Comparison of Alternate Preforms collected in Burnet County with an Alternate Type Preform found by Clayton Vandergriff in Lee County during the summer of 2005.

Clayton Vandergriff found a very unusual artifact while on an arrowhead hunting trip with my bunch in August 2005. Most projectile point preforms start as a simple triangular point and the notches are added prior to hafting. There is a different form documented in Central Texas where the base was completed first and the point could be easily finished later if the base worked out satisfactorily. I have had an interest in this rare type of artifact for some time, as I found a classic example of an Alternate Preform while hunting the Colorado River banks in Burnet county during my teens. Darrell Crain, who was present when Clayton made the find, also has an example from Oakalla that was made in this alternate manner.

My Lake Travis Alternate Preform. Bulverde influence?

Darrell's Oakalla Alternate Preform. Bulverde influence?

As you can see these two typical points show signs of becoming straight stem type points. Indeed, Tom Hester studied an Alternate type preform that he noted was to have become a Bulverde or a similar stemmed point. Clayton's find is quite different from the reported Alternate Form. While we both saw traits hinting at something resembling the makings of a Victoria or possibly a Gower type it is hard to say what this unfinished point was to become, but it is far from a Bulverde type. Unfortunately it was found out of context but there have been Paleo and Early Archaic finds at this Lee county site.

Clayton's find. Notice the red tinge to the base indicating heat treatment of this material prior to attempting to make a point with it. Heat treating causes some materials to feel greasy.

This big knot in the material is where the problems probably started. I believe the ancient knapper could have knocked this off if the knot had been the only problem.

Notice the big flake that came off causing the piece to become even more out of balance. It seems the more this poor piece was worked the worse things became. This is about where one might decide it would be easier just to start over!

These odd artifacts really are interesting to study. There appears to have been at least two types of points made this way. Clayton's find isn't the typical Alternate Preform as reported by Hester, but there are many similarities. Mine is very typical of the type that Dr. Hester reported, complete with cortex left on the unworked blade portion of the failed point. I think these are important artifacts, giving one a sense of how things felt in the stoneage when things didn't work out quite as planned. It happens.

I wish to thank Clayton Vandergriff for giving me this artifact to study and record and to thank Darrell for allowing me to photograph and publish his example, not to mention thanking them for the good times shared finding Texas artifacts.

References Cited:

Turner & Hester

Gregory Perino

Photos & Text (c) David Crain /

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