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Long before an expansive network of interstates and highways cut across America, a network of trails were formed and traversed by the Cherokee. Like today’s interstate system, the Cherokee trails ran north to south, east to west. The trails were used for trade, hunting, gathering, and to make war against opposing tribes and settlers that wanted their land.

Marking those trails were trail trees—hardwood trees whose trunks were intentionally bent to grow low and parallel to the ground before rising upward again. Like today’s highway signs, researchers believe the Cherokee shaped trees to point to things that their people needed on long and arduous journeys.

Sometimes called “bent trees”, “marker trees”, or “signal trees”, surviving examples are now two hundred years old or more. Many are dying due to disease, weather, urbanization, and age, giving urgency to a project organized to catalog them before they’re lost forever. Read more

First Thanksgiving Plymouth

As Plymouth, Massachusetts, celebrates the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s arrival in 1620, ongoing archaeological work at the original Pilgrim settlement has unearthed a sweeping array of Native American and early European artifacts. These discoveries, together with primary source accounts written by Pilgrims William Bradford and Edward Winslow, have reshaped our understanding of the “First Thanksgiving”; a three-day feast celebrating the Pilgrims’ first harvest in the New World in 1621.       Read more

Clovis Points Explained

Clovis points are quite possibly the most coveted point of Native American artifact collectors. Clovis points are the unmistakably-fluted (a leaf like groove emanating from the central base) projectile points associated with the New World Clovis culture of the Early Paleoindian period―which lasted for nearly 1,000 years, from 11,500 to 10,500 years ago. This period is marked by the first human entry into the New World, presumably from Asia via the Bering Land Bridge, and the end of the last Ice Age, 13,500 to 12,800 years ago.

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Wooden Duck Decoys

Some have argued that art imitates life, while others say that life imitates art. Native Americans would have agreed with both positions. When the colonists first came ashore in North America, they observed Native Americans using mud, cattails, and other organic materials to craft imitations of ducks and other fowl. These decoys would attract live water fowl, which hunters would then capture or kill.

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Paying It Forward

When attending a Civil War or Native American artifact show, I’ve grown accustom to being one of the youngest people in attendance. At nearly 40-years of age, my dark head of hair contrasts sharply against the sea of “silver foxes” and “cotton-tops” shuffling through the aisles of any given show. And to the eyes of today’s adolescent or teenager, such a scene might be enough to dissuade them from exploring no further than a quick glance up from their device! In my experience however, the welcoming generosity of others has helped usher in a new and younger demographic of collectors into this wonderful hobby. Read more