100 amateur archeologists

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Buried in the swirl of summer events is a favorite, that yearly Drowned Lands Historical Society’s tour of a Native American campsite. About 100 people show up, some novices and others outfitted with knowledge, passion and a walking stick to poke around the fresh turned earth of a corn field. I’ve been going for the past few years and getting a bit better at seeing artifacts in dirt. But some people are gifted at this.

Roslyn Fassett, a local artist, is an artifact magnet. They seem to find her. “Quite simply, I am attracted to the earth,” she said, which shows in her paintings. (“Women and the Earth” is Fassett’s upcoming exhibit at the Albert Wisner Library.) “No tricks or prayers, my hand reaches into the ground and sometimes touches a bit of pottery or arrowhead. Recently, walking in a tilled field, my hand found a stone scraper” – a tool thought to have been used for hideworking and woodworking – “beneath a clod of dirt - round, heavy. Holding it I sensed a human once used it.”

Rich Pillar, a retired landscape architect, found an almost complete arrowhead at the annual hunt in 2016, after an hour and a half of searching. Made of quartzite, it matched three other arrowheads in his collection, which had been gifted him by a friend and local collector. He’d always had an interest in Native American artifacts, but it wasn’t until age 62 that, he said, “I finally found one by my own searching.”

Members of the Drowned Lands Historical Society are around to help sort beautiful rocks from Lenape arrowheads. Luckily, I like both. It’s Thursday, July 19 at 6 p.m. at Bob Sodrick’s farm on Van Sickle Hill in Pine Island, NY (pineislandny.com). This is private land open this night only. It is certainly an unusual event, hunting for pieces of the past. It’s family friendly and free. Bring a stick to help poke around.

Daniel Mack

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