Get The Point: In Search of Indian Artifacts

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 tom.

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 look.

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 websites.

Do make certain you have permission from the landowner before hunting an area.
Don’t cross “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” signs.
Don’t litter; leave only your tracks.

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