One of the most interesting pastimes for me is searching for Indian artifacts. My first recollection of it is from when I was about nine or ten years old, working alongside my father in a big tobacco field. He stooped down and picked up a small, well-shaped little stone, and gave it to me saying, “This is an arrowhead made by Indians long, long ago.” I still have it, and for obvious reasons, 65 years and hundreds of arrowheads later, it is my favorite.
Since that occasion, my fascination has only intensified with regard to Native American artifacts and their history in our part of Virginia. Mrs. Maud Clement, in her wonderful History of Pittsylvania County, states that prior to the European settlement the Sapony Indians prevailed here in what is now Pittsylvania County.
My being able to find artifacts through the years can be at least partly explained by traditional farming practices followed by my family, our neighbors, and our forebears. Almost every local farm had tobacco, corn, etc., planted on it for the livelihood of the farmers and their families. In preparation for those crops, in late fall most farmers used a plow to turn the soil in order for it to “freeze out” during the winter, which would cause it to be loose and easy to work come spring planting time. During the winter after the soil was turned, especially after a rain, was an excellent time to walk the plowed land in search of arrowheads. As a youngster, every chance I got, that is what I would do. And really, I searched the year 'round. Even after tobacco was planted in the fields and we were working in it, I kept an eye out, fulfilling my passion of arrowhead hunting. Most cultivating of the crops was done with mules and horses. The cultivating plows, turning or moving the soil, did not break the arrowheads, unlike the heavy mechanized equipment used in the fields today. How often I think back to the many arrowheads I had found in my early years, and being just a boy, gave away when someone asked for one or two!
Besides the tendency for modern equipment to damage the hidden Indian artifacts, on farms today the soil is not tilled or turned over as much as it once was, in an attempt to minimize topsoil erosion. Additionally, many areas that were once agricultural and good arrowhead-hunting ground are no longer fields and farms. So there is not as much bare-earth area to search now. In recent years I have turned my searching for projectile points to the streams, creeks, and rivers. I look especially along the sandbars, and where erosion and shifting of rocks occurs after heavy rains and the rising and receding of high water. Fragments of Indian pottery, some as large as one's hand, with various markings and designs, can sometimes be found.
Stone point found October 14, 2018, on a sandbank within a small stream in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
My latest find occurred while I was going upstream on a small creek, three or four days after the waters receded from Tropical Storm Michael (October 11, 2018). The storm had dumped 5–6 inches of rain in a short period of time. This discovery was for me the “Holy Grail” of all my Native American artifact finds. It was a 6 1/2 inch stone knife! In perfect condition, it still retained its sharpness on both sides. One can tell by its perfection that it had been long buried in the ground near the stream, for hundreds if not thousands of years, until it was unearthed by erosion of the stream banks. I also found pottery fragments in the same area.
When I saw the stone knife blade, lying on a small sandbar in the curve of the stream, I couldn't believe I could be so fortunate! The Indian who fashioned it was indeed an expert at his craft! After looking for awhile at its beauty and craftmanship, the thought again came to my mind (as it does with all artifacts) that after hundreds or thousands of years, my hands were the first human touch on that blade since the Indian craftsman had made it and used it for his own survival! If only that stone could talk — what a story it could tell!
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