Authentic Artifact Collectors Association

Founded 1998


SUMMER Newsletter 2004                                     Volume 2, Issue 2

          Editor:  Grier Brunson                                                                                     Web Publishing:  Jim Fisher


                        I.          President's Message

                        II.         Book Review: “The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay” – C. Jackson   

                        III.       Alibates, Bert and the Barbecue – T. Westfall

                        IV.       Spooked – H. Helene

                        V.        Buckeye Knoll Analysis Plan Announced by Corp of Engineers – News Release

                        VI.       Hundreds of Indian Artifacts Found in Home – The Associated Press

                        VII.      Opinion – A.G. Brunson, Editor



Message from the President


Dear Members,


     Nearly two years have passed since I became President of the AACA, and I have cherished, everyday, the opportunity to serve such a fine community. Many positive things have happened. We have attained legal status as a non-profit corporation, membership has grown by nearly 50 percent, we have organized and produced , with the volunteer help from some fine members, two widely acclaimed Authentic North American Artifact Expositions, and as you shall soon see, have positively impacted the listing procedures of the largest on-line auction site. These are great strides, and I am extremely grateful for help of many volunteers. 


     My vision for the future includes regionalization of AACA activity, and an active Association participation in the struggle against anti-collector sentiment. All these things, and more, will require increased membership participation.  Also, looking into the future, I’ve seen the need for a younger, more vigorous person at the helm, and have therefore chosen to not seek another term as President.


     As a result of that decision, I am pleased to announce the AACA Board of Directors has elected Jim Fisher as the new Association President. Jim is eminently qualified. He is the Associations webmaster, and has most recently served as the Director of Expo 2004. Let’s all get behind Jim, and give him a rousing welcome.


With friendship,   
Cliff Clements
President, AACA



Book Review:  “The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay”


Larry and Christopher Merriam, photographs from the collection of Dr. Robert E. Bell

Merriam Station Books, 8716 Old Brompton Rd., Oklahoma City, OK, 73132


Review by Board Member Cliff Jackson


     One of the turning points in North American archaeology has long been both reviled and loved by collectors and archaeologists alike- the Spiro Mounds of Oklahoma. This large ceremonial complex and the associated activities of the ancient Spiroans, plus the early destructive searches of modern man and the reactions of professionals of the time, all shaped the beginnings of archaeological law as we know it. The Pocola Mining Company dug out the Spiro Mounds for the relics, and in the process helped define legality, morality, property rights, and burial laws, definitions that continue to affect archaeological law even seventy years later. Ancient Spiro shaped early American archaeology.


     Modern archaeologists and collectors alike can now look back at the prehistory of this fantastic ancient site, through the eyes of the Pocola diggers and through the fine photographs taken by Dr. Robert Bell of not only the site as it was dug, but also of the phenomenal ceremonial artifacts that were uncovered back in the 1930’s. Dr. Bell was but a young man when he first viewed the Pocola "mines", and they struck a chord with him that drove his lifetime of learning as a professional archaeologist. He saw the tremendous wealth of information that was being lost by mining for relics, and that prompted him to record and photograph all he could of the site and the artifacts found there. The information lost and damage caused also prompted stronger laws in Oklahoma (and elsewhere) that today protect significant sites nationwide.


     Chris and Larry Merriam have done a superb job of gathering the scattered information from Spiro, using eyewitness interviews, old photographs, and the amazing relics themselves to create an historical document that goes well beyond the average coffee-table relic book.  Chapters include the prehistory of Spiro, the earliest history of excavations there, and the vast activities of the Pocola Mining Company during the Great Depression years.  The authors continue on into the WPA excavations and the beginnings of the Oklahoma Archaeological Society, and include a fine bibliography of past publications on the Spiro Mounds.


     Perhaps most impressive is the wealth of illustrations of the mounds and excavations, and over a  hundred of vintage photographs  from Dr. Bell’s albums, many never before been published.  Most of the finest artifacts found at Spiro, now in museums worldwide, are shown as they were being brought out for sale by the miners, laid on newspapers and blankets amidst the dust of the trenches.


     This important historical reference book of this significant ceremonial center is one that collectors of ancient artifacts will want to have in their libraries. The information it contains is unique in that it details the mysterious prehistory as well as the turbulent history of modern man’s activities there.  Students of archaeology can discover in this book the beginnings of the discipline as it was in its educational infancy.

Most importantly, “The Spiro Mound-A Photo Essay”, shows professionals and collectors alike our common bond in the evolution of the science of archaeology- that human curiosity that drives our quest for knowledge about the unique artifacts and life ways of the ceremonial people of the Spiro Mounds. This new book deserves a place on the shelves of all artifact collectors and archaeologists, as a prehistoric/historic document of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.




Alibates, Bert and the Barbecue (1997)

By Member Tom Westfall


     Growing up as a child in Colorado, I experienced a certain amount of State "ethnocentrism". Colorado was the finest State in the Union, and the other 49 were varying degrees of "not quite as good as" to "just plain old pathetic."  When the mountains of Colorado became the summer playground for wealthy Texans, the banter became very specific about the pedigree of anyone from the Lone Star State. Texans were everywhere, buying huge amounts of land and "posting" about half of the Rocky Mountains, it seemed, including portions of my favorite trout streams.  There was a story about a fellow from Colorado and a Texan who got into one of those famous "braggin' rights" arguments.  The Coloradoan stated that "There's enough gold in Colorado to build a wall around Texas 10 feet high," to which the Texan supposedly retorted (in full southern drawl), "Ya'all build it, and if'n I like it, I'll buy it!!"


     My notions of the fair State of Texas had not tempered much over the ensuing years, and thus it was with a mixture of awe and dread that I headed there for a weekend artifact excursion.  I was of the impression that perhaps a really successful hunt could exorcize some of the demons that had plagued me as a child, and besides, whether I wanted to admit it or not, I had been seeing a good many pictures of spectacular artifacts in "Indian-Artifact Magazine" coming from this land of Stephen F. Austin. (I will admit at this juncture that I had always liked the artifacts from Texas because I could honestly say that those early folk who peopled the region had no idea they were even in Texas, let alone that they were the "First" Texans.)


     Our plans called for gaining access to a large private ranch on the Canadian River and spending the day searching for bounteous rewards.  I should mention that the Alibates quarry is on the Canadian River within 20 miles of the ranch on which we were going to be hunting. Alibates is a beautifully colored flint with a variety of reds, blues and purple; one which shows up all to infrequently in eastern Colorado and I was hoping that I might be able to find a handful or two of some fine Alibates projectile points.


     Although I was unable to discover the "mother load" of artifacts, my experience in Texas was an extremely positive one and I hope that this story will serve as my "Mea Culpa" for those long years of Texas bashing in which I engaged.


     Bert Wofford is a pre-med student at Eastern New Mexico University.  Although he has lived in New Mexico the better portion of his life, he has ties to Texas and is close friends with the foreman of large ranch there.  (I would call the ranch large at over 12,000 acres.  The foreman, Tony, on the other hand kept intimating that "he sure needed to expand the spread".)


     Due to their similar interests both vocational and avocational, Bert and my son became good friends, and when Grayson called and invited me to join the two of them for a day hunt, I quickly rearranged my priorities and headed south.


     On Friday, the day prior to our scheduled hunt, I hopped in the car and was soon closing in on my destination.  500 miles is a long ways to travel to hunt points, but the bonus was the opportunity to spend a weekend with my 20 year old son, at his invitation. When I arrived I was to learn of an added bonus that old Bert had arranged.  Portales, New Mexico is home to Tommy Heflin, arguably one of the ten best flint knappers in the United States, and we were privy to a private showing and lesson in the art of knapping.  Tommy is a captivating host and his skill is incredible.  Although he flakes many styles of points, he specializes in Paleo points.  I looked at literally hundreds of these artistic renderings and was overwhelmed by their quality.  Tommy gave me insight into the world of "fake" points with his masterpieces.  When I marveled at a Clovis (completely patinated) and suggested that it was of great antiquity, Tommy told me how he creates "patina" in order to "age the points".  Make no mistake; Tommy doesn't do this to trick anyone. He signs his points and doesn't practice the distasteful art of "Artifact Forgery" which is so common nowadays in the hobby.


