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March 16, 2007 

Ancient Artifact Unearthed at Oregon Landscaping Job

McMinnville landscape contractor Brian Campbell has a knack for finding lost objects.

It all started more than 20 years ago, when he discovered an unopened decades-old bottle of Coke perfectly preserved inside the 6-foot-wide trunk of a freshly cleared tree. The bottle, dated 1923, boasted: "It's the new thing!"

Campbell said he's unearthed all sorts of objects over the intervening years, many of them swallowed up by trees at some point. He's found various tools, plus a collection of interesting old nails.

He's turned his bottle-hunting into a hobby bordering on an obsession. In the summer months, he likes to search the banks of the Yamhill River with friends.
Over time, it has come to extend well beyond bottles. Campbell has found ancient Indian artifacts and stone tools, some possibly dating back thousands of years.

He unearthed the centerpiece of his collection in 2001, while doing some landscape work for a woman who lived along the river. Experts believe it may be a "cascade point," an ancient stone artifact used by the region's original inhabitants 8,000 to 11,000 years ago.

"She had a real nice yard," Campbell recalled.

Beyond it lay a set of steps meandering their way down the riverbank, and Campbell set about refacing them. While working on the last step with a handheld hoe, he made his find.

"My pick hit something," he said. "It looked like a clump of dirt at first."
Upon washing the dirt off, Campbell realized he'd unearthed what appeared to be a stone spearhead. It was dark colored with a distinctive green hue.

Campbell sought the counsel of scholars around the state to figure out what exactly he had on his hands. They believe it's a cascade point, he said.
"They're amazed," he said. "They've never seen anything like it."

Joel Marrant, professor of anthropology at Linfield College, said he's one of the people Campbell consulted in academic circles.

Marrant, whose quiet campus office is lined with books, said he receives calls every month from people who believe they've found ancient artifacts. He said only about one out of four warrant follow up, and Campbell's was one of them.

The Linfield scholar said he lacks the expertise to officially authenticate such a find. But he said Campbell's artifact does display many characteristics of a cascade point.

"It's one of the earlier stages of stone tools used in North America," Marrant said. He said it was employed as a spearhead about 9,000 years ago.

The cascade point was used to hunt small animals, as larger animals from the last ice age had died out by that time. Unlike other spearhead points, he said, the cascade point is localized to the Northwest - the area now encompassed by Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

Campbell speculated the artifact might have been used as a cutting tool. He pointed to subtle notches on the edges, saying they might have been made to fit a specially cut bone handle.

However, Marrant said it's more likely the object was attached to a spear than wielded by hand.

Marrant said since the points, given a willow-leaf shape, would have broken easily in use. Given this one's pristine condition, it may have held some sort of special, ceremonial value, he said.

If Campbell's find is, in fact, a cascade point, Marrant said it's truly an amazing discovery. He said it could well prove one of the best-preserved points from that period on record.

"It's important these artifacts be seen as sources of knowledge," he said. Often, he said, people want to know how much an object is worth rather how much it might reveal about early history.

Campbell said his dark green artifact has served as the centerpiece of his collection, and a conversation piece among friends and acquaintances, for several years. At this point, he might be willing to part with it, he said.

He said he's not sure whether he should sell it or donate it. "It's kind of a toss up," he said.

If he decides to donate the artifact, he said, it would probably be the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde. Donating it to the tribe would give it a homecoming of sorts, he said, as it was no doubt used by ancestors of the Grande Ronde.

"It's part of their heritage," he said.

Back to News/Press Releases >> Source: Lawn and Landscape Mag
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