Got an old ‘rock?’ Find out if it’s really treasure May 21
Marty Rutz started hunting arrowheads with his father, Glen Rutz, as a youngster in Franklin. His father, before him, did the same with an uncle. Now Rutz will bring some of those treasures as well as ones he’s found locally to an archeologist in an effort to identify their age and learn more about them.
“For me, it’s just amazing to find an arrowhead,” said Rutz, who continues collecting with his wife, Kat, near their home in town of Grant. “I wonder who and when it was last held. Was it 1,000 years ago? 2,000? 5,000? Or maybe 10,000 years ago. It’s just mind boggling.”
Rutz hopes to find answers at the Wisconsin Archeological Society 2016 Spring Meeting and Field Assembly Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at Lake Emily County Park, 3968 Park Drive, Amherst Junction.
Included in the day’s events are tours of the Lake Emily burial mounds, flint knapping demonstrations, archeology games and artifact identification by State Historical Society archeologists, including Ray Reser, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Natural History Museum director and archeologist.
The artifact identification part of the day is like an “Antiques Roadshow” focused on historic and prehistoric artifacts, such as stone tools, ceramics, copper tools and weapons, animal bones and historic objects connected with the regional past. Occasionally there also has been beadwork and items like metal objects or trade pipes that show up.
Rutz attended the event the last time it was in Portage County in September 2012. At that time, he brought in artifacts found on his grandparents’ homestead in Franklin, including a stone axe, stone celt and spearheads, all estimated to be between 3,000 and 6,000 years old.
Linda Weitz of Plover brought in a collection of artifacts that date back between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago.
“I was extremely surprised; it was a thrill for me to have the items identified and dated,” said Weitz, whose mother had a keen interest in archeology and father was an Illinois crop farmer who collected on his land for many years.
“He became so skilled at finding artifacts, he could identify a ‘worked’ chip of stone from the tractor and stop the tractor in time to retrieve it,” said Weitz, who plans to attend this year’s event to identify more items.
“It really means a lot to me to do something meaningful with these items,” she said. “They were so important to my mother and father and they never got a chance to find out the treasures that they had.”
There also have been folks who have come with buckets of rocks, many with holes in them, interested in determining whether any could be artifacts, Reser said.
“Maybe one in every thousand is an artifact,” he said. “Most stone tools used as knives or spearheads were a hard, glassy rock. Sandstone won’t cut and will wear away … if it looks completely natural then it probably is completely natural.”
Often it is difficult to tell whether what looks like a rock is an artifact or a raw tool that may have been buried to be used as a back-up if needed, he said. If the item turns out to be a rock, though, Reser said, it is still interesting to see and identify because rocks, too, say something about the history and movement of people thousands of years ago.
Reser cautioned that though he can identify the item, there is not a way to specifically link an artifact to a specific tribe.
The day will hold other activities to enjoy. Mound tours will take place at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., and games will be at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and flint knapping demonstrations also will be held.
Prehistoric copper and stone axes, arrowheads and spear points, copper knives, historic and prehistoric pipes, geologic specimens, caches of stone tool blanks, mammoth teeth and oxen shoes are among the items previously identified. Two remote emailed requests were identified as a Spanish cannon ball recovered on a South American beach and a copper chisel from New Mexico.
There also were “outrageous artifact forgeries,” Reser said.