Long, long ago before there were packaged turkeys waiting to be cooked for Thanksgiving — or the Thanksgiving holiday at all — Native Americans hunted their food. Mayo Elementary School first-grader Daniel Kraus learned that lesson firsthand when he laid hands on an ancient Native American arrowhead.
A day of family bonding turned up a discovery that linked Daniel, and the Kraus family, with an ancient past.
“Dan’s godparents came down, and since they don’t have Chesapeake Bay where they live, it’s a tradition that we take them to the water,” reported Daniel’s mother, Cheryl Kraus. The destination was Saunders Point Beach on the northeast face of the Edgewater peninsula.
“We were skipping rocks,” said Daniel, the six-and-a-half-year-old budding archeologist. “My dad reached down and found it. He was like ‘Whoa! This looks different,’ and didn’t skip it.”
The odd rock turned out to be an arrowhead. Later, the Kraus family found it was not just any arrowhead.
“It looked like it just washed up from the water,” said Daniel, awed by the chance of the encounter.
“Occasionally we’ll find sharks’ teeth,” Cheryl Krause said. But this was not a shark’s tooth, despite its triangular shape.
“I was stunned, really,” said Daniel’s father, Bill Kraus. “The minute I saw it, I knew it was manmade.”
The Kraus family emailed a picture of the arrowhead to state archeologist Maureen Kavanagh.
“Different styles of projectile points made through prehistoric times,” Kavanagh explained to Bay Weekly. “Short broad stems were common in the late archaic period. That’s what the Kraus family found.”
America’s archaic period lasted six thousand years, from 8000 to 2000bc. The Kraus’ stemmed arrowhead was made in the late archaic period, between 2500 to 1500bc.
So the Bay gave Daniel’s family a very old tool.
How old is that old?
“King Tut was born in 1331bc,” Bill Kraus explained, reporting facts he discovered while seeking to put the arrowhead in historical context. “So this arrowhead is at its youngest older than King Tut.”
The arrowhead’s stone taught Daniel and his family another history lesson.
The projectile point — which is what archaeologists call such things, “is made out of a stone called rhyolite that comes from a valley just west of Maryland’s Piedmont,” Kavanagh said.
Frederick County is pretty far away for people who traveled by foot.
But these ancient people got around. “Indians used rocks from local riverbeds here but would also have traded with other tribes,” said Stephanie Sperling, archeologist at Historic London Town, not far from where the Kraus family made their find.
Inspiring as the Kraus family find was, such discoveries are “fairly common,” Sperling said. Since they remain mostly unchanged and were so important to their lives, “They are the best glimpse of people from the past. An arrowhead would only be a part of their tool kit though — they had stones for drills and hammers too, just like people today.”
With such an interesting piece from the past, Daniel hosted his own show-and-tell for his class.
“Everyone thought I found the candy Airhead and was bringing that in. They were like, what?”
He quickly cleared up his classmates’ misconception. Daniel told Ms. Casey’s first-grade class that the arrowhead “made them not have to follow animals around anymore,” which tied into the theme of transportation they were learning about.
“They were really excited,” he reported.
No matter how much the Kraus family learns, they say they will still always have questions about their mysterious find.
“What’s the whole story there, like where did it come from? How many different hands has it gone through? It’s just a lot to think about,” Cheryl Kraus said.
Discovering a tiny, time-withstanding triangle of your own is tempting, but beware: All archaeological finds on public property belong to the state. Find a piece of history on your own land, and it’s finders-keepers. In any case, send a photograph and description of the location of the find to state terrestrial archeologist Charlie Hall at 410-514-7665.
“All artifacts tell a story about the past,” London Town’s Sperling says. Those are stories archeologists hope to learn.