Authentic Artifact Collectors Association
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
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.
Book Review: “The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay”
Larry and Christopher Merriam, photographs from the collection of Dr. Robert E. Bell
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.
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
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
My notions of
the fair State of
called for gaining access to a large private ranch on the
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
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.
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
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
these bluffs was like nothing I've ever experienced before.
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!!
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 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
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!!
would ever be complete, however, without a post script. Early the next morning I headed home for
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,
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
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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
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
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
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
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. ~