     After an evening of flint knapping, I was inspired by the prospects of finding some ancient art treasures and early the next morning we picked up our host and headed into Texas, full of expectancy and optimism.


     Some time later we arrived at the ranch where Bert and Tony caucused about where the most likely area to look in might be.  The terrain in this part of Texas is very rugged. There are numerous canyons and draws with high rocky cliffs above.  Although Tony complained that there were only 12,000 acres on the ranch, those were "horizontal" acres.  I'll bet there were closer to 20,000 "vertical" acres of rocky, sloping hills to trek upon.  We went east on the ranch winding our way along for the river for about 7 miles when we came to a large open area, buffeted on three sides by bluffs.  Tony reckoned that he remembered hearing that there were some natural "grinding" stones somewhere in these bluffs and fortified with the knowledge that this seemed like prime country, we ventured forth.


     Hunting on these bluffs was like nothing I've ever experienced before.  Flint chips were not abundant, but were visible on occasion among the cover of cobble rock which was everywhere.  I am used to looking for points "in the dirt" and looking through hundreds of rocks took some getting used to.  Shortly after we began I noticed a colorful piece of Alibates protruding from a rock bed.  Stooping down I realized it was the base of an archaic point.  Not a bad start I thought.  Several hours passed with little more success, however.  One of the interesting things I noted was that much of the cobble rock in the outcroppings was quartzite (sugar quartz).  Many of the rocks exposed had at least several nodules knocked off, suggestive of the fact that the Indians were looking for suitable materials.  (Although I know that some of you will disagree with this next statement, I personally would have been happy if the first Americans had determined that sugar quartz was never a suitable material!)


     I moved from the top of the bluffs to several lower "shelves" and it was on one of these that I was to secure my first perfect point in Texas.  Laying out completely exposed among the rocks was a small Alibates corner-notched point.  I called the others over to witness this piece of prehistory and after everyone had the opportunity to observe it "in-situ" I asked Bert if he would do the honors and pick it up.  This point was nothing special in terms of an artifact, but it was perfect, it was Alibates and if had been about 2"s longer, it would have been really spectacular!!


     Tony stayed with us during a portion of the morning, walking up and down the bluffs, surveying the land.  He had found a couple of artifacts in his life, mostly by accident, and it was obvious that he was joining us out of friendship for Bert, not because of any deep seeded desire to connect with the past.  About mid-morning, Tony said he needed to go and that he'd be back about noon or shortly thereafter.  He arrived and announced that lunch was ready.  I hadn't been expecting a meal and attempted to demure, saying that we weren't expecting to be fed.  Tony just smiled and said that he had a big mess of mesquite barbecued ribs ready to cook and that we'd better get to them.  My son is somewhat more intuitive about people than I am and he sidled up to me and whispered something to the effect that he thought it was bad manners to turn a meal down in Texas.  I looked at Grayson, noting that his wisdom was accompanied by a rumbling in his stomach and off we headed to the house.


     Tony and his wife Cynthie, and their daughter greeted us upon our arrival. Additionally, Bert's better half, Julie and his four beautiful daughters had made the journey to the ranch for lunch as well.  Within minutes the wonderful aroma of mesquite smoked meat wafted through the air and suddenly I realized that this was a fine idea.  Talk about your southern hospitality!! We had a meal fit for kings with what seemed to be a never ending supply of ribs, mashed potatoes, corn, baked beans, deviled eggs, salad, homemade rolls, and cake for dessert.  It is a wonder that after this meal we could move at all.  As I sat relaxing afterwards, I suddenly felt bad for every Texan joke I had ever told and a new found appreciation for cultural differences emerged.  And I've made a vowel that in honor and memory of that fine meal, I'll never tell another Texan joke. (It was a great meal!!)


     As we discussed the options for our afternoon hunting, Tony said that we might want to try up around the maintenance barn.  There was the top of a small hill which had been somewhat leveled for parking and a few arrowheads had been found there over the years. The site sat near the mouth of an old spring and while he wasn't guaranteeing anything, he thought it might be worth while. 


