This Elk River point from Tennessee is made from Wyandotte chert. Elk River points were used in the Middle/Late Archaic period, between ca. 4000-5500 BP.
The point in this model was resharpened by diagonal pressure flaking on one face only. Percussion scars from initial point manufacture are visible on the opposite face. Resharpening has mostly eliminated the point’s shoulders, although a distinctive straight-sided stem is still visible.
The Middle Holocene in North America saw a shift in climate towards drier and generally less productive environmental conditions from ca. 6500-7000 BP, although the impacts of climate shifts varied regionally. The shift impacted Early Archaic subsistence patterns, leading to significant changes in landscape use. As climate ameliorated in the Late Holocene after the Middle Holocene dry period, subsistence practices changes again and populations began to grow. The complex patterns of cultural, subsistence, and technological shifts are reflected in the stone technology. In contrast to the preceding Paleoindian/Early Archaic point manufacture, manufacturing techniques during the Middle and Late Archaic showed variable levels of expertise, with expert manufacture displayed in ‘prestige’ examples, and less-skilled production of utilitarian tools. In the Midwest and elsewhere, a variety of relatively small notched points appeared in the toolkit in the Middle and Late Archaic, such as the Brewerton family of points (including Vosburg points), Matanzas points, Table Rock stemmed points, Lamoka points, and Merom points. In the south-central region, basally-notched Eva points appeared at about the same time as Morrow Mountain stemmed points and the shallow-notched White Springs family of points (including Sykes points). By the Late Archaic period across these regions, a smorgasbord of stemmed points emerged that varied in style and manufacturing methods at the regional level, including Karnak, McWhinney, Nebo Hill, Wadlow, Etley, Ledbetter, Pickwick, Saratoga, Genesee, Savannah River, Susquehanna. Perkiomen, and Buck Creek. Many of these point styles correlate with regionally distinctive cultural expressions. These complexities are also reflected in the archaeological record of the Great Plains and Texas, where quite different point styles emerged.
Elk River points are part of the Benton family of tool types. The Benton period, dating to ca. 4000-5000 BP and centred on Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, is characterised by semipermanent or permanent villages, extensive trade networks, and ceremonial caching of large bifaces made by expert bifacial percussion techniques. The Benton family of stemmed points are medium- to large-sized and made by percussion thinning followed by non-invasive pressure flaking. The stems vary in shape, resembling corner notches on some, to distinct parallel-sided stems on others. Many of these points were resharpened by well-controlled diagonal pressure flaking, often only applied to one face of the point. Unusually for North American bifacial points, the pressure flake scars are usually oriented from the lower-left to the upper-right. The resharpening method suggests that these points functioned as hafted knives.