Being a South Central Power Coop customer/member bring you two things each month. A bill and a copy of their often interesting magazine, Country Living. The May, 2015 issue includes an article titled “Hunting Indian Artifacts” and the story’s focus is Len and Janie (Jinks) Weidner of Sunbury, OH. Janie is originally from Greenfield and has been an avid artifact hunter and collector since early childhood. Both her and Len are recognized authorities in the world of Native American artifacts. For years Janie has been the editor of Who’s Who in Indian Relics and has been very involved with the Archaeological Society of Ohio.
Hope you enjoy the read.
Hunting Indian artifacts
Walking along the edge of a north-central Ohio hay field, I spied a small patch of bare ground and went over to investigate. There, lying in plain view on the surface, was a perfect black-flint arrowhead, measuring about an inch and a half in length. Not believing my good luck, I immediately pounced on the point, my mind flooding with questions as I turned it over and over in my hands.
What person last touched this small point and how long ago? What tribe or culture had he or she been a member of? And had the point been shot at an enemy during a time of war or simply at an animal during a hunt?
Those questions, I knew, would never be answered, but they didn’t lessen the thrill of my discovery; in fact, they only heightened it. Such is the excitement of hunting — and finding — Native American Indian artifacts. And it’s amazing the amount of stone artifacts still turning up in the Buckeye State yet today.
Native Americans lived in what one day would become Ohio for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. It was during those many years they knapped countless arrowheads, spear and atlatl points, scrapers and other flint tools. Flint Ridge Ancient Quarries and Nature Preserve, located southeast of Newark and today owned by the Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society, www.ohiohistory.org), was the source of much of the most colorful flint.
“Surface collecting of Indian artifacts can be a wonderful hobby as long as you do it the right way,” said Brad Lepper, curator of archeology with the Ohio History Connection. “And by that, I mean you should keep careful track of where you find artifacts.”
Lepper went on to say that collectors should think of artifacts as letters on a page. “By keeping a detailed list of where you find each item, archaeologists can use that information to read the story of Ohio’s past,” he said. “On the other hand, if you just pick up artifacts and don’t keep records, you are in essence erasing letters from the pages of history.”
Lepper added that information about finds should eventually be shared with professional archeologists. “To do that, amateur collectors can contact a professional archaeologist in their area, at a local museum or university department of anthropology.”
One of the largest private collections of Indian artifacts in Ohio, and possibly the Midwest, is owned by Len and Janie Weidner of Sunbury. Both have been hunting and collecting artifacts since they were kids. The couple even first met through artifact collecting and eventually married.
Today, their collection numbers in the thousands of prehistoric stone items: points, blades, spades, celts, axes, pipes, drills, gorgets, bannerstones, birdstones, pestles and much more. The Weidners’ rarest and most valuable piece is a large, black birdstone ceremonial pipe purchased from a Tennessee woman who was using it as a doorstop.
“The first artifact I ever found in Ohio as a young man was while seining minnows in a creek in southern Franklin County,” Len remembers. “I happened to look up on the bank and saw a flint blade glinting in the sun, and lying near it was another. The crop field just above the bank had recently been plowed, so I asked the farmer if I could surface hunt for arrowheads. He said yes, and I found 15 or 20 points that day. I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Janie first became interested in Native American artifacts through her grandfather. “He owned a farm in Fayette County and plowed his fields with a mule,” she said. “And every time something interesting turned up, he’d pick it up and put it in his pocket. When he passed away in 1954, he had two bushel baskets of stone points in the barn, as well as his better collectibles displayed in the house.”
If you’ve never hunted Indian artifacts before, the first thing you will need is permission of the landowner before entering private property. And collecting on public land may or may not be permitted — depending upon the location — so always check with the governing agency first.
The Weidners say that spring is usually the best time of year to surface hunt, followed by fall. “I’d say March and April are the best months, soon after a field has been plowed and rained on,” said Len. “But October and November can also be good, especially just after the crops come off.”
As for location, the Weidners said Indians living in the Ohio country usually situated their villages or camps on high ground near a river or stream. “Once you locate a general area such as that, begin looking more closely for flint chips or pieces of sharp-edged, fire-cracked rock,” said Janie. “Find those clues, and you’re hunting in the right location.”
Hunting Indian artifacts is good outdoor exercise and a great way to connect young people with Ohio’s ancient past, so take a kid along. Just be forewarned — it can be addictive. Good luck, and happy hunting!