1 are classic heart-
breakers.  They are made from Esopus or Eastern Onondaga that
comes from a sources near Oneonta, NY and are of the New
York Woodland period.  They appear to have Susquehanna
Broad or Perkiomen point bases with light basal grinding and
were likely broke in use.  Oddly enough, the other person who
surface collects on this site never walks this section and skips
around without rhyme or reason.  Thanks, whoever you are!  The
third heart-breaker is a large Genesee point found by my son
Nick in 2004.  Genesee points are an archaic dart point or spear
that got their name from the type sites which were near the
Genesee River in and around Letchworth State Park.  This
monster point was likely 6 inches or larger when it was whole and
suffered a nasty impact fracture by its ancient user.  Oh, how my
son and I wish that point had been whole.

So now you have your heart-breaker home & washed (and
hopefully categorized by site).  It sits drying on a paper towel
sadly divorced form it’s completing piece.  Now what do you
do with it?  Several people have written about creative ways to
make them into pictures and even book ends, but one of the best
solutions I’ve read to make the heart-breaker whole again
was an article written by my friend Jim Fisher (IAM Vol.  18-4).  
His article went into great depth and discussion on digital
restoration using your computer and photo imaging software.  I
read Jim’s article several years ago (and before I knew him)
but only recently realized that my newly purchased digital
camera software had the ability to digitally “restore�
points.  Figure 2 shows my first attempts at Jim’s idea of
digital restoration of the three previously mentioned heart-
breakers.  What a feeling it was when I was finished and could
finally see those points “wholeâ€� again.  Quoting my friend
Dan Long, who said “It’s too bad you can’t push a
button on your computer and have it spit out the restored pointâ
€�, after seeing my picture of the restored points.  I agree!!!

Of course, another way to remedy the divorce is physical
restoration.  Having only made one attempt at this process, I
admit that I do not know a whole lot about it (Figure 3).  What I
do know is that it is expensive if done professionally, but worth
the investment.  My understanding is that colored epoxies or
resins, such as Bondo, are used to fill in and sculpt the missing
sections, and when done by an expert it is hard to distinguish the
repair without magnification or a UV lighting system.  The
repaired sections are then painted by acrylic paints or
professionally by using an airbrush.  This seems to be where the
really good restorations are separated from the rest of us.  
Matching those colors can be a challenge!! I also hear that
acceptance and values of restored artifacts are going up.  It also
seems like a good way for small collectors with limited funds to
own artifacts that would command a premium if they were
unbroken.  The only down side is that when an avocational like
myself finds nice points like those pictured here, it just isn’t
logical to spend the money to have them restored so we end up
doing the best we can to make it as professional as possible.

So what is the best way to resolve the divorce of the heart-
breaker you ask?  Well, of course, it’s to find its separated
mate and remarry them!  This is such a rare occurrence but has
happened to me twice.  The first time is just truly remarkable.  
One day in the mid 1980’s, my father and I were surface
collecting a favorite Lamoka to Early Woodland site in Cortland
County, New York when part number one was found.  I
remember Dad finding an Orient Fishtail projectile point split
cleanly in half from tip to base.  You could lay the half he found
on a level table as it was sawed in half by a rock saw.  In June of
1990 I was surface collecting at the same site and found an
Orient Fishtail point split in half just like my Dad’s.  When I
brought it home with my other finds, I remember my Dad saying
“Hey, I found one like that once!â€�  For some reason, I
forgot about him finding it, and it faded into the back of both of
our minds for safe storage I guess.

One day in 2004, I was looking through my Dad’s collection
and photographing his nice stuff, and I pulled out his half Orient
Fishtail point.  The fog suddenly cleared.  I said to him that I
thought I had the other half of that point.  We commented
several times over the next year about how we need to dig out
our two halves to see if they match.  One day in 2005 I finally
located my half and gave it to Dad to see if they matched.  Two
days later I received a call from my Dad with the unbelievable
news that the two pieces fit exactly together!! (Fig. 4).  It appears
that the Esopus material had a crack that separated upon
impacting game or something else thousands of years ago.  The
ancient hunter probably brought the dart or forshaft back to his
camp on the Otselic River and realized his point was broken.  
From my experience knapping and hafting points with sinew and
pine pitch glue, I wouldn’t be surprised if the hafting held the
split point together nicely until the aboriginal closely inspected it
and discarded it.  Remarkably, after hundreds of years of farm
activity and collecting, both pieces were recovered and brought
together.  What are the odds of this account happening?  A
million to one?  I guess we should have bought a lottery ticket
that week!

The second time this happened was in July 2006.  I was surface
collecting on the same site where the objects in figure 1 were
found, and the day was warm and raining lightly.  The
mosquitoes were so awful; I think I saw three trying to make off
with a pitted stone.  As I started to look in the more productive
area, I spotted a 2 ½ inch blade sticking out of the soil (Fig. 5
insitu).  It was completely exposed except for the base.  As you
may have already guessed, there was no base and the break area
was patinated to a light grey so I knew it was an old break, par
for this heart-breaker divorce site.  Two rows away and 30 feet
from the blade discovery, I bent to pick up what I thought was a
chip (a good reason to bend for all those chips), but soon
discovered it was actually a point base.  When I turned the base
over I saw that the break was patinated and at the same angle as
the previously found blade.  I quickly pulled out the base from
my point pocket and was so excited to find that they mated
completely (Fig. 6).  Once again, the divorced pieces came
together after uncountable years apart.  Remarriage can be so
sweet when it happens to a good point!

As I’ve demonstrated, miracles can happen in ways you least
expect it.  Bend down for all those chips, because you just never
know, one may be the base or tip to one of your heart-breakers.  
It’s also worth while every so often to take out your broken
pieces by site location and see if you have any matches.  Divorce
is nasty when it happens to points, but there are several ways to
mend the broken collectors heart and I hope you try them –
you won’t be sorry you did.
Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6
********I am available to do virtual restorations for a fee.  Please email me at mike@susquehanna-wd.com for an
estimate.  Why not make a photo elbum of points that should have been?  Let me help!*********