     Within minutes of arriving at the site we began picking up lots of small Alibates chips.  Although Bert has hunted some in his life, he hasn't found a lot and he really wanted to find a point.  I found first one, then another and then another small woodland point, two made of Alibates and the third of obsidian.  Grayson found a triangular point and all Bert could find was chips.  I could tell that he was getting a little frustrated, but he was keeping his sense of humor.  We found all of this material in an area of sand about 10 yards long and ten yards wide.  Apparently the hill side had been cut into, exposing this camp.  Interestingly as we walked, we kept stirring the fine granular sand and our steps uncovered new material.  We finally got down on our hands and knees and pushed the sand around.  I've never "grubbed" for points before, but this technique proved to be a good one as we ended up with about 5 more whole points.  And yes, Bert finally found a pretty little side-notched point.  He was quite pleased and his personal triumph added to the general success of this marvelous day.


     When we had finally finished working the area, we headed back to Tony's where the largess was displayed for everyone to witness.  Predicated upon our success, and considering that there was still an hour or so of daylight, Tony said there was one more place we ought to try, up along the creek.  We reached the spot as the shadows were lengthening, and visibility was difficult.  I quickly managed to secure another nice Alibates point which I gave to my host Tony as a "thank-you" for the great day.  He seemed pleased and invited us back some other time.  The sun was snaking low above the western bluffs when we finally made it back to the vehicle.  Good-byes were said, and we each went our own separate ways.


     On our way back to Portales, Grayson and I talked over the experience that we'd had.  We were in agreement that this was just about the perfect day: good company, good food, and enough Alibates to keep a person wanting to come back!!


     No journey would ever be complete, however, without a post script.  Early the next morning I headed home for Colorado.  Just north of Dalhart, Texas, right along US Highway 385, (and still about 300 miles from my home in Wray) I saw a couple of fellows out walking a cut milo field.  I stopped the car and crossed the fence hoping to make their acquaintance.  I introduced myself and asked if they were point hunters.  They said that they were but they hadn't had too much luck yet.  We hunted together for awhile and as we got to know each other I was to learn that Jim, the more gregarious of the two, knew where Wray was, in fact, his parents lived in Wray.  He then asked if I knew "so and so" and it turns out that his cousin by marriage, Steve Juranek, is one of my frequent arrowhead hunting partners.  Talk about a small world!! Jim said that he and Steve had never had the opportunity to hunt together, but they knew each other and knew of each other's interest in artifact collecting.  As we walked I did manage to find one more Texas artifact, a small woodland point, made of sugar quartz.  Jim was an extremely friendly man and he invited me to come back to Texas some time and hunt with him "when the hunting would be really good."


     And now that I've put my deep-seeded mistrust of the "Great State Of Texas" behind me, I suspect that one of these days I'll be pocketing more than a couple of woodland points; in fact, with all the new friends I've made from the "Longhorn, Lone Star, Yellow Rose" State of Texas, there's a pretty good chance that one of these days I may just happen upon an Alibates point from the Paleo era!! (Hook 'em Horns!)




By Member Henry H. Helene


     I was about 13-14 when this happened, living in Hurst, Texas.  There was a spot on a hill (undeveloped) not far from a friends house, where we had seen some moundy looking things, in a small area.  They weren’t big, only a foot or two high, and from three to eight feet long. They were quite uniform, although not in any special order. It was on the side of the low hill. I didn’t think they would be burials, although they could have been. Towards the center of this area was a really large Oak tree, in the midst of all post-oaks. It stood out well. At the base of this oak were 2 "Spanish Dagger" plants. They were unusual to the area, although we had seen them, so that we knew what they were. Where they grew (at the base of this tree, it was all whitish sand. It was the ONLY spot like this in the whole area of miles, and we had been over all of it.  We decided that we should investigate further.


