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COMMUNITY VOICE: Arrowheads? Probably not.

There are many of us who have found ancient artifacts from early Native Americans while walking our fields and farm roads after a fresh rain has exposed them to view as they migrate to the surface from so many years ago. 

My wife found her one and only arrowhead many years ago while working in the long gone vegetable garden. 

Myself, I have never found any until five weeks ago, although I have looked for them. Finally I did spot one, and it was in perfect condition. At 3 inches long I assumed it was a spear point. With the one the wife found and mine, we now have a two-piece collection. 

Then, three weeks ago my visiting brother found a smooth rock the size of a goose egg down at the creek behind our house on a small mound of earth. One can see and feel the smooth parts of this “stone tool” where it had been held and used for many a project. 

This spurred my interest in Indian stone tools so I contacted our “Editor,” Paula Bryant, and asked her for advice on a contact for early American artifacts. Of course Paula knows everyone and in short order gave me the information I needed to contact Professor Brian Bates from Longwood University where he is an associate professor of anthropology there. 

Dr. Bates returned my call in short order and was most helpful with all the questions I had for him. I found out that he was conducting an excavation/dig with some of his students at our Staunton River Battlefield State Park at this time and made arrangements to meet him there on May 30. I also said I would bring the artifact collection from my sister-in law, Allison Johnson, which numbered about 250 pieces she has found mostly at a single site behind their house several years ago. 

I met Dr. Bates and his assistant along with nine of his students out in the middle of a field at the park this past Thursday. I understand that they have been using this same site since the middle/late 1990s. 

To say that I was impressed with what I saw there and with the professor would be an understatement. I actually stayed for over three hours and watched how the excavation/classification process was carried out. 

Dr. Bates allowed me much of his time when he was not instructing his students. I learned so much that it left me wanting more. 

Before I left, Dr. Bates actually held a short study class on the 250 artifacts I had brought with me and had laid them out on a table in three different groups according to the quality of each piece (broken pieces, half points and full un-broken points).

So here I am with all these arrowheads right? 

WRONG! 

Out of all these 250 or so stone artifacts, there was only one true arrowhead. How many of you knew that the Native Americans (Indians as we/some call them) have only used the bow and arrow for the last 2,000 years? 

I found out that the approximately 125 easily identifiably hunting points were from 3,000 to 10,000 years old, before the bow and arrow was even used in North America. So what the heck are these? They sure look like arrowheads to me — and everyone else.

They are spear points and knife points that attached to a handle of sorts and were used as a knife. Mostly these “arrowheads” are attached (the smaller ones) to a spear and thrown by the use of an “Atlatl.” The Atlatl is a tool that uses leverage to attain greater velocity in dart throwing. It consists of a shaft with a cup or spur at the end and is held by the hand to throw the light-weight spear/dart at game. 

It appears that all these points I brought to the good professor were too old to be used as a true arrowhead. Only one was identified as from the “Woodland Era” about 1,800 to 500 years ago. 

I learned way more than I can put down here and would recommend those with their own “arrowheads” to research the Internet to see what they really have. 

To have such valuable artifacts from the past one should really know their true meaning. I plan on many more hours doing my own research as each different shape of these points represents a different era in time. 

Oh, my goose egg rock stone tool, it is called a hammer stone and had many varied uses as the way we use hammers today. Dr. Bates seems to think it was used as a “nutter” — a hammer stone used to crack open nuts. 

And just this morning I realized that it was found where we have wild walnut trees growing at the creek. 

The hammer stone’s age? Hard to say. Anywhere from 500 years old to whenever the first people ever visited the  “Oak Level Triangle,” thousands of years ago.

Crone lives in South Boston.