Crow Canyon's research in the Goodman Point community continues to turn up the unexpected. On June 23, Crow Canyon field intern Charlie Reed—excavating at Bluebird House, a small pueblo located not far from the Harlan Great Kiva site—found a complete projectile point made of a distinctive pink stone. Later, as the tiny artifact made its way through the Crow Canyon lab, staff researchers examining the item immediately recognized the raw material with an excited exclamation, "Narbona Pass chert!"
Although Crow Canyon staff and program participants have conducted excavations at more than 20 archaeological sites in the central Mesa Verde region, they have discovered only a few artifacts made of Narbona Pass chert: a total of six projectile points (at Lester's Site, Sand Canyon Pueblo, and Yellow Jacket Pueblo), three cores (at Albert Porter, Shields, and Yellow Jacket pueblos), and 45 pieces of debitage (waste flakes leftover from the manufacture of chipped-stone tools). So the Bluebird House projectile point is an unusual and important find.
The point itself is about 2 cm long and 1 cm wide, with side notches and slightly serrated edges. When Paul Ermigiotti, one of Crow Canyon's talented educators and a master at ancient technologies, attempted to replicate the point, he chose a similar material and used a pointed deer antler to shape the edges by means of pressure-flaking. Using this technique, he was unable to exactly replicate the serrations of the original, leading him to believe that the Pueblo flintknapper who made the Bluebird House point may have used a long, pointed, "soft-hammer" tool to produce the serrated edges.
One of the reasons this find is so exciting is that Narbona Pass chert has a very limited source. The only Narbona Pass chert quarry we know about is located in the Chuska Mountains of New Mexico, approximately 90 miles south of Bluebird House. Stone from this quarry is quite different from other cryptocrystalline (very fine grained) materials because of its distinctive color and purity. From about A.D. 1000 to 1140, when an extensive regional network centered on Chaco Canyon in New Mexico was at its peak, many goods and resources—including Narbona Pass chert—were imported from the Chuska Mountains, not only to Chaco Canyon itself, but to Chaco outliers in the Mesa Verde region as well.
So where was the Bluebird House point made? It's possible that a core of Narbona Pass chert was brought from the Chuska Mountains to the Mesa Verde region, and from that core a flake was removed and shaped by a local resident into the projectile point found by Charlie. Alternatively, the projectile point may have been manufactured in the Chuska Mountains and brought to the Mesa Verde region as a completed artifact, possibly to be used for some special purpose. Because relatively few cores and waste flakes of Narbona Pass chert are found in the region, we think the latter scenario is the most likely. In either case, the discovery of the projectile point at Bluebird House suggests that the residents of the Goodman Point Community may have been involved in Chaco exchange networks during the Pueblo II period.
The discovery and analysis of this unusual point is an illustration of how even a single artifact can help archaeologists address important questions about the past. In this particular case, we are able to infer the means by which the flintknapper made the point, how the artifact likely came to be found at a site far from the raw material source, and how the residents of the Goodman Point community may have participated in the Chaco regional exchange system more than 800 years ago.
We look forward to the 2009 field season and the laboratory work that will follow—you never know what the next day of discovery will bring!