Projectile point assemblage variability at the Paleoindian Mackenzie 1 site, near Thunder Bay, Ontario / by Samantha Markham.
SubjectProjectile points Ontario, Northwestern
Paleo-Indians Ontario, Northwestern Antiquities
Indians of North America Ontario, Northwestern Antiquities
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The Mackenzie Sites appear to form part of the Late Paleoindian Lakehead Complex that occupied the unglaciated peninsula between Glacial Lakes Agassiz and Minong at the end of the Pleistocene. While a number of archaeological sites and isolated Plano finds have been made throughout the region, most excavated collections are from large-scale quarry workshops, and have yielded vast assemblages of lithic debitage with comparatively few diagnostic tools. In contrast, the Mackenzie 1 (DdJf-9) site appears to be an extensive and repeatedly used stream mouth habitation place exhibiting a range of stylistic influences represented in the projectile point assemblage. Contrary to conventional wisdom, this thesis will utilize an attribute analysis approach to typological analysis that will permit identification of significant patterned variation of the 380 projectile points recovered, which will challenge or support the definition of the Lakehead Complex and Interlakes Composite. The assemblage consists of 53 complete points, 116 basal fragments, 80 midsections, 116 tips, 5 points that were reworked into scrapers, 5 chisel shaped specimens, and 5 that appear pseudo-notched. The assemblage is made up of a wide range of materials, but the majority of projectile points are created from the locally available Gunflint Formation (taconite). Hixton Silicified Sandstone, Knife Lake Siltstone, and Hudson’s Bay Lowland Chert are also present in minor capacities. The surprisingly large assemblage of 380 projectile points will in turn enable more credible comparison to late Paleoindian projectile point typologies developed in other regions. The attributes that were chosen for the analysis were focused on the projectile point basal configuration, specifically the bottom third of the specimen. While the functional requirements associated with arming a spear with a sharp stone tip are rather generic, most projectile points exhibit a comparatively narrow range of culturally mediated attributes that reflects both ‘functional’ considerations coupled with ‘stylistic’ choice. The combinations of attributes, therefore, are thought to reflect the cultural ‘rules’ or parameters of what archaeologists suggest the artisan imagined to constitute a suitable tool form. Taxonomically recognized variability in tool form sometimes represents temporally and geographically defined variation that is thought to be diagnostic of the various cultural sequences reported across North America. As a result of this rationale, the primary traits chosen to taxonomically characterize the projectile points centred on the morphological shape of the basal configuration; lateral edge shape and basal concavity. Secondary traits on the projectile points include attribute states associated with flaking pattern, cross section and the frequency/degree of lateral and basal grinding. These are considered secondary traits in this analysis because they do not directly influence the morphological variability of the projectile points, but add another layer of detail suggestive of the original decision-making process. Particularly compelling is the strong numeric dominance of projectile points exhibiting the parallel oblique flaking pattern (99%). This challenging flaking technique is undertaken upon very challenging raw material, but it does not appear to have any clear ‘functional’ purpose. Nonetheless, its numeric dominance demonstrates that it represents an important culturally conditioned ‘rule’ evident at Mackenzie 1.