     It was a cool, windy day, with low scudding clouds. We crossed the creek with Jerry’s small terrier, Boots, and we were anticipating a big adventure. At the lower edge of the woods was a 3-strand barbed wire fence which Jerry went through. This fence was about 150 feet from the large oak, further up the hill. After Jerry had gone through Boots sat down and started whining. Jerry called, and then ORDERED Boots to "come" but to no avail.


     After 2-3 minutes of this he came back though the fence and literally hauled him by the neck  across the fence, and hung on to him for the next 30'. When he let go of Boots, the dog jammed up against Jerry so hard he could hardly walk. Jerry was quite pissed about this and kept kicking him for it. Boots didn’t care; he wasn’t going back alone.


     We got to the locale and got down on our hands and knees, between the Spanish Daggers, in the white sand area, and began to scrape the sand with our hands. Boots was pressed against Jerry so hard that Jerry threw him 3-4' away. Each time Boots would scurry back and press even harder. All this transpired in only a minute or two.


     As I was scraping the sand, with the edge of my hand, it seemed to be getting colder, but I didn’t notice too much, as I was busy. I didn’t care about Jerry and Boots, as if in a dream. It wasn’t my problem, anyway.


     I was down about six inches, when the trees started to move a little, as if the wind was coming up. It was of not much concern, and all of this happened as if in a dream, although it wasn’t noticeable at that very moment.


     Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a chill descended upon us like I’ve never experienced before or since. It was so cold that everything slowed down to slow-motion. It was only then that I became cognizant of the surroundings.


     The trees were actually whipping each other, and they were only about 20 feet high, except for the large oak. It wasn’t moving at all. I was basically paralyzed by this cold, and was just able to ask Jerry, "Do you feel that?" He chattered “yes.”


     I was able to look towards him and it looked like his eyes would pop out, although he was looking straight down at the ground. Boots wasn’t even moving, and I swear if he had been pressed any harder against Jerry, he would have been imbedded.


     On a straight line to the north, and basically past Jerry was a slightly clearer way out of these woods, where there was a barbed wire fence about 200 feet away. Across that fence was a clear field, and seemed the easiest way out of there. By the time I was able to actually recruit the strength to get vertical and RUN, must have been only seconds, although it seemed like an eternity. I bolted down that clearing to the fence and vaulted the 3-strand with room to spare. I didn’t stop running till I got into the center of that field, and turned around to look.


     What I saw will NEVER leave my memory.  There was Jerry scared completely out of his wits running towards me, and Boots almost tripping him as they ran up to me.


     On the side of that hill was dead calm except about 50 feet around where we were, the trees were still literally thrashing back and forth, to the point that we could hear them as if in a great wind storm.


     We discussed all of this on our walk home, and decided to tell no-one, except our friend Lucky (his actual name) as we might have been carted off to the loony bin.  A week later we told Lucky, and he thought we were crazy, but did agree to go see this place.


     As we all three approached that large oak, I was paying much better attention. It was as if we were moving through some kind of dream, although everything was moving at a normal pace.


     Jerry and I got down on hands and knees, just as before, with Lucky between us, and began to scrape as before.  Again ......I was totally aware this time. We probably scraped four or five times when I felt something again. I scraped one more time as I listened to the trees start to move. It was plainly clear that the wind was moving them. And it was rapidly increasing. It was then that I felt the cold starting again, and I asked Jerry If he was alright. As I asked I looked in his direction, past Lucky, and Jerry was SCARED!!!!! It was at that exact moment that Lucky JUMPED up and BOLTED for the field. Jerry and I followed as close as possible. It wasn’t until Lucky hit the middle of that same field that he turned around, as we ran up. Let me tell you, he was scared out of his wits too. We all three looked back on the hill, and again those trees were whipping, but not as badly as before. We chided Lucky for being scared, after thinking we were crazy. He refused to say anything had happened, and to this day will not admit that he had been scared.  It was the un-doing of a long friendship, because of his total denial.  This happened about 1959.


     We stayed away from there for years, but in about 1961 they bulldozed the area to make houses. It was then that TCU came in and excavated some burials, wherein they found one with a war-shield, in it.

We returned then and found arrow and archaic points for 6 months after.  The first time we looked we found human cranium pieces all over the whole area, and 50 some odd points, not counting the broken ones.




