Falling Arrows Project

Falling Arrows Project is a campaign for awareness and fundraising. Our project intends to focus long overdue attention on the vanished Manhanset tribe of Native Americans, formerly of Shelter Island. Our means of doing so is through a large assemblage of recovered artifacts, using this collection as a window into the lives of the Manhanset native people who produced them. Falling Arrows Project is an inventive hybridization of cultural retrieval, with an art sale-as-fundraiser. Our capital campaign is unconventional for the way it offers artwork to participants for their contribution to our stated mission of researching and writing a book. By taking an interest, learning, and ultimately underwriting our mission through collecting art, participants will allow us to achieve our goal of telling this story in a comprehensive way ..

Shelter Island Lithic Assemblage

Shelter Island Lithic Assemblage

"The Shelter Island Collection of lithic evidence painstakingly built by island artist and local John Pagliaro encompasses an array of Indigenous North American cultural artifacts, and is the largest single collection of quartz artifacts assembled on Long Island in some 60 years."

Sample Points

Clockwise from top:
⚬ Beekman Triangular [4800-4500 BP]
⚬ Madison [1100-200 BP]
⚬ Squibnocket Triangle [4500-4000 BP]
⚬ Levanna [1300-600 BP]
(all in white quartz)

Clockwise from top:
⚬ Atlantic Phase Blade in white quartz [4300-3700 BP]
⚬ Stark in quartzite [7000-6500 BP]
⚬ Lamoka in cream quartz [5500-4500 BP]

From left to right:
⚬ Poplar Island in quartz [6000-4000 BP]
⚬ Bare Island in brown argillaceous shale [4500-1500 BP]
⚬ Schuylkill in quartz [4000-2000 BP]

From left to right:
⚬ Taconic Stemmed in white quartz [5000-4000 BP]
⚬ Poplar Island in green-gray slate [6000-4000 BP]
⚬ Bare Island in cream quartz [4500-1500 BP]

From left to right:
⚬ Lamoka (in drill form) in quartz [5500-4500 BP]
⚬ Orient Fishtail in gray quartz [4000-2500 BP]
⚬ Kanawha in vein quartz [4000-2500 BP]
⚬ Drybrook Fishtail in vein quartz [3500-2500 BP]

Clockwise from top:
⚬ Vosburg in white quartz [5000-4000 BP]
⚬ Brewerton side-notched in red slate [6000-4000 BP]
⚬ Otter Creek in black speckled rhyolite [5000-3500 BP]


What if you had received notice about people who vanished—an entire tribe—who passed from vibrancy into extinction without much attention paid at all? The absence of their humanity created an all-consuming silence, a vacuum induced by their near-total erasure. Gone were their own voices or any voice to remember them well. The disregard with which the Manhansets were dispatched is equal to the utter lack of regard that a eurocentric history extends to them. Degraded to a mere footnote today, as they were little more than an inconvenience at the time of European ambitions for their traditional ancestral home. Ours is a history that reduces them to a preamble and an afterthought in the same arrogant breath of self-reference. In order not to be reconsidered or rejected outright, the version of euro-centric history often spoon-fed, relies on collective amnesia. Individuals and societies capable of decimating entire humanity and culture for the sake of self-glorification and fortune are not likely to record a history that gives any further measure of respect than was initially put forth.

Falling Arrows Project is a campaign for awareness and fundraising. Our project intends to focus long overdue attention on the vanished Manhanset tribe of Native Americans, formerly of Shelter Island. Our means of doing so is through a large assemblage of recovered artifacts, using this collection as a window into the lives of the Manhanset native people who produced them. Falling Arrows Project is an inventive hybridization of cultural retrieval, with an art sale-as-fundraiser. Our capital campaign is unconventional for the way it offers artwork to participants for their contribution to our stated mission of researching and writing a book. This inventive structure allows interested people to participate in a way that rewards them substantially with the lasting value of beautiful artwork. By taking an interest, learning, and ultimately underwriting our mission through collecting art, participants will allow us to achieve our goal of telling this story in a comprehensive way. We are selling this artwork through our website as a means to incentivize active participation in Falling Arrows Project. Our book incorporates multiple aspects: the narrative of the artifacts’ recovery, the attendant archaeological information and how this scientific discipline informs our lithic assemblage, and finally, historical sleuthing; thorough research will synthesize disparate historical records to our best ability. Our aim is to once-and-forall ensure that the Manhanset tribe is given its rightful place in regional New York history.

