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VCU Archaeology

From Anthropology on a Whim to 3D Point Typologies

by Liz Ale


My name is Liz Ale, and I’m a senior anthropology major at Virginia Commonwealth University. In truth, I declared my major as anthropology on a whim, as I thought it sounded mildly interesting while browsing the course catalogue. Throughout high school I was plagued by boredom and apathy, but my time spent studying anthropology at VCU has ignited a passion for academics and research that I didn’t know I was capable of. As a non-genderconforming individual, I was especially drawn to anthropology’s focus on dispelling untrue stereotypes and promoting equality for underrepresented groups of people. Within Dr. Means’s classes, I learned that archaeology can be used to tell the stories of groups that are inaccurately depicted or ignored within the mainstream historical record. I applied for an internship in the Virtual Curation Laboratory with this goal in mind.


I’ve spent the majority of my time in the Virtual Curation Laboratory assisting with the creation of an online projectile point typology. The term “projectile point” is used to refer to a broad array of stone tools, such as spearheads, arrowheads, and knives. These tools are one of the primary sources of material culture we have for prehistoric Native American groups. Through the study and classification of projectile points, archaeologists can provide information about these groups. This is an important endeavor, because the accomplishments and cultural histories of Native Americans are often ignored within mainstream historical accounts.


In order to assist with the creation of an online projectile point typology, I created guide sheets for over 80 individual projectile points. These guide sheets provide information about each point, such as their age, type, and site of origin. The technology available in the Virtual Curation Laboratory made this possible. Due to the diligent scanning and editing done by Dr. Means and other interns, I had access to virtual models of projectile points from across the east coast. I could even print these files in order to create tangible replicas of points. Using this technology, I created a poster that displayed a typology of many of the points I worked with.

The main difficulty I faced while working on this project was with point identification and dating, as information from different sources was not always consistent. Despite this minor difficulty, my time in the Virtual Curation Laboratory was a rewarding and educational experience. I had the opportunity to handle and learn about a wide variety of artifacts from many different locations and time periods. As I plan to apply to graduate school, the skills I learned in the lab will undoubtedly be useful in the future.




3 thoughts on “From Anthropology on a Whim to 3D Point Typologies

  1. Great article. The guide sheets sound like something that could be used to create projectile point kits that could be combined with SOL correlations and used by teachers.

    Posted by emooreathome | December 2, 2015, 7:20 pm
  2. Great article Liz. As a student, I look forward to using the sheets you created when studying American Prehistory. As a researcher interested in 3d modeling, I can’t wait to read more about your work.

    Posted by danavido | December 7, 2015, 11:04 am

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