What is novaculite?
Arkansas Novaculite is a microcrystalline sedimentary rock that outcrops in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. Like other cherts, it is primarily composed of silica. Geologists describe the Arkansas Novaculite formation as a Devonian and Mississippian age deposit. For further information on novaculite geology, go to the Arkansas Geological Survey.
Novaculite mining for the whetstone industry began in the area around Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the early 1800s. Novaculite is still mined commercially for whetstones as well as for construction materials.
For American Indians living in the Ouachita Mountains region in the past, novaculite was an essential raw material for manufacturing sharp-edged durable tools. Novaculite was quarried from outcrops on mountain ridges. The large pits and piles of debris left behind by that quarrying created some of the largest archeological sites recorded in Arkansas – and in North America.
Novaculite was exchanged beyond its source area as well. Tools made from novaculite are found on archeological sites beyond the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and even in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri, on sites as early as 10,500 B.C. in the Paleoindian period. On-going research by the Arkansas Archeological Survey investigates the question of whether people in those areas came directly to the Ouachita Mountains sources or whether they traded with local residents to get novaculite, especially during the Archaic period (see Jones Mill Archeological Project).
Novaculite boulders and Ouachita Mountains view.
What is this website?
This website is a virtual lithic comparative collection featuring Arkansas Novaculite from Ouachita Mountain sources. It is aimed at archeologists and other researchers who work in Arkansas and in surrounding states and need comparative materials to aid in the identification and sourcing of stone artifacts from archeological sites. In addition to visual presentation and description of the variation within and between sources, the final website will include information on the effects of heat treatment on novaculite and results of chemical characterization studies on specific quarries.
This website should also appeal to people who have an interest in the history and archeology of Arkansas and the surrounding region, and in learning about Indians who lived here for thousands of years. After reading these pages, go to the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s Educational Resources page, or to the “Indians of Arkansas” website, to learn more.
Tyler Stumpf records information at a novaculite quarry in Garland County.
You are seeing a preliminary version of this website. Thanks to a planning mini-grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, we have created a 3-page prototype of the novaculite virtual comparative collection website. If you like what you see and think it would be useful to develop the full version, let us know!
For comments or further information on this website, please contact Mary Beth Trubitt, Arkansas Archeological Survey, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Website text and photographs created by Mary Beth Trubitt, Tyler Stumpf, and Vanessa Hanvey (Arkansas Archeological Survey, Arkadelphia). Website design and coding created by John Samuelsen (Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville). We thank Christopher Davies and Lydell Lively for their comments on this project.
This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Copyright 2012, 2013, Arkansas Archeological Survey
2475 North Hatch Avenue
Fayetteville, AR 72704