Monday, June 15, 2015

Ocracoke in the Ice Age

In 2007 I published a post (with photos) of an ancient jasper point that my neighbor, Edward Norvell, found on Ocracoke's beach. 

Although we were pretty sure the point was quite old, we are not trained anthropologists. Finally, after eight years, we have been able to contact a well-respected anthropologist whose specialty is the study of the Clovis Culture, a prehistoric, Paleo-Indian culture. We sent him photographs of the point, and this is what we discovered:

Although it is difficult to determine the provenance of an artifact only from photographs, the fact that the point has a flute on one side and a few flakes that go past the midline, plus a bevel on the opposite side from the flute, indicates that this is a Clovis "preform" (a not totally finished point, basically). In addition, it appears that some time later (there is no way to tell how much later) someone did further sharpening on the edges. In other words, someone began to make a Clovis point, got pretty far along, then abandoned the project. Then either she or someone else decided to sharpen it without finishing it up into a full Clovis point. The fact that it is not waterworn indicates it was buried under the sand offshore, then was dredged up and carried in during a storm. All of this suggests that  Clovis occupations were established near Ocracoke around 13,000 years before the present.

Earlier this year, I also published a blog post about a fossilized bison tooth that was found in the water near Springer's Point.

So, now we know that large mammals and Paleo-Indians were roaming these parts at the end of the last ice age, when sea levels were much lower and the coast of North Carolina was 70 to 80 miles farther seaward.

For more information, read Pat Garber's recent article in the Ocracoke Observer. Her article was written before we received the latest information about Edward Norvell's jasper point.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Part II of Crystal Canterbury's account of her first visit to Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:


  1. It doesn't mean that clovis people were on Okracoke. If the point shows signs of being reused at a later time and could have been brought over them.

    1. You are correct, of course. We have even wondered if a very recent visitor might have dropped it while strolling along the beach...but we don't think so.

  2. Anonymous6:15 PM

    it doesn't matter. as long as it's spit shined and has a good coat of Turtle Wax on it, it will be worthy of a center place on a coffee table.

  3. Anonymous8:08 AM

    This begs the question, were all points found in an area made from rocks found in that area? The question can also be asked were rocks traded or brought to other areas, locations, tribes to be made into points? We know tribes in North America migrated and or wintered in warmer areas which leads one to speculate another scenarios Points could be "coin of the realm!"

    1. There are no rocks on Ocracoke (other than ballast stones brought here by ship, or other rocks brought recently for driveways, etc.).