MR. ALLEN, I PRESUME?
|Central States Archaeological Societies 2003
What follows is the most common of artifact stories, an "I found an arrowhead" tale. Two things in this
story are un-common, however. First is the fact that I found this "Arrowhead", the second is the awesome
and unusual artifact that I found. As you read this article, remember: this was an ordinary day, and your turn
Many of us hunters have a partner or friend that we share sites, gas, and the excitement of finding ancient
relics with. I am fortunate to be married to my hunting buddy, Tammy Pittman-Breckinridge. I say I'm fortunate,
because Tammy is an excellent hunter and very lucky to boot. This means I get to view her finds in-situ most of
the time, and enjoy them at home. In the 5 or 6 years we have hunted together Tammy has found several nice paleo
points. But each time I reach down to pick up one of MY paleo points, it turns into an archaic knife! I've talked
to friends and fellow collectors about this phenomenon but did not receive a lot of sympathy.
Perhaps I was saving my luck up. Or more likely there is no explaining the twists of fate. But whatever the reason,
on Dec. 15th 2002 I decided to go arrowhead hunting. My partner is a schoolteacher, and it was a Monday, so I went
alone. I got on my rubber boots, found my flipping stick, and loaded the dogs in the truck. Off I went, to a nearby
area where we have permission to hunt in Tulsa County, Oklahoma.
Parking in our usual spot, the dogs and I set out for the Arkansas River channel. From the bank I could tell
the water was very low. Deciding to take advantage of the low water, I gave up on the idea of arrowhead hunting
and decided to look for a buffalo skull or ice age fossil in the exposed slimy muck. It's always fascinating to
see what's on the bottom of a river, but the algae and silt mask the rocks and gravel. In fact its difficult to
see a buffalo skull or mammoth leg bone, much less anything as small as a point.
After only 10 minutes or so of slime crawling I saw the foramen magnum or spinal column opening of a buried skull.
It was barely visible above the surface and covered with mud and a dense garden of moss. Was I excited! I took
some photos with my digital camera, then started digging with my hands in the gravelly goo. You can imagine my
disappointment when my buffalo skull turned out to be a partial cow skull. But the sight had given me confidence
that I was on the right track.
Three & a half hours later I was not quite as sure. I hadn't found anything. Not bones, bottles, or even
a hide scraper. But the day had warmed up, I was comfortable and doing something I enjoyed. What more could one
ask of life? I was about to find out. As I emerged from wading to loop across a mud flat I saw a shape that grabbed
my attention. Unlike the triangular pieces of shale scattered about, this moss-covered piece seemed to have flaking!
I knelt to examine it more closely. It did seem flaked, but the pattern looked more like ripples in water than
flakes in flint. And, it was HUGE. Since it was veiled with algae there was only one way to tell. I took a lot
of pictures, just in case.
Then I stood up and looked around. I glanced at my watch and noted the time. I took a deep breath and listened
to the silence. And I thought this all looks so ordinary. Calm and peaceful. Could this day be any different from
the hundreds of other days I went point or fossil hunting? Time to find out. I carefully picked up the object of
my scrutiny, expecting it to turn into a piece of shale with mud ripples. My first thought was "Thin..Unbeleivably
Thin!" My fingers felt the distinctive texture of worked flint. I turned it over and saw the clean side. It
took my breath away. I washed it off a little in the water and took a picture of it in my hand.
I was wearing a thick, oversized outdoors shirt, and put the point in my pocket. Even laying diagonally about an
inch of tip stuck out. I continued to hunt till sundown, during which time I found only one point, an exhausted
woodland corner notch. About every 30 seconds or so my hand would stray to my shirt pocket. Through the heavy fabric
I could feel the seemingly endless series of parallel flakes, regular as the grooves on one of those antique 33-rpm
vinyl records. And like a vinyl recording there seemed to be a message in the pattern, just beyond my understanding.
When some of the shock had passed I began to wonder what I had found. My first guess had been Jimmy Allen, but
we are just at the edge of Allen territory. I began to wonder if it could be a Sloan Dalton. The size was more
appropriate for a Sloan than it was for an Allen. But the flaking was very diagonal, more Allen. And the thinness
just about ruled out any kind of Dalton. But my dogs didn't care what I thought that rock was they just knew it
was time to go home. We hiked back to the truck in an exhausted daze and headed for supper and the fireplace.
About a half mile from the house I spotted my spouse out for an evening walk. I stopped to give her a lift home.
Of course the first thing she asked was "find anything?" I reached under my coat and pulled out the find
of the day, laying it in her hand. I bet you can imagine how stupefied she was! I had to assure her 3 times that
this was not a joke and I really found it. Although I've only had the point a month, I've really enjoyed the reaction
of those few collectors who've seen it or the photos. Although they know I don't joke about flint, it's hard to
believe your eyes when they tell you things like that. Many have told me it's the find of a lifetime.
A friend and fellow collector volunteered to drive me to Idabel, Oklahoma, to show the point to Greg Perino.
I jumped at the chance. We left the point, and a few others, for Mr. Perino's opinion. About 10 long days later
we returned and retrieved our newly "papered" points. Mr. Perino said my point was an "Allen Knife.
A large knife form that was used but never resharpend. It has the classic Allen flaking pattern that runs diagonally
from the upper left to the lower right on both sides, all over the point." He states that it is a blade of
the "Late Paleo/Early Archaic period dating in the 6500 to 6000 BC range." The material is a dark chocolate
brown, glossy and with very few inclusions. It is 5-1/4 inches long and 1-1/4 inches wide. I don't have a set of
calipers, but it's very thin and flat.
So that's my "I found an arrowhead " story. Just an ordinary day, no floods, blowouts, deep plowing,
prophetic dreams or psychic prompts. But it became an exordinary day, just the same.