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Digging Up North Mississippi’s Prehistoric Past

 artifact-hunting

Brock Smith hunting arrowheads in North Mississippi

 

     Filled with famous people and events, Lafayette County’s recent history has been quite a colorful one.

     Thoughts of Lafayette’s past might be filled with images of the Civil Rights movement, The American Civil War, or the fanciful stories of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. Though more well-known, these events are a mere eye-blink ago in comparison to a mysterious and much older span of Lafayette County’s history –– its  pre-history to be more exact.

     The prehistoric period of North America generally consists of the events that happened here before European contact. Native Americans had populated North Mississippi for thousands of years before the first explorers set foot on American soil.

     Throughout the United States, including Lafayette county, there is archeological evidence of native occupation that dates to at least 10,000 BC. While much of this evidence is lost to decay and decomposition, luckily, the stone items such as tools, weapons, and adornments survived the years quite well.

     From the earliest days of European settlement and westward advancement, these stone artifacts have been regularly discovered as land was disturbed by erosion as well as the building of home sites, farms, roads and other infrastructure.



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Lafayette County arrowhead find.

 

     The discovery and collecting of these Native American artifacts has led to a diverse and rapidly growing hobby throughout the United States. Collectors usually begin specifically with stone arrowheads, which are the most commonly found and easily recognizable artifacts.

     These projectile points were largely used in the construction of spears and darts that predate the invention of the bow in North America, with only the tiniest (and most chronologically recent) ones actually being used as arrow points. Stone projectile points offer a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and styles.

     Some were crude and roughly made, while others were finely crafted in artistic forms that often belie their lethal nature. This great variation allows collectors to enjoy the hobby for different reasons and according to different budgets. Some specialize in collecting certain artifact types based on visual appearance, while others may collect only points from particular time periods or geographic areas.

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North Mississippi Arrowheads

     Most collectors eventually branch out into other artifacts that are ornamental or ceremonial in nature, and therefore more rare and valuable. These include beads, pendants, pipes, gorgets, bannerstones, discoidals, and others. These artifacts are interesting because of their high-quality finish, more intensive construction methods, and often unknown use. As well as these ornamental items, another category of artifacts is the utilitarian tools that were of agricultural or industrial use.

     Examples of these are axes, hammers, grinding stones, scrapers, hoes, and celts. One of the unique aspects of collecting Native American artifacts is being able to readily go and find them. While some collectors prefer buying and trading for specific artifacts to build a collection, others are only interested in the artifacts they find themselves. Artifact hunters spend hours walking along fields, creeks, and lake beds in search of artifacts. Trudging through mud and rough terrain is not only fun and good exercise, but it can be very rewarding if a hunter is lucky enough to find an arrowhead that has lain untouched for thousands of years.

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Group of North Mississippi bannerstones

 

     Anyone interested in Native American artifacts can find a wealth of information at artifact shows, on the Internet, and in print. One of the most popular websites is www.arrowheads.com, which features educational articles, collector forums, and a store site where dealers sell a wide range of artifacts and related items. There are also books, magazines, and field guides that cover all aspects of artifact collecting.

 

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My daughter Emily with one of her finds.

 

     The oldest and most well-known artifact publication is The Overstreet Indian Arrowheads Identification and Price Guide. This book contains educational articles as well as pricing information and actual-size photos of thousands of projectile points and other artifacts.

Story by Brock Smith. Photos by Brock Smith. For more information about buying, selling, or collecting Native American artifacts, he can be reached at 662-801-1786, or by email at brock@arrowheads.com