Buckeye Knoll Analysis Plan Announced by Corp of Engineers

News Release

Click here for link to .pdf formatted article (Adobe Acrobat Reader required)




Hundreds of Artifacts Found in Home

The Associated Press





by A.G. Brunson, Editor

     In these turbulent days and times, we artifact collectors, many of whom are American history buffs, seem to be curiously tolerant of the manner of story reported above by an Associated Press stringer in Santa Fe. We have long chafed under the stigma created by the criminals who loot important archaeological sites across our country.

     Terrorism and the Patriot Act have again brought to the surface the epic struggle to find equilibrium between cherished civil rights of a free people, and increased authoritarian control. Yes, we strongly deplore the greed-driven and criminal excavation of prehistoric sites that plague our heritage and sully our hobby, but it’s a mighty stretch to imply that every collection of arrowheads in American homes is nothing but evidence of criminal behavior. A collector of legal pottery is no more outside the law than a buyer of Impressionist paintings at a major auction house, or the millions of stamp and coin collectors across this country, and regardless of what any “law enforcement officer” may say, it is still very lawful to pick up stone and chert artifacts from the surface of public lands.

     Now to the case in point. Lurid headlines indeed: “Hundreds of Indian Artifacts Found Inside Home.” Gasp! But read further, and the devil is indeed in the details. The Farmington N.M. police were in hot pursuit of a little band of common burglars and luckily found damning evidence in a routine traffic stop, specifically, a “....large amount of copper wiring allegedly taken from Saulsbury Electric...” Thinking fast, the police obtained a search warrant for the suspect’s residence. Bravo! Go find the wire and bust the industrial theft ring.

     So far, what we have is rural sheriff’s deputies stumbling into a low-rent ring of burglars. Apparently, the warrant and string of charges detail possession of stolen property and breaking and entering....and no doubt the issuing judge granted the search for this evidence, as he must be specific. The deputies found the goods and burglary tools and locked up the perp with a hefty bond....all well and good, and electric company executives are sleeping much better all over New Mexico.

     Here’s the rub: the sharp-eyed deputies, in the course of solving this heinous crime, also spot frames of artifacts in the suspect’s residence. Knowing full well that these objects were way outside the scope of their investigation, and that their suspicions were inadmissible in a court of law, they called the Feds! But which Feds? Why, the Bureau of Land Management, under the Department of Interior, which, not accidentally, controls about 80% of New Mexico. Enter good Officer Tracy, who in ill-advised exuberance, entered the suspect’s home and discovered “....hundreds of stone tools, arrow points, cutting edges, cookware and other trade items.” Now Officer Tracy is trained as a domestic bureaucrat, and charged with managing Federal Lands, which presumably, the burglar’s bedroom isn’t.

     We are left to wonder if Officer Tracy has ever heard of illegal search and seizure, probable cause, or the phrase, “You’re out of your jurisdiction.” Normally, careful law enforcement officers investigate thoroughly, build an air-tight case, and then seize evidence, but not officer Tracy....his investigation consists entirely of the simpleton speculation that, “If the items were taken from federal of American Indian lands, that COULD BE a violation of the U. S. Archaeological Resource Protection Act.” Brilliant, Officer Tracy, and when Johnny Cochran gets through with your flimsy case, good luck with your career! But thanks indeed for the irrelevant observation that Folsom points were used for bison hunting 7,000 years ago.

     The reader of this opinion column should not suppose that this writer, or the AACA, in any way sympathizes with the accused in this case; far from it. It’s very likely that this petty crook DID indeed violate A.R.P.A., and should be severely punished....but what happened to the duty to defend the Constitution, and innocence until proven guilty?  A.R.P.A., for all its noble intentions, is a flawed Act, and like all legislative dictums, only as good as its enforcement methods. Simply put, collecting artifacts in your bedroom is not a crime, but seizing property without probable cause is an affront against liberty.

~ The above editorial is solely the opinion of the writer, and should not be interpreted as opinion or policy of the AACA, its Board of Directors, or members. ~