I was at a winery in Missouri...
I was standing by an ancient oak and looking down and noticed little white flakes of stone. It reminded me of the flakes that I found when I was about six, and my uncle took me to a spot in Massachusetts where he had been diggin' in a river terrace for "arrowheads". (Digging in River terraces for "arrowheads" is a really, really bad idea, but I'll get to that soon.) Anyway (I really am goin' someplace with all this), I reached down to pick up one of these pretty, shiny stones and, wow, it was kinda shaped funny. After staring at it for a couple of days (it really took that long, I'm not real bright), I realized that it must be some kind of stone artifact, but what?
When I got back to NC, I kinda wondered if there were any such things around where I lived. I wandered in my subdivision and looked at some recent dozer activity where some new houses were goin' in, and looky what I found:
I began to read. I read books (see my refs page). I looked at archaeology web sites. I looked at other stuff. The only thing that became clear is how little we really know about these folks. The stone tools and stuff can give us little glimpses about how and where these folks lived and what they might have done for a living. Much can be learned from the descendents of these folks, but much was also lost when the Europeans came (ok, more like invaded - but I won't deal with that here).
Well to end this story real fast, I decided to create a web site that tells "the story" from an archaeological perspective with lotsa pictures to illustrate. So, I got lotsa books, searched around the internet, and talked to real archaeologists, and voila! I figured, now, other folks, who find themselves in the same quandary I was in, can find out some of the bare-bones info about this stuff and those who made it.
Real archaeologists seem to put much more effort into the deeply academic side of their discipline than they put into promoting public awareness and interest. This is undoubtedly due to lack of resources ($$$). But this in itself creates a vicious cycle. Lack of public attention equals lack of money. I do believe there is a lot of public interest in this kind of stuff, though. The fact is that thousands of sites that contain archaeological information are lost every year due to development and other activities. When you find stuff, it is important to keep some kind of record of what you found and where you found it. Researchers actually use this data, and the Office of State Archaeology actually keeps records. If you don't preserve it, it will be lost forever.
Also, if you dig (i.e. disturb the ground) in search of artifacts you are also potentially destroying archaeological information. You, also, may be destroying someone's grave, which is just not right no matter how you look at it (which is also, as far as I know, illegal, or at least regulated, to one degree or another in all states). This stuff is best left to the professionals who set up little grids and record depths and soil and take pictures and determine stone types and do carbon dating and look for little seeds and chase off looters and sweat and get sunburned, not to mention get permits and work closely with the appropriate folks in the Native American community.
The reason I put all this stuff on its own handy little page is because I was recently blasted (and rightly so) by a real archaeologist for not more prominently promoting conservation and site recording/reporting. Anyhow, here's a link to download an amateur site reporting form. You should fill 'em out and send 'em in. You can also read up on laws and rules that protect some sites. Also, keep in mind that real archaeologists are usually over-worked and underpaid. They would love to investigate and record every little site and every single artifact, but time any money limit what they can get done. As such, you are actually important to developing the scant knowledge about all the folks who lived here long ago.
You can also donate your artifacts to the State... Contact them to get more info. You can also join the State Archaeological Society.
write us (Dingo or Todd) and let us know what you think: