Fifteen thousand years of early man’s history will be displayed under one roof Saturday at an annual artifact and relic show featuring collectors and exhibitors from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Georgia

The Indian Artifact and Relic Show will feature some of the finest authentic Native American artifacts recovered in the Southeast, said Bill Breidinger, president of the show’s sponsor, The Magnolia State Archaeological Society.

“Only authentic Indian artifacts will be allowed at this show; no fakes or reproductions,” he said.

From Paleo to Indians

According to Breidinger, 12,000 to 16,000 years ago, while North America, Alaska and Canada were still just wilderness, Paleo man, from Asia, entered what is now North America by crossing the Bering Strait by way of a land bridge. 

“They were in search of food and shelter for their families and had to endure harsh climates and follow the herds of animals, moving sometimes daily, just to survive,” said Bill Breidinger, president of the Magnolia State Archaeological Society.

The Paleo would become called “Indians” or “Red Indians” by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who, when he landed in America, thought he was in India.

The Paleo-Indians clothes were made of animal hides and their huts were made of sticks and covered with animal hides and leaves. If they were lucky, they could find shelter in a cave but this was probably the exception rather than the rule, Breidinger said.

The animals they hunted – including mastodon and mammoth – were massive and dwarfed them in size, sometimes weighing 10 tons and reaching a height of 14 feet. The only weapons they had were stone spear points attached to a long wooden shaft. These animals, in spite of their size, were very fast and very dangerous and often a member or members of the hunting party were killed, Breidinger said. 

As centuries passed, small groups of these nomadic people began to band together for mutual support and protection. Small game as well as deer, elk and moose were hunted and the invention of the bow and arrow was a great step forward in hunting and in warfare, he said.

Fish and river mussels became a large part of their diet and the presence of the mortar and pestle is evidence that nuts, seeds and berries were added to their diet.

Another great advancement of the Paleo-Indians was the development of pottery. It could be used for boiling fish and meat scraps to make soups and broth and also for transporting water and for storing food for the lean times of winter.

The Paleo-Indians settled in the rich, fertile soils of river bottoms and with more agriculture and less hunting there was no need or desire to move. Corn and maize were raised and domestic plants like sunflower were harvested.

As time passed, these small groups grew into small villages, some approaching town size, and with more leisure time people began to concentrate on what they did best, Breidinger said. Some hunted, some made pottery, some worked the fields and others that were good with stone and bone probably made arrowheads and spears. Ceremonial objects such as large spear points and blades were made from brightly colored hard stone and slate and were not made to be used for hunting or warfare.

“These objects were highly polished works of art and were probably polished using animal fat, fine grit or sand and leather,” he said. “These objects are highly sought after today by the more advanced collectors.”

Several types of clay pottery vessels were also made including water bottles, storage jars and effigy bowls depicting animal or human forms. These vessels are also in great demand today, Breidinger said.

Items for show, sale

During Saturday’s Indian Artifact and Relic Show, collectors and exhibitors will both display and sell items.

Additionally, awards will be presented to collectors and exhibitors in the following categories: Best Featured Point Type (Pine Tree), Best Recent Find, Best in Show (stone, bone and other) and Best Educational Display. Only MSAS or CSAS (Central States Archaeological Society) members are eligible for awards.

Anyone with artifacts that they would like to have identified can bring them to the show. An archaeologist will be on hand to answer questions. Breidinger said.

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