Ventral and dorsal surfaces of a possible gunflint made from locally available quartz. Size: approximately 0.9 inches long and wide, 0.3 inches thick.
Gunflints during the Colonial period typically were made from a grey to black English flint from spalls struck off of large nodules or quarried blocks. Some flints made of Continental flint, usually honey-colored, were imported. These were professionally made from long blade flakes and snapped into roughly one-inch lengths.
Colonists often made gunflints from nodules of English flint that arrived in the holds of ships as ballast. When the ships laded tobacco, grain, and other goods in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, the merchants discarded their stone ballast, often in violation of Colonial laws that prohibited the practice because it impeded navigation. English flint occurs in chalk deposits and is not indigenous to North America. The name 'Chalk Point' is not uncommon in the Chesapeake region and, at least in some cases, may derive from the discovery of ballast loads of chalk and flint.
Indians acquired firearms, shot, and powder from the colonists; again, sometimes in violation of Colonial laws. Stephen Potter, in his book Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs (University of Virginia, 1993, p. 204) notes that gunflints made by Indians have been found on Contact period sites, no doubt replacing English flints that were lost or worn and for which replacements were not readily available.
This one piece from Port Tobacco is a potentially very interesting find, especially given the interest in finding the Indian village of Portobaco that appears on John Smith's map, published in 1612.
John Smith map of 1612. Portobaco is circled in red just above the center of the image.
I will try to prepare scale drawings for a future posting so that readers can decide for themselves whether or not this is a gunflint or a very small aboriginal scraper that was used in preparing hides or shaping wood. I think a few accompanying illustrations of known European gunflints will assuage most doubters.