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.

1 comment:

  1. F Scott;

    I think I may have an answer to a couple of your questions about Gunther points. First, these points were named after Gunther Island where they were first found (officially anyway) , located off the coast of Northern California.

    Next, the extremely serrated or barbed type of Gunther's were made to secure meat, or other material poisoned with rattle snake venom and used for war. Animal liver was preferred and they would have a rattlesnake strike it several times, let sit until rancid , cut into strips and affixed to the point.

    The liver was preferred over other meat because vemon would spread deeper and more even than other meat or materials. Once these points were embedded in their victim, most of the time they were there to stay. The short and tapered stems allowed for the arrow shaft to pull away and these wicked packages to remain firmly in place.

    Even if someone was lucky enough to remove the point, rancid liver would have fallen apart and delivered poison and bacteria deep within the body and bloodstream. Not a very good image for such a prized and revered artifact.



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