A showing of tools and weapons used for survival centuries ago by prehistoric man will be displayed in a returning archaeological show later this week.
The Magnolia State Archaeological Society’s annual Native American Indian Artifact show will be held Saturday, Feb. 8, from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Tommy Dulaney Center, located at 915 Highway 19 North. Admission is free.
“Collectors from Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri will be displaying their artifacts at this one-day show,” the archaeological society’s president Bill Breidinger said. “Some of the finest artifacts in the country will be displayed at this show and there will also be a 450-year-old Indian canoe on display.”
According to Breidinger, the artifacts will provide insight into the unknown faced by early man, as well as how he adapted to these challenges.
“Thousands of years ago, maybe as many as 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,” Breidinger said. “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.”
The settlers’ 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,” he 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 or bone spear points attached to a long wooden shaft. These animals, in spite of their size were very dangerous and often a member or members of the hunting party were killed.
“These spears or ‘lances’ were sometimes thrown with the help of the Atl Atl, which was developed some 17,000 years ago during the Paleolithic period in Europe,” Breidinger said. “The Atl Atl was actually a wooden throwing stick. It was 16 inches to 24 inches long and had a hook at one end. The end of the spear/lance was placed on this hook and the hunter would launch the lance towards his target. It acted as an extension of his arm and allowed him to get as much as 50 percent more distance out of his spear/lance. It also gave him better accuracy.”
An Atl Atl weight or “bannerstone” was sometimes added to the Atl Atl to give the spear/lance more thrust, which helped penetrate the thick hides of these massive animals.
As centuries passed, small groups of these nomadic people began to ban 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 hinting and in warfare, Breidinger said.
“Fish and river mussels became a large part of their diet and the presence of the mortar and pestle is evidence that nuts, berries and seeds were added to their diet,” he added.
Another great advancement was the development of pottery, which was used for boiling meat and fish scraps to make soups and broth, as well as transporting water. However, the main advantage of pottery was for storing food for the lean times of winter and to protect it from insects. Many types of clay pottery vessels were made including water bottles, storage jars and effigy bowls depicting animal or human forms.
The people settled in rich, fertile 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 and some worked with stone to make arrowheads and spear points. Others tended the fields and grew crops.”
Ceremonial objects such as large spears and blades were made using brightly colored hard stone and slate and highly polished using animal fat, grit or sand and leather. According to Breidinger, these objects are highly sought after today by more advanced collectors.
For more information contact Bill Breidinger at 601-486-6162 or Rob Odell at 228-235-1506.