Jim Fisher's Avocational Archaeology
& Lithic Technology
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Virtual Point Restoration

Fisher, James V. (1999). "Virtual Point Restoration". Indian Artifact Magazine. The Ovid Bell Press, Fulton MO. Vol. 18-4, pp. 58-59. (© 1999, unauthorized reproduction prohibited.)

    We've all found them before.  They offer the tantalizing promise of an artifact worthy of a space in your own creme de la creme display case.  A near perfect tip or base of a beautiful projectile protrudes from the soil  on your favorite site.  As you bend down to retrieve the point your heart begins to race, the image of a perfectly intact ancient artifact develops in your mind.  The final approach in your descent affirms that the piece is of high grade material and you find yourself suddenly short of breath.  You hesitate for just a moment to savor the in-situ marvel of what will certainly be a valuable show piece.  You extend your hand and pluck the artifact from its time worn resting place to ultimately reveal....a heartbreaker.  A portion of the tip or base of an otherwise impressive find is missing.  After letting loose with a short tirade of choice expletives your heart sinks and you begin to feel the disappointment of finding yet another broken point. 
    If an incomplete find is of typological rarity or exceptional quality you may consider sending it off to one of a number of skilled craftsmen who specialize in lithic restoration.  While quality restoration is available, it is also quite expensive.  Having a large percentage of your broken finds restored could become a rather costly endeavor.

For most collectors the constraints of a limited budget would certainly force you to be discreet in  choosing incomplete points worthy of such treatment.  But what about the not so spectacular broken finds, aren't they worthy of having their voids filled? 
    As an undergraduate Anthropology major I had taken a course in  archaeological methods which included a segment on lithic illustration.  I often found myself drawing in the missing component(s) of broken points.  Illustrating what was lost was a means of satisfying my natural curiosity about what an incomplete point may have once looked like in its entirety.  I have more recently begun to experiment with the use of computer technology as a means of virtually restoring broken finds. 
    Armed with a degree of artistic talent, a personal computer, a color scanner and a graphic image editing program, you too can create a virtual point collection.  It may not take away the full disappointment of your in-field experience but it may help you to sleep better.  Virtual restorations can help put your mind at ease with a pleasant view of what once may have been.  If you already possess the required hardware (PC and scanner), aside from your initial investment in a suitable editing program, you can easily afford to virtu

ally restore your entire collection of broken points.
    If you're a novice collector this is a great way to learn more about the artifacts you are finding.  In order to accurately reconstruct an artifact you must have an educated concept of what the artifact might have looked like considering its typology.  Referencing images found in any of the better known arrowhead guide books, archaeological publications, or magazines such as IAM, can help you to develop an appreciation for the typological accuracy of your virtual restorations. 
    Bear in mind that no matter how much research you do on the typological  characteristics of your piece, the final restoration can only represent an educated approximation of what you believe the point may have looked like.  Some fractures can be identified as the result of impact and may lead us to the conclusion that a complete and functional point did in fact once exist.  Other types of fractures may have ocurred while the point was being produced.  Under these circumstances, even the original knapper would have had an interest in seeing what his finished product may have looked like. 
    I've been surface collecting artifacts for about twenty years.  If your luck is like mine then you have enough broken points in your collection to keep you busy virtually reconstructing them for some time to come.  Lets face facts, for many of us its a rare occasion to find a perfectly preserved point.  The effects of heat, cold, wind, water, soil conditions and farm implements certainly take their toll on the quality of our finds.  Thanks to computers, scanners and affordable graphic image editing software, the heartbreaking effects of environmental hazards can be virtually eliminated. 
    My interest in computers and a particular incomplete find I made last year led me to experiment with the concept of virtual restoration.  While artifact hunting in upstate New York with Dan

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Perkiomen Broad Point before virtual reconstruction.

Perkiomen Broad Point after virtual reconstruction.