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Uncovering a Santa Fe Point in South Georgia

by C.I0’Neill, Monroe, North Carolina

Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.56, No.4, pg.200

Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.57, No.2, pg.95


It was a brutally hot day in South Georgia, the kind of hot where the sun beats oppressively on the temples until the head feels as if it might crack. Fortunately, Johnny Tomberlin was on the Flint River fishing, and he decided he had to take a swim. “During August you can’t stay in the boat long without jumping in the water to cool off,” he said recently.

As he cooled off in the Wild Horse area of Bak­er County, Tomerlin, a relic collector who friends say is knows for abundant good luck, decided to see if he could find an arrowhead.

He went back to his boat, fished out a mask and snorkel, and walked into the swift-moving water. When he reached about four feet, he was dismayed to see that the river bottom was blanketed in algae, stymieing efforts to see what lay before him in the tea-colored river.

Turning to go, he saw to his left something he still can’t quite believe. There, just out of reach, caught on the leaf of an underwater plant, lay a thin orange Santa Fe point, weaving to and fro in the swift water. Apparently it had recently washed out upstream and by some fluke had rested mo­mentarily on the vegetation before him.

Johnny said he thought he would not be able to retrieve the point quickly enough before it was swept away, tumbling along the bottom until it was out of reach and possibly broken against the rocks. But he lunged and grasped the point and his luck was still with him.

Johnny kept the three-inch Santa Fe point for years, a token of good fortune, but recently he let me have it. The point, pictured above, must have laid in the river for thousands of years before tum­bling out, judging by the orange patina and glossy polish and the light nicks of the modern tumbling.

When I lived in Florida, in the 1970s, the Santa Fe was considered a Dalton variant, named by John Goggin in 1950 after the river of that name in North Florida. Indeed, thinning flakes and oc­casional flutes on the ground base of some suggest a very early context. But some subsequent studies have placed the point in the Late Archaic to Early Woodland time frame, from 3500 to 1000 B.C. (Dowdy, et als, p. 139)

According to other avocational archaeologists, there are at least two distinct types that resemble Goggin’s Santa Fe. The one is a true Dalton form. The other is the one now often attributed to the lat­er time periods that is sometimes called a Santa Fe and at other times is called a Manasota or Safety Harbor.

An avocational archaeologist who has studied the problem has concluded that Dalton Period San­ta Fe points usually have a base wider than 25mm (slightly less than an inch) and are usually ground. They are, of course, rarer then the narrow based Woodland types. The point that Johnny Tomberlin found has a base 1 1/16″ across the ears and is be­lieved by both the present and former owner to be a Dalton.

Above: The point at top is the point found by Johnny Tomberlin. Note the resemblance to a Dalton. Beneath it is a similar appearing point found near Sarasota, Florida known as a Manasota. It is from the Woodland time period. If you were to hold both in your hands, the bottom point is lighter and thinner. At right is a picture of the finder, Johnny Tomberlin.”Used by Permission of the Author”
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