Saturday, November 7, 2009

Some Parts May Be Missing, Yet These Gunther Points Show All Of The Knappers' Intentions

Look at this collection of Gunther points found in northern California back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.

The pattern held in common by all the different knappers is clearly seen in these arrowheads.

From the needle point tips, to the serrated blade edges, to the wide and deep base notches; the design was clearly followed in the knapping of each one of these points.

Each point has some part broken away, yet when you look at all of them in total, you can see the plan was closely and carefully adhered to.

As far as the size of these points goes, the bottom left translucent obsidian piece is about 1-1/16" long.

This will give you an idea of the size of the tool point used for making the notches, and probably a second finer tipped tool used for making the serrations. That tool was probably about 1/32" in thickness, in order to make the serrations we see on these points. This tool must be small enough to apply pressure inside the serrations, to remove the flakes which start at the inner extent of the serration.

The tool used to make the base notches would not need to be quite so narrow, but still needs to be narrow and long enough to allow a significant amount of pressure to be applied in the notch without contacting and accidently breaking the barb points or the central tang.

It is the author’s opinion, after trying several different sequences in the knapping process of recreating a number of different variations of the Gunther style arrowheads, that the ancient artisans first produced a "preform" in either the shape of a triangle, a "tear drop" or a diamond with the base end rather fore-shortened.

From this step the knappers progressed to creating the serrations along the long sides of the preform, keeping as much of the width as possible.

This retains mass for the high pressure work of making the notches at the base, the next step.

This seems to be the order on many of the points, since the base notching flake removals many times overlap the surface flakes which extend inward from the serrations at the base portion of the arrowhead.

After the risky work of making the notches was complete, the knapper then proceeded to reduce the tip width to create the delicate needle like weapon point which we can still see on several of these arrowheads.

At that time the arrowhead was complete in what we today call the Gunther style point.

Incidentally, I have hunted for a description of Gunther style arrowheads and not found it.

Nor have I found a source for the Gunther name.

In the absence, I will propose that they are named after the first foreign invader impaled by an arrow of this style. Sounds fair to me.

With Its Needle Point And Serrated Edges, The Gunther Point Is Both Dangerous & Delicate

Found across northern California, western and central Oregon, and southern Washington along the Columbia River gorge, there are several recognized varieties of Gunther arrowheads.

These dramatically designed small arrowheads are sometimes said to be barbed to serve as harpoon-like arrows for hunting large fish, yet many have also been found in the forested mountain and foothill areas where they were used effectively in hunting large and small game animals, too.

They were made from colorful types of quartz such as agate, jasper and petrified wood, as well as volcanic materials such as basalt and obsidian.

The serrations along the blade of the Gunther points exhibit a greater degree of discipline and craftsmanship than some other Northwest arrowheads, such as the Calapooya points, many of which seem to be almost wildly serrated.

Either way, the serrations serve as effective cutting devices upon the arrowhead’s impact into a game target, and also serve as a self-sharpening feature for the arrowhead.

The Gunther Arrowheads Feature Deep Base Notches Which Create Wickedly Effective Barbs

In order to make the deep notches extending up from the base of the Gunther point, these arrowheads were made fairly wide compared to their length.

This leaves enough stone to allow for the high stress pressure work of creating the deep notches and attempts to give the resulting barbs enough strength to serve the purposes for which they were made.

Many were used along the Columbia, Willamette, Rogue and other rivers of the Northwest, to hunt water fowl or even to harpoon large fish, and others were used to take deer, elk, and other land game animals throughout the region.

The small, serrated Wintu point style from California is very similar to the serrated Gunther points from the Mount Shasta area. The primary difference between the two types is in the base notching, which is more angled in from the corner in the Wintu point, creating a triangular shaped tang for that style of arrowhead.

Though We Call Them "Bird Points", These Arrowheads Were Used To Take Deer, Even Elk

The Gunther style arrowhead is just one of several varieties of points used by the Northwestern tribes over the centuries since the bow and arrow were introduced some 1500 years ago.

Throughout eastern and western Oregon, we find these "gem" arrowheads made from colorful varieties of quartz such as agate, jasper and petrified wood, as well as the volcanic materials such as basalt and obsidian.

Northwest Gunther Type Arrowhead Making Processes

From a flint knapping point of view, there are several things which can be learned about the practices of the native knappers in the Pacific Northwest by carefully observing the details evident in a collection of a few well made arrowheads.

First, it is evident that they made use of any material which could be chipped; obsidian, agate, jasper, petrified wood, etc.

Second, they utilized every chip of stone off the old block; whether the chip was large or small.

Third, the tools which they used to work the stone chips into these finely made arrowheads were also quite small, as evidenced by the size of the flaking on the points, and by the width of the notches used to form the tang needed to attach the points to the arrow shaft.

From these ancient knapping practices we can learn that it is o.k. to use small chips of stone to make realistically sized arrowheads; that it is also acceptable that these arrowheads can sometimes be worked in a unifacial manner; we will need to use small tools to prepare and finish the arrow points; we can make these small and delicate arrowheads from the full range of knappable material; and that the conservation of vital resources is and always has been an important and enduring aspect of life.

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