Central States Archaeological Societies
Central States Archaeological Societies

 

HORSE CREEK CHERT ARTIFACTS

Charles E. Moore
Florence, Alabama
    Horse Creek chert is among the most beautiful flint types ever used by Native Americans. This red, yellow, and blue-gray chert is found sparingly on a few hill tops in south-central Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Probably a higher iron content in this chert than in other chert types causes the dramatic bright colors. When nodules are found, they are gray or brownish-gray in color on the exterior. When cracked open, the center of the nodule is brilliant red to red-orange surrounded by a yellow to yellow-white layer and finally the blue-gray exterior. This tri-colored chert is slightly heavier than other cherts and is very tough to work. It is sometimes referred to as Pickwick tricolor or Lost Quarry flint. Artifacts made from this material are found primarily along the Tennessee River Valley drainage area of northern Alabama, northern Mississippi, and southern Tennessee, though a few examples have been found as far away as Missouri. This material was used by all the Native American cultural periods from Paleo through Mississippian. There are nine fluted pieces made from Horse Creek chert known to this writer.

    Early Native Americans occasionally heat treated this chert. Heat treating causes the red to turn a burgundy or slightly purple color. The yellow bands turn to a yellow-orange, and the blue-gray sections darken-slightly. The surface also becomes more lustrous when heat treated. This information was gained through personal

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Artifacts made from Horse Creek chert from the collection of Charles E. Moore. Photo by Tony Clinton.

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Left: Hillsborough point found in Putnum County, Florida. Center: Hillsborough point from Dade County, Florida. Right: Hernado point found in Madison County, Florida. From the collection of David Abbott. Photo by Tony Clinton.

experimentation. The same molecular changes occurred when I heat treated several large flakes for 48 hours in a glowing charcoal fire.

   As a personal project I am trying to establish how widely Horse Creek chert has spread and been distributed from its original source. I would be most appreciative of information from anyone as to where artifacts of this material have been found. This might establish trade and travel routes, as well as large game migration patterns throughout the different cultural periods. My address is: Charles E. Moore, P.O. Box 894, Florence, Alabama 35631.

   The accompanying photograph demonstrates the use of this material during the Archaic and Woodland Periods in the Southeastern United States. The point on the left is a resharpened Lost Lake point dating from the Early Archaic Period (7000 to 5000 B.C.). It was found by a Mr. Gray while he was quail hunting in Alcorn County, just north of Corinth, Mississippi. It is 3 1/4 inches long. The point in the center is a Little Bear Creek point and was found by James Thorn, of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in 1996. He found the point in Lauderdale County, Alabama. This point is 4 inches long and dates from the Late Archaic to Late Woodland Periods (2000 B.C. to 500 A.D.). The Eva point was found by this writer in Lauderdale County, Alabama, around 1980. It is 2 3/4 inches in length. It dates from the Early to Middle Archaic Periods (5000 to 3000 B.C.).

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January 31 2004

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