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VCU Archaeology

A (Digital) Typology and Nomenclature of New York Projectile Points

by Bernard K. Means, Director

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As part of work on American Indian sites in the Middle Atlantic and Northeastern United States, I often turn to William A. Ritchie’s A Typology and Nomenclature of New York Projectile Points whenever I need to find morphological affinities for diagnostic chipped stone tools with named types. Thanks to the New York State Museum (NYSM) a revised version of this guide is available for a free download online here. Having the guide available in digital form certainly is handy if you are in the field, and did not bring your copy, but the guide being born originally in print can only provide static illustrations of the named types, and only one view of those types as well.  As part of a Department of Defense (DoD) Legacy Program-funded project, my team of dedicated Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students and alumni are working to move beyond static illustrations of diagnostic chipped stone tools by creating 3D digital models of the points that can be viewed online in full color, and even downloaded for manipulation on one’s own electronic device–and even replicated using a 3D printer. As of last week, these points will now include some of those used by Ritchie to create his guide.

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From July 22 to July 25, I worked in the Research and Collections division of the NYSM to scan 27 diagnostic chipped stone tools, ranging from 10,000 year old Clovis fluted points to a five centuries old triangular Madison point. Because scanning each point is time consuming–I do one vertical and one horizontal scan of each point–it usually takes about an hour to scan one artifact.  Fortunately, the NYSM loaned me their NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner to use alongside the one I brought to Albany, which enabled me to not only scan the points I had selected in advance, but also some historic artifacts provided by the great team of NYSM archaeological curation and collections personnel.  I was able to return their hospitality by talking about the strengths and limitations of the NextEngine Scanner, while also considering research, exhibits, and public outreach applications of the resulting digital artifact models–including the myriad applications of 3D printed objects.

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I hope to return again to NYSM for additional research, and wish to thank, in alphabetical order, Lisa Anderson, John Hart, Andrea Lain, Jonathan Lothrop, Mike Lucas, Julie Weatherwax, and Susan Winchell-Sweeney.  Their help and generous hospitality were much appreciated.

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