Dart Points as Ritual Items

Dart point found at the very bottom of the fireplace in a context indicating that the person who built the chimney had placed it there. This item likely was placed there as a protective charm by Ransom Williams.

Wilkie observed that crystals and dart points were “religiously and magically important artifacts” that were found in yard areas and underneath houses at the Riverlake Plantation in Louisiana. Projectile points and other Native American chipped stone tools also were recovered from the Levi Jordan quarters, which housed the enslaved and freedmen community at a plantation in Brazoria County, Texas. These artifacts were recovered from contexts that suggested they might have had ritual functions.

At the Hermitage Plantation near Nashville, Tennessee, 15 artifacts found in one of the slave cabins included several broken projectile points. Archeologist Aaron Russell stated that “The recovery of prehistoric artifacts in African-American contexts at the Hermitage raises the possibility that enslaved African Americans were actively collecting and using them for some purpose.” He also notes that African Americans may have used the projectile points as strike-a-lights for starting fires.

One ethnographic account suggests an unusual connection between arrowheads, fire-making, and ritual charms. In the 1926 classic, Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro, Newbell Niles Puckett reported: "One old conjure-doctor in Mississippi told me that the Indian arrowheads often found in the locality were not made by man at all, but were fashioned by God out of thunder and lightning."

To use one for good luck, strike a spark from it with your knife (if the sparks fly readily you will know that you have a good knife) and let the spark fall upon a piece of powdered punk. Let the punk smoulder into ashes, which are to be wrapped in a piece of newspaper and carried with you always for good luck.

This oral testimony suggests a direct connection between projectile points, the creation of fire, and conjuring for bringing good luck, so a link between hearths and projectile would be a logical extension of this spiritual connection. In this case, the flint arrowhead was not the charm. Rather, it was a powerful tool used to make the ashes that were carried as a charm.

The link between hearths and ritual activities is strongly evidenced in African American archeological contexts. At the Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation in Louisiana, for example, archeologists observed: “The coin, beads, shells, buttons, and smoothed stones were found more frequently near hearths than in other parts of the cabins or in the yards.” They suggest that this may reflect ritual activity centered on the hearth and that such a ritual would take place within the house where it could be hidden.

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