Were any thread of memory or language linking breathing, modern Manhanset lives to those brutally removed from their own ancestral home in the mid 1600s, those voices would surely speak of these people having been, not so long ago, a vital and powerful culture. A rich tapestry of ritual and beliefs carried along by a strong and proud people. Manhansets were not only a vital culture, but the most prominent; one whose sachem (chief) held authority over the remaining 15 indigenous tribes, west across Long Island, NY nearly all the way to Manhattan. For seven years I have collected their remnant stone artifacts for the jewels that they are. I have become lost for a time, on a beach, a spit of land that reaches back to the end of the last ice age. Simple daily walks have resulted in complex metaphysics—untethered travel towards an abstract horizon of temporal collapse. The time accumulated under the sands of this beach represent the sum total of human presence on this North American land mass, as we understand it.

In my mind and through my lived experience, I have linked these two possibly unrelated things; a culturally influential indigenous group, and the recurring and persistent presence of human life in one location, throughout epochs of time. My reflex is towards intuition, where a scientist confronting the same hypothesis will surely demand data. Fortunately I have both, but I’m choosing to come from the vantage point that favors intuition over a purely analytical approach. Even before the science became known to me, it is the force of intuition about how and where to recover points that delivered me to this juncture when I am fully committed to telling the story of these erased people and of their tribe. They are called the Manhanset of Manhansack-aha-quashawomack (island sheltered by islands, Algonquin language). Today I live in this place, whose modern name still owes full debt to its original custodians—the indigenous, Algonquin speaking Manhansets: Shelter Island.

I never meant to start looking for arrowheads. They presented themselves underfoot. I live, generally speaking, among a constant barrage of incoming questions. In the case of the newly arrived arrowheads: whose were they? How were they used? Why are they present on these two facing beaches? When did they originate? The questions fell like a heavy rain—I simply could not escape them. The projectile points also came, and with enough frequency that it caused a stir of disbelief, among skeptical local onlookers observing me from armchairs with healthy doubt. As an artist, I’ve grown used to being considered with circumspection by default, so I just carried on about my work, reasonably undaunted. The uncanny abundance of extant arrowheads, and my ability to hone in on them, brought along more questions still, but questions, as I’ve said, is my territory, and I am a hunter, well fisherman, to be precise. So many points ultimately arrived, that by sheer force of their beauty and power they compelled Falling Arrows Project, a mission of cultural retrieval using this beach-collected assemblage of artifacts as a navigational tool.

Standing in front of 600 of these sophisticated quartz tools, amassed in one display box, people are struck time and again with the vitality of the objects. A force that is projected back upon their makers, although they are now an absent and disembodied tribe. You can sense the embedded determination of the hand work concealed by the visual grace these projectiles hold. Miraculous artifacts wrestled out of brittle, unforgiving quartz stone. Sending a shockwave of humanity rippling forward across time in a wavelength that hits you right in the gut. Arrowheads are the kind of icon that achieves universality because they reduce the shared human experience to its purest visual equivalency—we all need to eat, and this hunters’ emblem says it simply in formal shorthand. The impulse to hunt and gather is part of our genetic, biological and spiritual constitution, so we all speak arrowhead. Projectile points constitute a specific part of our collective, a priori understanding of rudimentary symbols which silently convey human behavior, enjoying a universality that defies simple explanation.

The lithics, as archaeological science terms them, easily transmit animated power with their energetic physical presence. They resonate like hundreds of gleaming teeth. So much so that for a split second one might be deceived over the harsh hand dealt by history; a population reduction equalling genocide. In the brighter glare of truth you are standing only in front of the extant cultural remains of a people entirely removed from their original, rightful home, Shelter Island. But the object’s majesty can seduce the onlooker into forgetting that the projectiles stand in-stead for an entire people. And trying to move beyond the crushing sadness of their physical absence from Shelter Island, it remains impossible to miss the force of the Manhansets’ artifacts—a triad of beauty, elegance and power. And it is impossible also not to wonder longingly about the lives behind the objects. Before any jaw-dropping science is superimposed onto these stones, they remain human objects. Their humanity outshines anything I will ever be able to say about them.

When the numbers of points remaining on the beaches became astonishing, I had the distinct feeling that Shelter Island was collectively, consciously regarded as a special place for a very, very long time. Intuition and science gained an easy interplay; complementary forces working together organically, leading me to points, which themselves offered objective data, attached to remarkable age and pre-history. Our minds and imaginations are invited to wander back to more abundant and unspoiled times, and to a totally different physical landscape than is presently here around us. The Redstone (Paleo, 13,000-9,000 B.P.) type projectile recovered and included within the collection helped conjure visions of post-glacial nomadic hunters in high-stakes pursuit of mammoths and other megafauna. All in a vast tundra landscape, the sea still hundreds of feet lower than now. This landscape was actively thawing and undergoing rapid, dramatic transformation, both physically and climatologically.

