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Jerrel C. Anderson
Vienna, West Virginia

The Marrtown Site, 46WD18, was a heavily occupied bluff-top Panhandle Archaic village site located at Parkersburg, West Virginia. The bluff top was levelled in 1996 for the construction of an office building complex. It sits 160 feet above the Ohio River just west of the conjunction of the Little Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. Much of the cultural levels were lost in the levelling, but on the northeast corner of the bluff some midden remained and all the midden down the slope survived. The Little Kanawha Chapter of the West Virginia Archeological Society was allowed to excavate the site from May through October of 1996. The midden was rich in flint projectile points and drills along with a fragment of a three-quarter grooved axe head or adze and several concretion “paint pots”. Almost all the points were made from Hughes River Flint, a Brush Creek flint type.

Figure 1. Curated Early Archaic Points and a possible Clovis Point excavated from the Panhandle Archaic Marrtown bluff-top Site (46Wd18).

Nearly all of the projectile points were late archaic in age: Steubenville Stemmed, Raddatz Side Notched and Stemmed Lanceolates. Three radiocarbon dates from the midden gave the age at 2,100 years B.C. (corrected). However, two points and possibly a third, dated from much earlier times. These points are pictured in Figure 1. The drill and the notched point are both early archaic Thebes variants that date to around 10,800 years old — 6,700 years old when the occupants of the Marrtown Site found them. They both show polishing from stream tumbling and are covered with heavy patinas of mineral staining. The third point is black and could have been a curated Clovis point, as it appears to have the remnant of a bold flute on one side.

All these points were found in context within the buried midden deposits. They were certainly used by the Marrtown people as they were found within their midden refuse. And, unlike the late archaic points from this site, they were not made from Hughes River flint except for the Lost Lake point. The Thebes drill was made from Flint Ridge chalcedony and the Black point was made from Coshocton flint as it has blue streaking and is of high quality. That they were used by the late archaic people is proven by their chipping that removed the old patina stains.

Figure 2. A highly patinated Thebes period drill displaying late archaic flaking on the drill bit edges.

The drill (Figure 2) has a smoothed and patinated Thebes base, but the drill bit was sharpened by the late archaic people resulting in the telltale loss of the patinated surface. It is fashioned from Flint Ridge chalcedony.

The other point (Figure 3) is a Lost Lake point made from Hughes River flint and it also shows polish over its surface and has a heavy brownish-red mineral patina. It too was re-sharpened by the Marrtown people all around its circumference, even on the base. This point certainly had a heavily smoothed base, typical for the early archaic Lost Lake point type, but the late archaic people chose to chip it away. The notches still retain the original smoothing. Perhaps they used it for a scraper, but there is no wear evident on the base and these people did not use end scrapers — there was not one found on the site. On the East Steubenville site Panhandle Archaic Site there were found many bone and antler scrapers that served the scraping need (Lothrop, 2000 and Mayer-Oakes, 1955). That site contained clam shells that sweetened the soil enough to allow bone preservation. We did not have that situation on the Marrtown Site as the soil was acidic with no clam shells present. Perhaps they removed the smoothed base edge to allow better fit into their handle or onto their spear shaft, if they used this point for either.

Figure 3. A highly patinated Lost Lake Thebes type point displaying late archaic flaking around its edges and base.

The third point (Figure 4) is made from black flint and possesses a distinct flute extending from the base up the blade surface. The opposite side is not fluted. If it was made from a curated Clovis point, there should be evidence of the basal smoothing typical for Clovis points, but the base and base sides are not smoothed. Either the late archaic Marrtown people chipped it away, as was done on the Lost Lake Point, or it is not fashioned from a curated Clovis Point. The base appears to be a typical Steubenville Stemmed Point stem with barbs — common for this point type — except it has an indented base which is not typical for Steubenville Stemmed points. If there was remnant smoothing on the base from Clovis times, I would consider it a curated Clovis Point, but the base and basal edges appear to be chipped in the normal late archaic fashion. I am not convinced this is a curated Clovis Point, but there remains the suspicion that it could be.

Figure 4. A black flint Steubenville Stemmed point with barbed stem and fluted face possibly fashioned from a curated Clovis Point.

The mineral patina on the other two points is heavy. This indicates they were in heavily mineralized water for a long time. This is a definite possibility as there are numerous mineral springs in the area: witness the village of Mineral Wells that was the home of mineral springs and an associated spa as was the case for Borland Springs situated in Pleasants County, a short distance up the Ohio River. Also, the Ohio River often almost dried up in summers during middle and late archaic times, and this could have resulted in mineral-rich stagnant pools.

These points were polished by river/sand turbulence and were later patinated in more still waters. Perhaps the Marrtown people found them in the river or stream beds while searching for clams and fish. And why not use them for their own purposes?

The ancient ones were relic collectors too!


I thank my dear daughters, Lorene and Cheryl, my wife Cynthia and brother Ferrel for reviewing this article and making suggestions for its improvement.
Lothrop, Jonathan C.
2000 Management Summary: Phase III Data Recovery at Prehistoric Sites 46Br31 and 46Br60, U.S. Route 2 Follansbee-Weirton Road Upgrade Project, Follansbee, Brooke County, West Virginia. Report prepared for Whitney, Bailey, Cox, & Magnani LLP, and West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways. On file, West Virginia Division of Culture and History, Charleston, West Virginia.
Mayer-Oakes, William J.
1955 Prehistory of the Upper Ohio Valley: An Introductory Archaeological Study. Anthropological Series No. 2. Annals of the Carnegie Museum, No. 34, Pittsburgh, Pa.