One Foxy Point: A Fox Creek From John Dickinson Plantation

By: Andy Martin

This Fox Creek or Selby Bay (if you’re from Virginia) projectile point was recovered from the John Dickinson Plantation in southern Delaware.

Why is this extra cool?

Fox Creek/Selby Bay projectile points are a relatively common point type that are usually dated from 1,800 to 1,100 BP, or 1,800 to 1,100 years ago. This places Fox Creek/Selby Bay points squarely in what archaeologists call the Middle Woodland period. The Middle Woodland was a time period that would have seen pretty similar environmental conditions to those we have today, and the Pre-Contact peoples of Delaware would have been spending more of their year in larger settlements and generally moving around less. The Middle Woodland tool kit reflects this change too, with a greater emphasis on ceramics for storage and cooking. But at the same time as people were becoming more sedentary, as reflected by diagnostic Middle Woodland artifacts like ceramic pots, other parts of their tool kit, like our Fox Creek/Selby Bay projectile point, show how their trade networks were expanding.

This projectile point is made from a high-grade argillite, which is significant because argillite is most commonly sourced from the Lockatong Formation, a band of stone outcrops that begins in what is now Pennsylvania and New Jersey, between 60 and 90 miles from the John Dickinson Plantation. This fits a broader pattern of Middle Woodland sites, where non-local tool stones are becoming more and more common. That’s what makes this projectile point more interesting than it might initially appear. These stone tools made from non-local, or ‘exotic’ sources are evidence that, at the same time as people were becoming more sedentary, their worlds, or at least their trade networks, were are also expanding.

Fox Creek Projectile Point Recovered From John Dickinson Plantation.

But wait, there’s more!

The fact that our point is made of argillite is in some ways more significant because of the Pre-Contact sites that are adjacent to the Lockatong formation, sites like….Abbot Farm. Abbot Farm is probably best thought of as concentration of large Pre-Contact sites located at the confluence of the Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware River in Trenton New Jersey, roughly 80 miles upriver from the John Dickinson Plantation. The sites at Abbott Farm date to at least the Archaic Period (beginning 10,000 years ago) on through to the Late Woodland period (ending with European contact circa 400 years ago), but we mention Abbot Farm because not only is it close to a very large argillite source, but because excavations at Abbot Farm have shown that the area is home to a lot of Middle Woodland pre-contact sites, and these sites are, in turn, loaded with argillite Fox Creek/Selby Bay projectile points.

Does this mean our Fox Creek/Selby point came from Abbot Farm?

Not necessarily, and there’s no way we can prove that or would make such a claim, but what’s so fascinating about Abbot Farm is that the sites there have loads of exotic stone, some of which is from as far afield as modern-day western New York and the Great Lakes. So, what we’ve got here with our little argillite projectile point is a glimpse of an exchange network that potentially links southern Delaware to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and those NJ and PA sites then potentially linked to sites in New York and along the Great Lakes.

See what we mean when we say that the world of the Middle Woodland was expanding even as its people were becoming more sedentary? That’s one of the beautiful things about archaeology, a single artifact can ‘point’ towards the way whole regions are changing, and in this case, becoming more connected.

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Delaware We Have Contact!: A Copper Alloy Arrowhead from the John Dickinson Plantation

By: Bill Liebeknecht

A copper alloy projectile point or “arrowhead” was recently recovered by Dovetail Cultural Resource Group during an archaeological survey at the John Dickinson Plantation near Dover, Delaware. Work was conducted on behalf of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs in preparation of a new system of trails for use by visitors. The survey entailed a controlled surface collection of the entire area where ground disturbing activities will occur. The area was recorded as site 7K-D-45 in the 1970s.

Individuals with knowledge of copper Contact period artifacts from the region were consulted on this exciting find. They reported that this was likely the first copper alloy arrowhead to be recovered from Delaware. Others pointed out that the style differed from other copper arrow tips recovered from other states in the area in that it has a “tang” or shaft for attaching the head to the arrow, whereas others from the region were pierced with a central hole for attaching the arrowhead to the shaft of the arrow. Dr. Greg Lattanzi, Curator and New Jersey State Archaeologist, provided similar examples from New York and Canada. This begs the question: why is this artifact here in Delaware? The earliest-known contact between Europeans and Native Americans in Delaware was documented in 1608 during the voyages of Captain John Smith and in 1609 when Henry Hudson entered the Delaware Bay. A number of “Indian towns” are noted on earlier maps of the Nanticoke River and its tributaries. To date, very few European trade goods have been documented in Delaware.

The most likely source of the arrowhead may be from the Susquehannock Indians, who were heavily vested in the fur trade in Pennsylvania and had migrated south into Delaware during the seventeenth century. European goods, including copper, iron, and brass items, were of high trade values to the Native American groups in the region. Copper and brass items such as kettles were often recycled, cut down into various ornaments and projectile points. It may be that this projectile point was once part of a cooking vessel. One thing is certain, though, the mere presence of this artifact in central Delaware is a rare find indeed.

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.