The Woodward News

March 2, 2013

Archaeologist IDs ancient artifacts

Chris Cooper
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — During Saturday's Ask the Archaeologist event at the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum, Dr. Leland Bement with the Oklahoma Archaeological Society saw several unique items.

Every year, Bement visits the museum to offer his archaeological expertise to help area residents identify and learn more about their various artifacts.

On Saturday, Bement visited with Eddie Dunn, of Gate, who brought a variety of Native American tools ranging from stone knives to rocks used to pry open freshwater oysters.  Bement even identified one tool as part of a buffalo bone that was once used for digging, which dated back 600 to 800 years ago.

Dunn also brought in over 20 arrowheads and spearheads, the oldest of which dated back to 1100AD, Bement said.

In addition to being impressive in age, the archaeologist was also impressed that the arrowheads and spearheads were carved from stones found all the way from central Kansas to Amarillo, Texas.  What was interesting, though, is that Dunn collected the majority of the arrowheads and spearheads on his land in Gate.

"I've got about 200 hours in about each arrow head," Dunn said, but noted that the time spent looking made finding one all the more worthwhile.

In addition to searching for Native American artifacts on his own land, Dunn says he enjoys searching for them on outings to other areas, such as when he found part of a stone knife on a trip near Beaver Lake in Arkansas.

Alan Aldrich of Woodward also brought in some antique weaponry in the form of a decorated sword blade which Bement estimated to be from the mid to early 1800s.

Aldrich told the story of how he'd come across the blade, saying a friend of his had unearthed it while building a pen for his dog.  When he'd seen the blade, he offered to trade his friend a new fishing rod for it.

Aldrich said he'd done his own investigating into the sword's origins with the aid of the Woodward Library, but was still having trouble figuring out where or when it was from.  He said he was particularly interested because of the intricate design of the blade which featured griffins, phoenixes, a coat of arms, and the name "Alfonso."

Bement said he thought it could possibly have belonged to a European who had travelled here to hunt buffalo around that time period, but since weaponry was not his field of focus, he referred Aldrich to a museum near Lawton to get more information.

Steve Coleman of Woodward brought in a piece of pottery that his uncle had discovered west of Woodward several years ago.

"My uncle was out deer hunting when he came across part of this pot sticking up out of the ground," Coleman said. "When he saw that he stopped hunting, went home, and brought all the kids back with shovels to find the rest."

Coleman said they'd managed to find a few more pieces, but not the entirety of the pot. Bement said the pot, which may have been used to store seed, most likely came from a Native American tribe out of New Mexico between 1300AD to 1500AD.

Coleman was impressed with this finding.

"I figured it had to be modern, I didn't think you could make lines that straight without a machine," he said, referring to the artwork on the piece of pottery.

Compared to some of the other artifacts Bement examined on Saturday, Coleman's pottery is modern.

Amy Stephenson of Webb brought in what turned out to be a young mammoth vertebrae her husband uncovered while constructing their driveway. Bement estimated the vertebrae to be a couple hundred thousand years old due to the amount of minerals deposited on it.

But even that seems fairly new compared to the artifact which Warren Sross brought in for examination.  Sross presented a piece of shale which his dad had found in southern Colorado while out in the field for his work as a project manager for a wind farm. Bement said that the shale contained fossils dating back 60 million years.