Sunday, August 09, 2009

Outside the Wyre: My Own Backyard

Before I begin, let me welcome Brian back to his site, and say a fond farewell, probably, with a last post. Since I may be outta here, let me begin by digging at his nibs, and pointing out something here... In his post, "How to be an Archaeologist: Codes of Conduct Regarding Small Finds" Brian gives us a picture of WA, with the caption "Various members of Wyre Archeology standing around watching Carlo carefully extract a green toy soldier(circa 1965)from the trench.

Now, look carefully at the following cartoon which I did several years ago, and sent to Brian in a book as a gift.

I leave it to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions as to where Brian gets his best jokes.

Now, on to the post:

HISTORY (or Herstory) is everywhere, including your own backyard. In my case, it was my front yard, as I discovered while looking at all the weeding that I needed to do along the front curb. I saw what looked like a piece of dirty flint, so I picked it up and stuck it in my pocket for later. I have learned that what looks like a rock might actually be an artifact after a good washing, and in this case, was right.

Honestly, I don’t know what it is. In my former home of New Jersey I have found at least a dozen such objects of this size, which I believe are true ‘arrow’ heads... stone tips for Native American arrows.

However, this one has an odd tip, as you can see. The tip has been carefully shaped to a fine curved point. Now, I would probably dismiss this in my ignorance as a fluke, except for the fact that of the several ‘arrowheads’ I found in NJ, one piece resembles this one quite closely! In fact, that one shows a long fine tip that appears very deliberately shaped. Both are of similar sizes and shapes, although they were found hundreds of miles apart, which suggests to me that they are deliberately made tools.

Why the odd shape and fine tip? Were they some kind of drill, needle, or other pointy tool used for crafting? I don’t know.

Honestly, I’ve seen very little about Native American stone tools on this scale. Most places display beautifully crafted arrow or spear points that are usually anywhere from 2 to 4 inches long. Maybe museums feel that such small tools, even though skillfully made, would not appeal to the public? Maybe Archeoligists don’t feel these tools are worthy of consideration? Again, I don’t have an answer. I’ve read about such tools, and true arrow heads, but haven’t seen many examples.

I know what they are only because I’ve found several in my old backyard, and after careful examination it is easy to see that they are deliberately made tools, and crafted quite well. Their function is usually easy to see, as some have blunt tips for stunning birds, and some have sharp tips for felling rabbits and squirrels.
And then there are the anomalies like the one I found in my new front yard.

Hopefully there are answers out there somewhere. Meanwhile, the artifacts, as well as the earthworks, mounds, and other sites left by the Native Americans, leave us to wonder. We can only guess at their purposes, really. In some cases the purpose seems obvious, as with a blunt arrowhead, or a burial mound. In others, we may never know.

And that is part of the wonder and mystery that can be found when we take the time to look for, and contemplate, the ancient past.

Cheers, JOHN :0)


Davo said...

Huh? Am oldish basket. Will take some time to digest this information.

Davo said...

Archaeology may not be all that "ancient". Am, at present, trying to be at the site of a pristine underwater B24 circa 1945. Long(ish) story.

Davo said...

And that is part of the wonder and mystery that can be found when we take the time to look for, and contemplate, the ancient past.

Can give you "updates" on what i know, so far; if you are interested.

John said...


Archeology doesn't have to be ancient to be interesting... heck, I was excited to find an old bottlecap in my backyard once. Of course, it was from Italy, so what it was doing in New Jersey was a real mystery.

And shipwrecks are always great fun, as well as airplanes. Some planes can be extremely well preserved if in cold enough water.

My interest in planes and ships though are the personal items left within, that tell the story of the people who lived and worked in them.

Keep us posted. Is your B24 in UK waters?

JOHN :0)

Jayne said...

My 12 yr old has been doing archaeology digs in the back yard for the past few years - has found animal bones, blacksmith ephemera like metal slag, hand made nails, a billion and one pottery shards (middens?) as the settlers drained this area of swamps and fresh water creeks. He's also found the tiny shells of the fresh water animals that lived in our backyard when it was a creek, worked stones, old leather boots (with hob nails) and the odd dead pet.
In his latest (and probably last) back yard dig, he's recently been finding large-ish earthworms (not as big as the Gippsland Giant Earthworm ) about 5 feet down that leave impressive holes behind them!

John said...

Wow, Jayne... if he keeps on digging, you'll be able to visit soon. Just think what you can charge for use of the tunnel! Or to keep Americans out. :0)

At least you know of that joy and wonder I was talking about, firsthand. :0)

Now, tell me more about those worked stones!

JOHN :0)