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Ancient man left more signs of his time on earth than we sometimes realize, but many of those signs are hidden. My paternal grandfather told of living on Neal’s Island in the Ohio River during the 1880’s or early 1890’s as a child. He mentioned that during low water, there was a gravel bar running about a mile downstream from the island, and another one running upstream nearly the same distance. During those times, he’d walk the bars and skip stones across the water like any kid. Back then, arrowheads were so common on the river that they were just another stone to skip. Each rise of the river brought new stone points to be skipped across the water. He said that he could have had a barrel or two of them if he’d saved them all. I wish he had!
He was 30 years old in 1910, when he bought the first part of the farm where I was raised. He bought two connected parcels by 1919. My dad was born in 1925 and was doing a man’s work by age 12. That included a lot of plowing, harrowing and hoeing. Dad had more interest than Granddad in the pieces of flint that sometimes showed themselves in the fields and gardens, especially after a rain, and he saved all that he came across. So did I, when I came along, and I added a point or two to his collection, and a couple of broken pieces. I also helped an amateur archeologist dig out the overhang where Native Americans once camped when they hunted the area. That added a few small pieces to the collection. I inherited that collection when Dad passed away too soon, at age 59, a year younger than I am today.
As many of you know, my wife and I have slowly been going through our stuff over the years, trying to thin it out, so her son and his wife won’t have such a big job ahead of them when we croak someday. Being of a practical nature, I first thought of selling the collection. A check online, though, showed that the common garden-variety arrowheads like I have only sell for two to five dollars. That seemed like sort of a waste to me. I decided, instead, to give them away to people who knew Dad and had connections to the farm. The list now includes my stepson and two of his daughters, a childhood friend and his two brothers, two younger cousins, three guys who have helped out on the farm some in years past, and a former friend who used to hunt there with me a lot when I was younger. I was just going to give them one each, so I’ll still have some left over.
The largest is 3-3/8” and is one that I found on a gravel bar when I was fishing the creek over the hill from where I was raised. I suspect it was actually a knife, with a handle glued and wrapped on the wide end. The next largest is the whitish one next to the right on the second row, it measures 3”. Next is the one the top left at 2-7/8”. The two shortest ones measure an inch.
Though any of them COULD be, the only ones that I would say absolutely are arrowheads are the six on the left in the lower row and the two narrow ones near the center of the third row. Any of the others could have, theoretically, been lance points or points for atlatl darts just as easily. The larger they are, the more likely to have been used as atlatl points. If you don’t know what an atlatl is, I’d suggest you google the term and read up on it. As for lances, I don’t mean spears, but fairly light, short 4-5 foot weapons that could be used like a foil when fighting an enemy, or for finishing off a game animal.
I don’t think ANY of these are large enough to be spear points. Incidentally, I seriously doubt that spears were ever thrown normally, but were used like a cross between a quarter-staff and a lance (except maybe when they still hunted mastodons). Throwing a spear would be inviting the breakage of a point that took a fair amount of time to make, plus, it could easily put your weapon in the hands of an enemy. But, of course, these are only my opinions, and you know what they say about opinions.
Despite appearances, the points in the top row are all complete, as are the first seven in the second row. (Incidentally, the point at the top right is of a type of stone that we don’t even have around here. That makes me think that it washed here from a long ways off during the last ice age, or that a warring brave from another area carried it here, or maybe, it was acquired in trade with another tribe.) The eighth point in the second row MIGHT be complete, but I can’t help but feel that it had a base originally. The rest, with the exception of the knife and the six smallest ones, are incomplete points. The object in the right lower corner is a shard of “corded” pottery found at the overhang, while the four objects to its left are charred pieces of bone found in the fire-pit there.
I’ll keep the knife that I found, and I may give the pot shard, the bones and one point to the man who now owns the overhang. I don’t know what I’ll do with the rest just yet. © 2016