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June 6, 2012     The Adams County Record
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June 6, 2012
 

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The Adams County Record The History Corner Once in a while I stop and look at the country around us and think about the people who were here long before us. At the museum you may have seen the line on the wall, with a mark every twelve inches to represent a thousand years. The line is 14 feet long to show 14,000 years. At the far end of the line (14,000 years ago) is about when the previous group of immigrants (Native Americans / Indians) arrived here. Columbus reached America about 6 inches ago. Adams County was first settled less than 2 inches ago. So, for just about all of the 14 feet of time, except for our puny 2 inches, a culture totally different than ours inhabited this place we so recently call home. The signs that this culture was here are all around us, mostly under our feet. There are literally hundreds of places near us where Indians left pieces of their lives behind. Many of us have found an "arrowhead" lying on the ground. But that's only one of many clues to who was here before us. Most of us would pay little attention to a broken rock lying on the ground. But broken rocks can tell a story. When rocks are heated past a certain point, they break. Rocks broken in a certain way can indicate that they were heated by a fire, and this can indicate an Indian campground. They generally 6reak at about a 90-degree angle: Another artifact of "fire affected" rocks are little, more or less flat, chunks of rock that pop off the surface of a heated rock. (See photo.) Rocks heated by fire sometimes take on a reddish hue on one or more sides. For the fourth year, the Adams County Historic Preservation Commission has received money to identify, and learn from, sites of prehistoric activity in Adams County. Almost no such work had been done in the county, aside from on National Forest land, until this project started in 2009. Last week, Dr. Lee Sappington, professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Idaho, came down for his second visit here to continue the project. A poorly-focused photo of a fire affected rock (FAR). This one is a little smaller than many. Notice the 90-degree angle of the break. Wednesday, June 6, 2012 Clues A00'e All Around Us Page 11 He has taught a number Adams County students at the U of I, including Gayle Dixon, Challis Bole and Olivia McDaniel. Starting on Tuesday, a few of us volunteers went out with Dr. Sappington to record undocumented sites where there are signs of prehistoric (Indian) activity. While finding a projectile point (arrowhead, etc.) was welcome, this wasn't the objective. Most of the clues we found were flakes/ chips of stone left on the ground where someone in the distant past had made a projectile point or tool. Imagine what it would have been like not to have any metal. Many of the tools you would need, especially cutting implements, would be made from stone. Of course arrow or atlatl points were used to kill an animal, but to gut, skin and cut it up you would need a cutting tool. You may not have carried a stone knife with you, but rocks are everywhere. So, if you needed a blade to process an animal, you might be able to find a nearby rock of acceptable quality, pick up anther rock to use as a hammer, and knock off a sharp flake to cut with. The same basic technique was used to create arrow or atlatl points, except the tools and skill required were on a higher level, and you would use the best stone available-- preferably obsidian Some people don't realize that more often than not, the projectile points and tools that local Indians used were not made from obsidian. Many of the artifacts found in our area are made from very dense basalt, which is fairly common. Basalt is harder to make a tool from than obsidian, but it's less fragile. Any time you find a piece of obsidian around here, it was carried here from By DaleFisk -- 253-4582 Two views of a chip that popped off of a larger rock when it was heated by fire. someplace else. The nearest source is Timber Butte, in the mountains north of Emmett and west of Banks. It is basically volcanic glass, and a tool made from it can be sharper than the finest surgeon's scalpel. The result of all this tool making is many stone flakes wherever a tool or point was made. Those flakes are one of the telltale clues one looks for in finding where prehistoric activity took place. And there are thousands upon thousands of them lying in, and on, the ground. Dr. Sappington can talk all day about stone flakes, what stage of the tool-making process they come from and more. We really need the cooperation of landowners and local folks in the area to continue this project. So little archaeological work has been done here, and there is so much to learn. While we were studying one site last week, a landowner asked a question that revealed a common misconception. She asked if we found something significant on her land if it could put restrictions on farming it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We were guests on her land, and she could have asked us to leave at any time. Anything on her land belongs to her, with the one exception of human remains, to which Indian tribes have a legal right if the remains are of a "Native American." An archaeological site on private property does not take any control from the landowner in any way. Plus, we keep the location of the site confidential. We've been doing this for four years now, and I doubt more than have a dozen people know the location any of the sites that we've studied. The results of our studies are available only to serious students of archaeology. I really hope people who have found local artifacts will contact me so that we can try to leam more. It's hard to figure out what some artifacts were used for. Next year, if funding continues, we plan to invite people to bring artifacts for Dr. Sappington look at, identify, photograph and learn from. It's all part of an effort to piece together the fascinating story of who was here before us. Left to right: Pat Trainor, Barry McDaniel and Dr. Sappington screening soil from one of 20 test holes we dug last Friday. The holes were 8 to 10 inches in diameter and dug to a meter deep if possible before hitting rock. The dirt from each 10-centimeter layer was put through a 1/8" screen separately, and any stone flakes, projectile points or other clues were systematically recorded. NEW - JUNIOR Assn. - $75 (play all summer after 12 noon Sun. thru Thurs.) 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