During my daily hunts along two adjacent beaches for arrowheads, I was able to decipher and exploit a rhythm by which the points are continually uncovered. Moon-tides and storm cycles cause them to appear in the tidal margin, having been freshly revealed by shifting sands. All of these natural factors contribute handily to the points recurring patterns of ‘passive excavation’ from layers of vertically accumulated time, strata concealed deceptively under the ribbon of sand we call the beach. Perhaps regarded as inert or static, the beach is actually a shifting array of liquid and solid ingredients. Almost on a drum rotation, the strata are in constant flux and motion. So much so that they must be observed every single day, or as closely as possible, in order to be properly read: used productively to recover extant artifacts on a sustained daily basis over seven years on the same beaches. And an obsession is, in this very manner, born and nurtured, drawn out to some ultimate, invisible conclusion somewhere in the future. The rewards have been far greater than the time spent. But neither element, time or joy, have been given or received in small measure, by any reasonable metric.

The lightest scratch beneath the shallow grave of European presence on Shelter Island (and North America) quickly delivers us a spate of questions and even sharp contradictions between available accounts of what happened here when the Manhanset people were alternately subjugated then displaced by Europeans, Nathaniel Sylvester not least among them. It begs to be researched thoroughly with regard to truth, or a more comprehensive total of competing truths, as they remain available and retrievable.

We’ve built a website that will help people see and learn, by way of these assembled artifacts, about this powerful tribe of indigenous people for whom this island was home. We encourage people to learn along with us, ask questions, and generally just wonder at the magnificent stone implements that speak so powerfully, if sadly, in their makers’ stead. In some ways a small recompense for any pursuit of historical veracity in the face of genocide, nevertheless, a useful tool that we have at our disposal. A tool with compelling beauty if taken only on aesthetic merits, but carrying very detailed data embedded within an archaeological understanding of the objects. With Falling Arrows Project we want to use these two aspects of this lithic assemblage to restore some sense of balance and proportion to the New York historical record, thinking in deep time, not just the usual, inherently foreshortened eurocentric model. Up until this point, the record has not acknowledged or celebrated the Manhanset people for who they were, in some comprehensive gesture. Falling Arrows Project aims to contribute to this goal.

Various parts of this narrative are assembled around us, asking to be put together again. The broken and scattered nature of the human, cultural tapestry of Manhanset lives results in many ways because of the genocide they suffered at the hands of European “settlers.” Their story wants to be told, and the different fragments have arrayed themselves, demanding to be reassembled after a very long wait; the dormancy of neglect, or having been passively relegated to cultural oblivion. I plan to write the story down in book form, with the passion and exacting detail that it well merits. At this late date in 2016, it is a long overdue gesture I’d say. I’m asking for your help to fund writing this book over the next year. In purchasing artworks you are giving the generous gift of time and focus this project requires to be completed to the highest standard.



Drift & Upcycled

Ceramic Stones


The Shelter Island Lithics Collection is comprised of seven hundred and fifty artifacts gathered on daily walks taken over the past seven years, all along two facing local beaches on the east end of Long Island. In 2009 I found the first quartz arrowhead laying on the sand while launching a fishing boat. Now in 2016, the points are still being revealed one after another, by tidal swings that are influenced by lunar and storm cycles. I’ve been consumed by this passion to recover stone artifacts—blindsided by their irresistible magic. My obsession with collecting the points is fueled by knowing the collection represents an intimate, fleeting glimpse of the humanity embedded in the artifacts belonging to the Manhanset native people who were displaced from Shelter Island. The tribes departure coincided with the acquisition of their island by Nathaniel Sylvester. The Manhanset story will be further obscured over the coming decades, their artifacts lost beneath the rising sea levels.

Archaeologists dig artifacts by way of meticulous excavations where all cultural objects are methodically mapped on a three-dimensional grid. An artifact’s position in situ is noted within the overall site plan, and relative to accumulated layers of earth (strata). The different layers, in turn, correlate to distinct periods of human developmental time or cultural horizons. An artifact’s age is associatively given to types of artifacts extrapolated from radiocarbon dates determined from extant campfire charcoal or other carbon based cultural remains (textiles, basketry, bone, etc.). Most vocational enthusiasts surface-hunt for arrowheads in plowed fields or stream beds. As a result, their finds do not enjoy the precise carbon-dating that artifacts retrieved in stratigraphic context do (archaeological dig). A surface-find artifact is dated more generally, its age estimated by typology, falling somewhere within the several-thousand-year use and production of that known type.

Shelter Island Lithic Assemblage

Shelter Island Lithic Assemblage

This assemblage is distinguished by the dominance of Quartz lithic material (98% of overall collection). Quartz is extremely resistant to facile production of projectile points, or reduction into other kinds of implements. Throughout most of the U.S. and even globally, cherts, obsidian and other flints were favored by early people. These stone materials were much more readily knapped than quartz. Their very tight, closed graining, allows for broad and clean cleavage, or flaking, versus the glass-like fracturing that occurs with silica-rich and hence brittle, quartz material. This distinction makes quartz lithic analysis a substantially different endeavour than with other materials. With flints, the physical nuances of a point that enables easy classification as a known type is relatively easy to decipher. In quartz, the maker’s intentions and pattern of production are less obvious, obscured by irregular fracturing associated with the material. Greater scrutiny must be brought to bear for proper analysis of quartz lithics in many cases.

The collection includes point types associated with the period of developmental time following the end of the last ice age (Paleolithic). The collection also includes rare Dalton types as well as the aforementioned Redstone Clovis point and an Agate Basin type. All three types are associated with the Paleo/Early Archaic periods of developmental time, when humans were generally nomadic in pursuit of mega fauna species and other food sources. The local Shinnecock Tribe of native people say that their existence in this area dates back 10,000 years or longer. This longevity in-place is a strong part of their cultural identity, doubtless reinforced by oral histories. In light of the lithic evidence within this assemblage of artifacts, there is a strong link between Shinnecock cultural history and the lithic evidence present on Shelter Island.

Diverse Sample

Sample Group

Though our sample may be limited by our imposed method of artifact recovery, it is also telling. The assemblage shows influence from many different cultural horizons, by way of regional variants of types associated with these disparate cultural groups and time frames: Morrow Mountain/Stark(North Carolina), Adena(Ohio River Valley), Laurentian/Brewertons(St. Lawrence River Valley and Great Lakes Region), Dalton/auriculate concave points(Southeastern U.S.). We see the use of varied lithic materials, and the introduction of exotic lithic material (sourced 250+ miles from the specimen’s recovery location). Examples include Onondaga Chert and a honey-brown agate sourced to Pennsylvania (Agate Basin Type, 9,000 BP). Lithic materials such as red and gray shale, brown siltstone, and speckled rhyolite indicate possible navigation along the Northeastern Maritime corridor, some stones coming from Connecticut, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and even northward to Maine.

The Shelter Island assemblage indicates trends that would be amplified across a wider sampling, when gathered through an archaeological dig as opposed to our strategy of surface hunting on just two local beaches. Projectile points in this assemblage are the beach-glass equivalent in arrowheads of the more pristine and intact versions, excavated from beneath ground. They have been subjected to many years of polishing by the tidal agitation, where sand and water act together as an abrasive. It is their rarer lithic material, quartz, to which these specimens owe their debt of long-standing survival in this inhospitable environment. Quartz is ranked just fourth from the top (diamond) on the geologic scale of hardness (Moh’s). On rare occasion a beach recovered lithic will still display some sharpness along its ‘working’ edges, having been freshly eroded from a protective layer that has shielded it from the degradation of sustained tidal forces. Fewer than five out of more than 800 lithics are in this condition.

Lithic Groups

The variety of point types and diversity of lithic materials contained in this assemblage indicate that the Manhanset Indigenous people were probably an influential and culturally prominent tribe. It is well documented that Pogatticut, the Manhanset Sachem (chief) at the time of Shelter Island’s acquisition by Nathaniel Sylvester, was grand-chief to all 15 Long Island Native Americans tribes. The sheer number of remaining projectile points present on two small beaches demonstrate human presence over multiple developmental periods, and geographically disparate cultural groups. Several of the types recovered suggest human presence extending back to very early, known habitation of this region of the North American continent. A broad array of cultural horizons are demonstrated, in one way or another, to have held a presence, or exerted cultural influence on Shelter Island (whether protracted or temporary).

The data extrapolated from this collection of projectiles compiled as surface finds by one person over seven years, indicate that Shelter Island was an intersection and meeting place to a broad range of indigenous peoples. As large and visually striking as this assemblage may appear, it’s crucial to see it as a limited sampling of actual artifacts that are present. This outcome is likely limited by both the method of recovering these artifacts and the duration of the effort. That the majority of surviving artifacts on Shelter Island have yet to be recovered and analyzed seems like an easy deduction. The potential results to be gained through professional archaeological digs will almost certainly yield data that is far more conclusive.

John Pagliaro





One Person





Books as Editor