Get The Point
In Search of Indian Artifacts
By Gray Bostick
Photography by Benton Henry
The brisk north wind, threatening the day’s activities,
seemed to grow more determined to penetrate the hastily chosen and now
much-too-light jacket. With conditions almost ideal—a heavy rain the previous
night, followed by overcast skies, and freshly plowed earth—it was a rather
simple decision to bundle up a little tighter and continue a while longer.
The determination to stretch the hunt was almost
involuntary, given that rare is the South Carolina Sandlapper who lacks
a deep and heartfelt affinity for the natural world and rarer still the
Pee Dee native who does not take that affection to higher levels.
What was the prey on this particular outing? Was
it deer? Turkey, perhaps? No, the prey was a simple stone. Not just any
stone mind you, but an Indian artifact, a target that, while certainly
not as elusive as the game that fills the woodlands of the Pee Dee, when
found offers just as much satisfaction as bagging a big buck or long-bearded
Dating back thousands of years, these ancient
remnants and relics of the people who first established human habitats
in the Pee Dee are widely scattered throughout our region. Discovering
one of these timeless treasures is a thrilling experience as each is a
one-of-a-kind work of art, created entirely—and often quite intricately—by
ancient craftsmen using tools of stone, bone, or antler.
Realizing that the simple, yet finely crafted
tool or weapon in your hand has laid undisturbed and awaiting discovery
for perhaps a hundred centuries, has a way of truly connecting you with
the land. At times, it’s impossible not to wonder about the person who
created the piece. Who was he? Or was it she? How did this stone factor
into their daily lives?
Long a popular pastime of a knowing few throughout
the Southeast and the rest of the nation, searching for Indian artifacts,
or “arrowhead hunting” as it is more commonly referred to, is a rather
easy—and inexpensive—hobby to develop. In fact, all that is really required
is a little curiosity, a pair of old shoes, a walking stick, and a willingness
to spend more time outdoors.
And the best news is your “trophy” piece may well
be as close as your own backyard.
If you reside in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina,
chances are good that you most likely live within a few miles or so of
an ancient Native American village, encampment, or hunting site. Or, as
is the case in many areas, particularly in the vicinity of the Great Pee
Dee and Little Pee Dee Rivers, several such potential artifact locations.
Getting started can be as simple as doing a little
basic research. Simply asking local farmers and sportsmen if they’ve inadvertently
stumbled upon an arrowhead, for example, can often lead an artifact hunter
in the right direction, or perhaps even result in the name of a local artifact
enthusiast being passed along.
Once a site or two has been identified, the most
common artifact hunting technique is simply taking a well-timed walk through
a plowed field, preferably soon after an inch or more of rain has rinsed
loose dirt, settled dust, and compacted the soil. The initial plowing and
subsequent rain only sets the stage for the fun to come as, with each new
rainfall, a new “page” will be revealed as the soil continues to steadily
be washed or blown away or further compacted.
Additionally, artifacts that are frequently among
the oldest and most undisturbed pieces are now being unearthed at sites
once considered “picked over.” This is due in part to modern agricultural
methods that provide farmers with the ability to reach deeper into the
land in an effort to bring up fresher, more nutrient-rich soil—and along
with it these treasures of the past.
Once you find that first really nice “head,” you’ll
soon begin to view familiar sites with an eye cocked for potential artifact
hunting possibilities. And those possibilities are nearly endless in the
Pee Dee, adding another aspect to the adventure of artifact hunting: seeking
out new, “private,” undiscovered sites on your own. In the Pee Dee, nearly
any hill located near a natural water source is worthy of at least a cursory
Other prime locations come as a result of the
modern trend toward pine tree cultivation. Large tracts of land are left
practically undisturbed for a decade or more, then periodically clear-cut
before being replanted. Land managed in this fashion can present hunting
opportunities that can lead to the find of a lifetime for those lucky enough
to be at the right place at the right time.
It is also important to note that many of these
often overlooked potential sites are also located on sandy soil, or in
areas that are otherwise felt to be unproductive for farming. However,
thanks to their sandy nature, these types of sites were the very ones most
likely to attract Native Americans seeking new encampments, but without
the means to easily or quickly clear an area.
In short, if it looks enticing, take the time
to take a walk and check it out.
But one needs to be forewarned not to limit the
search solely to “arrowheads”—which is actually a misnomer, as many such
identified objects are actually knives, spear or harpoon “points,” or tools
that were used to clean game or to craft items such as baskets or clothing.
If a site has been recognized as an encampment
or village, other equally interesting remnants of early Native American
life can be found. Included among these are bowl-shaped mortar stones used
for grinding and hand-sized hammerstones used as their name implies and
easily identified by one end clearly marked by extensive use.
Shards of clay-based pottery and the rare pieces
of clay smoking pipes, many bearing interesting patterns or other imprints,
are frequently found. Sometimes these finds are intermingled among other
relics such as Civil War-era cannon and rifle balls and remains of more
modern times, including old coins, horseshoes, and household items.
To put it briefly, anything could turn up if you’re
there to look for it.
If you’re a sportsman lamenting the post-season
absence of the thrill of the hunt, or just someone looking to get outdoors
to enjoy a little rewarding exercise, what are you waiting for? The season
lasts 12 months, the timing is right, spring is upon us, and those treasures
are waiting. Make a few inquiries, grab an old pair of shoes—or better
yet, the wife or a kid or two—and head for the fields.
Don’t miss the “point.”
While specific types of Native American artifacts
found in the Pee Dee region are far too numerous to mention, an excellent
resource for identification is The Overstreet Indian Arrowheads Identification
and Price Guide, available at most bookstores. An Internet search for Native
American artifacts will likewise yield a multitude of helpful and informative
Do’s and Don’ts (or something like that!)
Do make certain you have permission from the landowner
before hunting an area.
Don’t cross “No Trespassing” or “Private Property”
Don’t litter; leave only your tracks.