Before I describe the PES, I want the reader to understand that the Paleoindians also made other types of end scrapers. In the VINN diagram the universe of Native Americans though time is represented by the rectangle. The blue area represents the Paleoindians and the rest of the rectangle, in yellow, represents the other Native Americans (e.g. Archaic etc.) Both groups made and used end scrapers as represented by the "End Scraper" circle overlapping the two groups. However, the Paleoindians were the only peoples that made the PES as indicated by the diagram. And, as stated above, the Paleoindians also made other end scrapers which are represented by the area that lies within the Paleoindian area and the "End Scraper" circle but outside the PES.

Frison wrote in his second edition of Prehistoric Hunters of the High Plains:

An occasional spurred scraper (PES) appears in post-Paleoindian site components but in general, the true spurred end scraper seems to largely disappear from tool assemblages of the post-Paleoindian period. (1991:128)
My father and I had concluded much the same thing back in the 1960's. The finding of one PES is a strong indication of the presence of Paleoindians. The finding of more than one just about guarantees their presence. On the other hand, the absence of the PES does not eliminate their presence. I say this because the literature on some Paleoindian kill sites indicates few or none of these artifacts are present in the bone beds. (Frison 1974; Frison and Stanford 1982:107).
Description of the PES

In a nutshell, the PES is a triangular end scraper, about the size of a silver dollar, with a spur at the intersection of the lateral edge and the distal end. The spur is the most diagnostic attribute of a PES. The drawing shows spurs on both sides which is the case on approximately 50% of the PES. Actually, many spurs are broken off the artifacts, presumedly though use. If the missing spurs are considered in the count, 71% of the PESs had spurs on both sides; 13% only on the left; 14% only on the right; and 2% without any. (These statistics are based on my data of 537 PESs from 97 sites.)

A PES is made on a flake from a variety of sources, e.g. quarry sample, thin biface, etc. The bulb of percussion is located on the proximal end on approximately 90% of the artifacts. My data actually indicates 97% of the artifacts. MacDonald reported 89.7% from the Debert Site in Nova Scotia, where 1167 PES were found ( 1985:91).

The lateral edges are usually retouched, as shown in the drawing, on the left lateral edge. Retouch can also take the form of notches like the one located just back of the distal end on the right lateral edge. My data indicate that both lateral edges were retouched 51% of the time; the left lateral edge only, 15%; the right lateral edge only, 16%; and neither edge, 18%.

Lithic materials employed tended to be tough, but they were not quartzites. Quartzite represents only 1% of the PES in my data. Jaspers and chalcedonies are the material of choice representing 68% of the material I can identify. Wilmsen reported that 75% of the PES from the Lindenmeier Site were made of Jasper ( 1978:170). Of more than passing interest, I have no obsidian PES although it was commonly used in the projectiles from the same sites.

Now for some real examples.

This is a classic PES with a prominent spur on the right side. There appears to have been a prominent spur on the left side that is now broken off. The tiny spur on the left side about 1/2 centimeter back for the distal edge is the remains of that spur. Both lateral edges have been retouched and the right one appears to have done service as a spoke shave on a shaft of 1+ centimeters. This spoke shave is located just back of the spur. The distal edge (sometimes called the "bit") is perpendicular to the long axis of the scraper. Some PES have distal edges that are skew from the perpendicular and Semenov ...attributes this to the craftsman being either left- or right-handed ( Goodyear 1974:45). The striking platform is ground (biface thinning flake) and located on the proximal end.

The spur on this PES is extraordinary and it is broken. It actually was about twice as long as it is now. There never was a spur on the left side. The lateral edges have only been very crudely retouched to dull the very thin edges. The distal edge is perpendicular to the long axis. The striking platform is very narrow (biface thinning flake) and present on the proximal end.

The spur on this PES, which was made on a cortical flake, is on the left side. There never was a prominent spur on the right side. However, notice the knee on the right side in the edge where a prominent spur would be located. I consider this knee a spur and I would count this as a double spurred PES. The left lateral edge has been retouched, to shape the left edge, from the proximal end to about 1/3 of the way toward the distal end. It stops where the flake becomes too thin to work. The right lateral edge has been retouched the entire length. The distal edge is perpendicular to the long axis. The striking platform (proximal end) has been removed by a flake taken fromthe ventral side.

The knee or minor spur discussed in the above paragraph is a PES attribute just as much as the well defined, prominent spurs. Neither of these types of spurs are found on the non-Paleoindian end scrapers. Non-Paleoindian end scrapers have round distal ends that blend into the lateral edges with out spurs or knees. J. Morrow says essentially the same thing about the early archaic at the Twin Ditch site in Greene County, Illinois. In her words, none of the end scrapers from TwinDitch exhibit distinctly spurred corners and only 7% exhibit angular corners ( 1997:8).

Two examples with broken spurs.

The apparent, obvious spur on this PES is on the left. However, this spur is very fragile and probably was not used as it was created with a lateral edge that is knife blade thin. It is the missing spur on the right edge that is of importance. The arrow marks the scar of the missing triangular spur which was extremely robust. Two-thirds of the left lateral edge, from the proximal end forward, has been retouched. The right lateral edge between the proximal end and the missing spur has two notches with numerous step fractures that are reminiscent of spoke shaves. There are actually some step fractures on the spur scar which indicate that this PES continued to be used after the spur was broken. The distal edge is not perpendicular to the long axis. The proximal end is a simple (flat) striking platform similar to the type found on early stages of core reduction ( T. Morrow 1996). If the reader reads this entire document, then you will see this PES again in the section on hafting. It is an excellent example for the argument that PES were hafted.

This PES has had the spurs broken off both sides. The right one was the prominent one based on its scar. The left one's scar was replaced by a notch that created a secondary spur located about a centimeter back of the distal edge. Both lateral edges have been retouched. The distal edge is perpendicular to the long axis. The proximal end is a simple striking platform similar to the one immediately above.

One of the interesting features of this PES is the evidence of partial resharpening. The distal end (bit) has been entirely resharpened, except for the area in the rectangle which is visible on the large image. The edge in the rectangle is very smooth, like the tool has rubbed (worked) hides for an extended period. The remainder of the distal edge is very sharp. One could easily concluded that the last thing this PES experienced prior to being discarded or lost was this unfinished resharpening. In another section there is a discussion and examples of use wear.

Move to:

Return to Paleoindian and Other... Homepage