The PES was a multipurpose tool ( Frison and Stanford 1982:47; Frison and Todd 1987:249; Judge 1973:188). It was used for scraping, cutting, engraving, wedging and no telling what else. When they are found in archaeological context, the majority of them have been exhausted and discarded. The description of the PES I presented in the previous section, is the description of a worn out tool ( Gramly 1982:35; Witthoft 1952:16).
The PES begins its life as a flake knife. If it was hafted, the lateral edges were probably retouched to make it fit the haft, but not necessarily. As the PES was used, it became dull and was resharpened ( Deller and Ellis 1992:56; Goodyear 1974:44; Witthoft 1952:16). Some times it was reshaped to perform a different function or sometimes it was damaged beyond repair and discarded before its time. The process of use, resharpening, reshaping and reuse slowly modified the flake into an artifact that archaeologists can recognize and identify as a PES. However, the stage at which this recognition becomes possible is unknown. The image of the flake I drew here is based on a flake without the distal end; I created this distal end. The actual distal end could have been much different.
I also created this PES, with a pencil, with all the standard characteristics. (Same image used in the Description section.) The transformation of the above flake into this PES through numerous resharpening is easy to visualize. However, the following examples suggest that maybe this transformation was more involved than this.
This artifact was the "Rosetta Stone" for me. It is two halves that were found at different times, in the same site, and only years later did we realize that the two fit together. (I purposely scan them in as separated because they fit so perfectly that it would have been difficult to see the seam if glued together.) Before the realization that the two fit together, the proximal half was interpreted as a PES with a damaged right distal edge (bit). The distal half was interpreted as a nondescript end scraper.
After the discovery that the two halves fit together, it was obvious that the scraping end on the proximal half was created after being separated from the distal half. Probably the distal half was discarded at the time of separation. Before the separation, the tool was much larger than I would have predicted. It probably was even longer than the two pieces since the distal end of the distal half has been worked down into an end scraper. Also, the entire tool was wider. How many times had it been resharpened?
The right lateral edge on the proximal half has not been worked, but the left lateral edge has been shaped with a burin blow. The blow was applied to a small ledge located midway up the left lateral edge and it removed a burin that ran to the spur. It is hard to determine if this burin was removed early on in this tool's life or after it was broken into two halves. The burin scar gives one the strong impression that this tool was hafted and, therefore, it probably was removed in the beginning.
This is another long narrow flake that was found in two halves and refitted in later years. The proximal fragment was suspected of being a scraper, but by itself, one would not want to declare it as such. The distal end appeared to be a whole end scraper with the bulb of percussion removed as part of the creation of the tool. Close inspection of the minimal lateral edge work, suggests the entire flake was originally hafted in a position where the blade was straight with the haft and the dog leg in the flake, near the proximal end, was inside the haft. When the tool broke in two, the distal end was rehafted and the proximal end was discarded.
This PES is recognizable as such. I have displayed it here because it demonstrates another manner (very rare) of resharpening of the distal end. The dull or exhausted distal end was completely removed by a burin blow and then a new working edge was created. Wilmsen reported observing this method in the Lindenmeier material, a Folsom Site ( 1978:98). This PES came from a Belen site.
I will close this section with a reiteration that the PES begins life in various morphologies, which makes it difficult to call it a PES. As it is resharpened, it is forced into a shape that has less variance and ultimately the archaeologist can recognize it as a PES. Ironically, the projectile begins life as a recognizable, dateable artifact and as it is resharpened, its identity is slowly lost. Function and resharpening creates a recognizable form in the PES and destroys the same in the projectile.
Return to Paleoindian and Other... Homepage