Fort McCoy ArtiFACT: Madison triangular projectile point
In July 2019, natural-resources field technicians with Colorado State University’s Center for the Environmental Management of Military Lands were performing an invasive-species identification survey near the Young Air Assault Strip at Fort McCoy when they noticed an oddly shaped rock on the ground surface.
The field supervisor contacted fellow contractors, cultural-resources specialists, and the Fort McCoy Cultural Resources Program manager to assess the significance of the find.
It was determined that that they had discovered a Madison triangular projectile point.
Madison triangular projectile points are a relatively common find in the archaeological record at Fort McCoy.
More than 75 similar artifacts currently reside in the Fort McCoy collection of artifacts, curated at the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
This specific type of projectile point first appeared approximately 1,100 years ago during the Late Woodland Period, which coincides with the innovation of the bow and arrow.
The point type was still in common use when Europeans arrived in the Americas.
In archaeological research, Madison points are considered true arrow heads.
Similar types of stone tools that people commonly refer to as arrow heads were not actually tools that were used for arrows, but were actually “projectile points” that were attached to a long wooden pole and used as spear points.
The arrow itself is a projectile and only one part of a bow-and-arrow ranged weapon system.
In North America, the tip of the arrow was originally made from a variety of stone materials, such as obsidian, chert, or hixton silicified sandstone.
Today’s modern arrow tips are often referred to as broadheads and are typically made from metal but still serve the same purpose as the Madison triangular points from the Late Woodland era.
The Center for the Environmental Management of Military Lands hires dozens of technicians every year to assist the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch (NRB) with stewardship of the biological and cultural resources at the installation. Each year, the technicians begins with a training seminar and safety briefing.
Incoming technicians learn about archaeological artifacts that they may encounter in the field and what to do if they find something. The recovery of the Madison triangular point shows the usefulness of such training.
All archaeological work conducted at Fort McCoy was coordinated by the NRB. Visitors and employees are reminded they should not collect artifacts on Fort McCoy or other government lands and leave the digging to the professionals.
Any person who excavates, removes, damages, or otherwise alters or defaces any historic or prehistoric site, artifact, or object of antiquity on Fort McCoy is in violation of federal law.
The discovery of any archaeological artifact should be reported to the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.
(Article prepared by the Colorado State University’s Center for the Environmental Management of Military Lands.)