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Replicas of Kramer spear points used in archaeological experiments

West Runway

Site ID: 15Be391

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​​​​​​​The West Runway site sat on a broad upland ridgetop in Boone County near the headwaters of Gunpowder Creek.  Investigations took place in 1995 prior to the construction of a new runway at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.   

All recovered artifacts, as well as the hearths and pits documented during fieldwork, date to the Early Woodland period. Experimental archaeology carried out as part of site research activities offered new insights into how Early Woodland groups used their chipped stone tools.

Kramer spear points recovered from the West Runway site.


​Seven separate deposition areas were identified at the West Runway site, based on​ ​an examination of horizontal artifact clustering.  Artifacts from each area reflected domestic activities: flint knapping, wood and bone working, animal processing, and cooking. Small groups of mobile Native hunter-gatherers apparently had used the site frequently for short periods of time.

Investigators recovered some of the earliest ceramics documented in Kentucky from the West Runway site.  Known as Fayette Thick, these thick-walled ceramic vessels (.4 to .9 inches thick) were most likely constructed by coiling.  The West Runway Runway examples were made with local clays. Site potters had added fragments of igneous/metamorphic rock (including feldspar, hornblende, and quartz) and grit to the clay, ranging in size from very fine to very coarse, prior to building their vessels. The addition of these materials promoted even firing in open-air fires, ensuring water-tight vessels. Site inhabitants made and used ceramic vessels for cooking and to store their food.

West Runaway also produced a large amount of chipped-stone tool debris and many stone tools. Of particular note was the recovery of 22 Kramer spear points. Kramer points have straight to slightly convex bases, long straight or outward-curving stems (usually making up over one-third the length of the point), prominent shoulders, and triangular blades.  Based on intersite comparisions, researchers discovered that, on average, the West Runway flintknappers made their Kramer points 0.6 inches shorter than Kramer points made by knappers in Illinois. 

When Nativ​e knappers sharpened or repaired chipped stone tools, the tools often became shorter. This difference in spear point length suggested to researchers that most of the West Runway points were shorter than their Illinois counterparts because Native residents at West Runway used their tools for longer periods of time. Resharpening their tools several times before they threw them away produced shorter points.

Example of Fayette Thick pottery - two views of the base of a flat-bottomed vessel.

What's Cool?

​Experimental Archaeology​

Archaeologists can investigate how Native people used their stone tools by examining the wear on tool edges. One way to link tool edge wear with ancient activities is to design experiments with tools that are produced and used in ways identical to the ways in which ancient people would have made and used theirs. In this way, tools recovered from a site can be compared to the replicas to see if they have similar patterns of edge wear. If they do, then most likely, Native people used the ancient tool in a similar manner as the replica tool. This gives archaeologists insights into ancient artifact function. 

The West Runway site project experiments consisted of hunting and butchering a white-tailed deer with Kramer spear point replicas. Then, researchers​ used a microscope to look for evidence of wear and polish on the experimental specimens, and compared the patterns they observed on the replicas to the archaeological specimens.

The results of their analysis suggested that Native toolmakers heavily resharpened their tools, ​indicating a long artifact life and multiple reuses.  Researchers concluded that although these tools were primarily used for hunting, some had been ​reconditioned for boring hides and bone/antlers, grooving bone/antler, and planing wood.

Replicas of Kramer spear points used in archaeological hunting and animal butchering experiments.

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