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NC collector finds ‘Holy Grail’ of arrowheads in front yard

August 25, 2018

YANCEYVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Gordon Godwin loves arrowheads.

He has about 1,000 in his collection gathered from fields around Alamance and Caswell counties, but to find the prize of his collection — a Clovis point — he hardly had to go 100 yards from his door.

“I’ve collected all my life,” Godwin said. “This was what I’ve always looked for, and I found it in my fricking front yard.”

Godwin says he found a Clovis point spear point, about three inches long and an inch wide, in a bare spot in his lawn after a hard rain about a month and a half ago.

“I just walked right by it,” he said. “There it was, pretty as you please.”

Clovis point spear heads are found across North America, but nowhere else, and archaeologists believe they come from one of the first civilizations on the continent.

“They’re the earliest recognizable spear-point type,” said Steve Davis, associate director of Research Laboratories of Archeology and a professor of archaeology at UNC-Chapel Hill. “The Clovis point is a very distinct manufacture type.”

Archaeologists tend to think of the Clovis makers as one culture because the artifacts are so similar, whether found in Texas or Pennsylvania, that spread across the continent in just a few thousand years. Later artifacts have regional distinctions, Davis said, indicating that they were made by distinct cultures.

The name comes from a 1933 discovery near Clovis, New Mexico, where archaeologist Edgar B. Howard and his student, John L. Cotter found them in a layer of mammoth bones.

“For people who collect arrowheads and Indian artifacts, this is the Holy Grail,” Godwin said, “just like winning the lottery.”

Carbon dating shows the points are about 10,000 to 15,000 years old, though it’s hard to carbon date stone, so that range varies depending on which sources you check.

Clovis points are both important to archaeology, since they are found across the continent, something archaeologists don’t find in other parts of the world or other periods of human history, and romantic since, as many archaeologists believe, these were the weapons stone-age hunters used to bring down megafauna like mastodons, even hunting them to extinction. While not something to be proud of, that’s pretty impressive.

They tend to be a few inches long, leaf-shaped, chipped of soft or brittle stone like jasper or obsidian giving them a rippled look and very sharp, almost serrated, edges. They are often quite sleek and beautiful, which captivates archaeologists and rock hunters alike.

Davis said this is not the first Clovis point found in Caswell County and identified it as a Clovis point from a photo emailed by the Times-News.

“It looks like it was resharpened sometime after being hafted to a spear shaft, and when first made would have been a little longer,” Davis wrote.

It is in very good condition, according to Davis, and looks like it must have been buried pretty soon after that long-dead hunter lost it, since it doesn’t have the patina that comes from sitting in the weather.

One of the distinct features of Clovis points is what archaeologists call “fluting.” Look at the photo of Godwin’s point. There is a narrow groove at the base of the spear head. One emerging theory is the flute acted as a shock absorber letting the spear haft slide a little when it hit something hard like bone to avoid chipping the tip. Kent State archaeologist Metin Eren said it could be the first American invention, since it hasn’t been found outside North America.

According to the Smithsonian, there are about 1,500 sites where Clovis artifacts have been found and 10,000 — 20,000 by some estimates — individual pieces. The oldest “securely dated” piece, about 13,500 years old, was found in Texas, but these pieces are found from Florida to Washington State. Similar points have been found as far afield as Venezuela.

They have been found in every region of North Carolina and a 2011 survey by the N.C. Archaeological Council records more than 190 Clovis points found and identified in the state, though Davis estimated that hundreds have been found.

Among the collectors Godwin corresponds with on Facebook, this is a huge find. He’s already had a $500 offer, but he’s completely uninterested in selling.

“One guy said, ‘I’ve got 10,000, and I’d give you half of them for that one,’” Godwin said.

Growing up on a farm in Ossipee, Godwin started finding arrowheads in the tobacco fields when he was just a boy. To this day, he comes home with his pockets full of rocks and has a knack for spotting the ones people have shaped. He says you have to look for something out of place.

“If you’re looking for a rock, you’re going to find a rock,” he said.

The collection is more than arrowheads. Even people who eat mastodons can’t live on meat alone. Lots of the tools they made were for working wood or leather. Godwin had several beautiful ax or hammer heads and delicate pieces with shapes that fit perfectly between thumb and forefinger the ancient makers used as drill bits.

“There’s stuff I have found, and I’ve kept it all my life.”


Information from: Times-News, http://www.thetimesnews.com

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