the FIRST and the LAST
By Michael
McGrath
Copyright 2005 by INDIAN ARTIFACT MAGAZINE Vol.
25-1 2006
Ovid Bell Press Inc. (Unauthorized reproduction prohibited)
  We can all remember the first
time we found an Indian
Artifact.  That first time your
heart  thumps wildly as you
reach down to grasp your first
point.  It's like time stands still
and a hundred trumpets are
sounding all
around you as you look at it
(well maybe I'm exaggerating a
little), and feel its flaked
texture in your hand.  The first
time for me was 1979 and I was
in the first grade.
   My dad collected
arrowheads    
with his dad as they hunted
ducks years ago on the open
flats in and around southern
Cortland County, New York and
for some unknown reason he
knew it was time to pass on the
tradition.  Dad took me to a
field I had passed many times
on the school bus, but had no
idea of the treasures that the
tilled soil held.  This site is
relatively flat with a small rise
that slopes down toward the
river.  As Dad and I walked he
instructed me what to look for,
and pointed out debitage along
the way so that I could feel the
distinct texture that our native
chert has as well as see the
general color of it.  When we
reached the downward slope of
the field, I looked down and
picked up my first arrowhead
and said, "Dad, is this what we
are looking for?"
   Needless to say my dad was
blown away by the 3"+ Genesee
point (Figure 1) that I held in my
small hands.  The point was
typical in thickness and shape
for this type and was made of
native
Esopus chert.  The field
also yeilded to me a 2"
Brewerton Side Notched
projectile with slight damage to
the base (Figure 1).  With a first
outing like this one, needless to
say I was hooked and begging
dad to take me every weekend.
   For reasons of finding better
and more productive sites, we
very rarely went back to this
field and then for a good many
years it was a hay field.  In 1993
I returned and found a few small
dart points and hundreds of
pitted stones used for cooking
and food processing.  That year
I got married and moved a little
ways away, but far enough away
to make it hard to get back to
the site.  It wasn't until 2002
that I made it back.  My dad
and I got there right after it was
plowed and I found a celt with
pecked finger holds on the face
(Figure 2), an atypical vertical
notched net sinker and a few
Lamoka and Vestal Side
Notched dart points (Figure 3).  
Dad found a couple broken
points, but darkness and a crisp
spring night air pushed us back
to the truck.
   A week later I spoke with dad
on the phone and he saidd that
the field had been disked and
dragged.  I knew when it rained
Tuesday night that Wednesday
was not going to be spent in the
office, but in the field doing
what I enjoyed the
most...artifact collecting.  I
arrived at the site early, and
there was a slight fog still rising
from the river flats.  I walked
down to the rise before the
portion that slopes to the river,
and started scanning the
surface.
   While working my way to the
middle I spotted what looked
like plastic because it was so
smooth and dark.  As I bent
down I knew it was slate and a
million possibilities ran through
my head until my hand pulled
out a broken atlatl weight
(Figure 4).  I knew then that this
field was up to a repeat
performance of 1979.  My first
point and my first bannerstone;  
it was very satisfying to find
both at the same site.  For some
reason bannerstones are pretty
rare in this area of New York
State, so right at the start I was
exicited.  I continued down the
slope to the river flat, and
counted several cooking and
fire pits on the rise, but I forced
myself to "do a good job
hunting" and start at the river
flat and work my way back up to
the rise.  I didn't find much
down on the river flat portion,
but once I started to scan the
lower side of the rise I soon had
my best day since that first day
when I was a small boy.
   Starting up the rise, I began
finding Lamoka and Vestal
Notched dart points, and then I
saw....IT.  IT was a point
sticking straight up in the air at
me as it clung to a clod of soil.  I
plucked it loose and discovered
it was a whole, 3" long, side
notched Brewerton point made
of
Onondaga Chert.  You could
still see th indentation of the
point on the side of the clod of
dirt.  The next pass produced a
2"+ Genesee point made of
Esopus Chert.  This point was
strikingly similar to my first
point found only 20 feet or so
from where I found this one, but
recovered 23 years apart.  It
may have been knapped by the
same person, as the style and
flake scars are similar.
   What a day!  I found several
more points, pitted stones, and
several netwights that day and
chalked it up as my best day
ever!  Little did I know what lie
just ahead.
   The fall came, the corn was
harvested, and I pulled my car
up to the site early one
morning.  Out of my
passenger-side window I saw a
sign that made my heart sink:  
"No Trespassing".  There was
new owner, and I drove to his
house down the road and he
denied permission for me to go
on the site.  I've respected the
new owner's wishes, of course,
and I have not returned because
that is the right thing to do, not
to mention the legal thing as
well.  Each year I plan to return
and ask the new owner for
permission and try to woo him
to get permission by knapping a
knife or a point for him (yes, I
knap and cast darts with my
atlatl too), but ultimately there
will be nothing I can do if he
keeps saying no.
   It saddens me why people are
so strange even after you
explain what you do; however, I
had been blessed with my first
artifact at this site, and blessed
with a great last day as well.  
We must be responsible
amateurs if we are to keep this
wonderful hobby alive.  There
are always other sites and fields
to discover, and instead of
seeing it as a closed door (or in
some cases a door slammed in
your face), we should see
permission denials as an
opportunity to discover new
sites.
   I did just that!  The site I
found is even better than the
one I'm denied on and, it's right
near my home on the Chenango
River.  My wife and I recovered
over 130 artifacts this year!  I
hope to detail that in a future
article.
Figure 1. Photos by the
author
Figure
2
Figure
3
Figure
4
Left:  Genesee Point  Right: the Brewerton
"IT" point(not included in magazine article)