Found in Chilmark
Gift of Chris Tonelli
Martha's Vineyard had not been an island for very long when this blade was made, but the people who lived and hunted here had been using the land for millennia. Even after rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age formed the Island six thousand years ago, these ancestors of today's Wampanoag Tribe were never isolated, traveling to and from the mainland in dugout canoes and trading with their neighbors.
This finely crafted blade is evidence of the well-established trade networks in northeastern North America. Precious ceremonial goods, new technologies, and a wide range of artifacts from distant quarries flowed into southern New England through these trade routes. In addition to readily available cobbles, such as quartz, high-quality stone and artifacts arrived by trade to the Vineyard from as far north as Labrador, New York, and Maine. Closer mainland quarries in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut also provided stone, including soapstone from a quarry in Willbraham, Massachusetts. Several species of mollusks were important trade items from Cape Cod and the Islands. Beads and ornaments made from the shells have been found on sites in New England and beyond.
This blade, made of jasper from eastern Pennsylvania, was found near Squibnocket Pond in Chilmark and is one of several jasper artifacts from the same source in the Museum's collections. Projectile points in this shape are named for their distinctive base, which resembles the tail of a plucked turkey. The more finely crafted turkey-tail blades were made for ceremonial use, while cruder examples functioned as hafted knives. The main concentration of turkey-tail blades is from the Midwest, but quite a few have been found in Massachusetts.