Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: December 1949 Volume 7 Number 2, Pages 26–29

A new cache of jasper blades

J. Alden Mason

On September 17th, 1943, Mr. Michael J. Gresko of Frick's Lock's Road, Chester County, Pa., was plowing a field with a new tractor plow that made a deeper furrow than heretofore, possibly fifteen inches. He struck a mass of stones that made the plow ring so that he feared it was broken. Investigating, he found that he had turned up some large natural stones, and a number of large flaked blades of yellow jasper.

Mr. Gresko's farm is on rather hilly land close to the south bank of the Schuylkill River and the old barge canal, just across the river from Sanatoga Station a few miles east of Pottstown, where the river makes two of its largest bonds. Arrowheads, grooved axes and other archaeological objects had been found on the farm, and Mrs. Gresko has a small collection of unspectacular quality. The site had often been visited by amateur surface archeologists, but probably no more so than other farms in the neighborhood, and it apparently had no great local reputation for "richness". The cache was not on the crest of any of the small hills, but part way down the slope to the river, without any surface indication. However, this was not the first time that Mr. Gresko had turned up such blades. Last spring three were plowed up at one time, eighteen at another.

Page 27

At these times no digging was done, and since, according to their recollection, these earlier finds were at a little distance from the last one, the Greskos believed that there was another, possibly two more caches, in the field. Recently Mrs. Gresko has made a careful search for these other possible caches, but without success.

Informed by her husband of his discovery, Mrs. Gresko dug out the cache. According to her, the blades lay in a circle about three feet in diameter and eight inches in thickness, flat, overlapping, with the points toward the center and the bases toward the periphery, like the petals of a flower. The cache was covered by a few natural flattish stones of rectangular cleavage. The maximum depth was about thirty inches; since the field had been plowed for seven years it may originally have been somewhat greater. No bones or other objects or any evidence of interment were noted, nor any difference in the soil.

When I visited the site and saw the blades, five days later, they nearly filled two half-bushel peach baskets and, before a few were disposed of, they are said to have completely filled them. One hundred and forty-eight intact blades were counted, probably about thirty more were broken, and Mrs. Gresko estimated that more that twenty more had, for various reasons, passed out of her possession, so that the total was about two hundred. All seem to be of yellow jasper, excellently flaked, large relatively thin and leaf-shaped, relatively broad, comparatively uniform as regards size, without sharp points but with straight bases. They range from 5 to 7 inches in length, from 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 inches in width, with the majority probably about 2 3/4 x 6 1/2 inches.

Page 28

All the blades are of excellent quality, showing fine secondary retouching. Many of them still show striking platform of the original flake on which the blade is based, which is at an angle of about forty-five degrees to the plane of the blade. No hematite or other paint material was found on them.

Not being especially cognizant of the archeology of this region, I immediately informed Mr. John Witthoft, Assistant State Anthropologist, of the find, and he at once journeyed from Harrisburg and made a careful examination of the site and the blades. Around the hole from which the cache was removed he found a number of projectile points, quartzite cache blades, flake tools, hammerstones, an argillite chopper, and many flakes, and determined that the cache had been in the very center of the site. However, he is of the opinion that the occupation site is of an archaic period, rather older than the cache, which was apparently hidden there at a somewhat later period. Mr. Witthoft embodied most of his opinions in a written report that he made for Mrs. Gresko; this is given below. I am also indebted to him for much of the other information herein.

"The cache of Indian blades recently found near Pottstown represents a store of finished artifacts probably hidden for safekeeping by their Indian manufacturer. I know of two other almost identical caches from Chester County, Pa. (the blades are made of a different variety of flint, however), and other similar caches are well known in other sections of the Delaware drainage. These blades were best studied in New Jersey, and have been called Coens-Krispin blades, after the Coens-Krispin site near Medford, New Jersey, where about twelve caches of then have been found. Such blades are not so frequently made of jasper as of other flinty materials. They were the commonest tool in use at one state in the Indian history of the Delaware watershed, and probably were used both as spear-points and knives. The period of their manufacture is that of the earliest pottery in the area, and may be dated at A.D. 500-800 for a conservative guess.

"Comparison of the stone from which they are made with mineral samples from, the various Indian jasper quarries indicates that these blades came from Macungie, Lehigh County, where, indeed, identical blades are found on workshop sites adjacent to the jasper quarries and where two caches of jasper blades have been found. Similar blades have been collected from other quarry sites in Pennsylvania, and caches of jasper blades have also been discovered near other quarries. Aboriginal trade in jasper was extensive and Pennsylvania jasper specimens are found as far away as Cape Ann, Cape Hatteras, and southern Ontario.

Page 29

"Such caches are of importance to the archeologist because they show the variability in size, shape, quality, and workmanship of a series of tools in use at one moment in time; in fact they may often represent the product of a single workman. While it would be difficult to underestimate the historical and scientific value of such a cache, its commercial value is relatively insignificant. Such finds have generally created a great local sensation, been offered for sale, net no satisfactory offers, and have eventually been lost, scattered, and forgotten, so that most of the caches found in the past are no longer available for study and comparison."

Caches of this type are quite rare, and probably less than ten have been found in eastern Pennsylvania (they seem, to be rather more common in New Jersey). Also the average cache is of fewer blades, and of inferior materials, generally argillite, as well as of inferior workmanship. The Gresko find is therefore outstanding in several respects.


Page last updated: 2012-03-30 at 14:24 EST
Copyright © 2006-2012 Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society. All rights reserved.
Permission is given to make copies for personal use only.
All other uses require written permission of the Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society.