You usually thing of archaeologists working in far-off places like Africa and Asia, but, as this story reveals, there’s plenty of stuff to be found right here in Northern Virginia:
With its plethora of plaques, museums and homes of past presidents, Alexandria is a city that is proud of its history.
But nothing in any Alexandria museum can compare with a chipped rock the size of a matchbox that archaeologists recently identified as the oldest artifact ever found in the city.
Estimated to be 13,000 years old, the spearhead is the first piece of evidence that people inhabited Alexandria when it was just grasslands. Previously, the oldest artifact unearthed in Alexandria was a 9,000-year-old spearhead found at Jones Point.
“That is really what makes it very significant,” said Alexandria preservation archaeologist Francine Bromberg. “We thought [people] were here, but we never had the tool type to tell us that was the case.”
The chipped rock, known as a Clovis point, was identified by the chips on both sides, a concave base and a fluted channel that would have been attached to a stick to create a spear. Native Americans would have used the Clovis point to hunt the abundant elk, bear, deer, moose and even mastodons that roamed the area.
The tip of the point is missing. Fairfax County archaeologist Michael Johnson said the point probably broke while it was being sharpened and was then discarded. Most Clovis points are made from jasper or chert, two types of quartz, but this one was made from a third type, quartzite.
The point was unearthed in the westernmost section of Freedmen’s Cemetery at South Washington and Church streets in Alexandria. The site has yielded a wide variety of points and other evidence of prehistoric activity.
“Basically, we have a site that was visited and occupied throughout the course of Native American prehistory, 13,000 to 400 years ago,” Bromberg said.
More information about Clovis points, and the ancient North American civilization that created them, can be found here.