Central States Archaeological Societies
Central States Archaeological Societies

Collecting damaged artifacts

Steven Cooper

Central States Archaeological Societies 2005 July Journal

Kingston Springs, Tennessee

Collecting damaged artifacts

Cupped Discoidal fragment manufactured from flint. Found by Ellis Durham in Dickson County, Tennessee. Steatite Boatstone found by Ralph Sintell in Benton County, Tn. Spatulate celt head of wirey granite. Found by Rick Travelstead in Livingston County, Kentucky

I recently had the pleasure of attending the fabulous exhibition Hero, Hawk and Human Hand. I found before me in the display cases the most absolutely fine examples of ancient North American art I have ever seen. While I have some fine pieces in my collection, there is no way I could ever own one example of each of the artifacts I viewed.

But, I have found a way to actually assemble a collection of such artifacts and reasonably at that. While collectors put a premium on the undamaged and unaltered artifact, a broken artifact is usually passed aside. I have pictured three fine broken artifacts from my collection.

If whole, these would bring thousands upon thousands of dollars. Yet, I paid no more than $15 for each one and I know they are 100% real beyond question. Example one is an extremely fine Boatstone of steatite from East Tennessee. The workmanship is tremendous. The steatite is highly polished. The collector I bought it from found it himself along the shoreline.

Example two is the head of a wirey granite Spatulate Celt. I bought this from the finder for $5. It too is highly polished. If the pole were attached, this would be a $5000 artifact. My final example is a wonderful discoidal made from Flint. I have never seen a whole discoidal made from flint this size. I paid $15 for this from the finder. If this artifact were whole, it might bring $7500.

The other upside to collecting these artifacts is that you can learn what the real thing feels and looks like. That keeps you one step ahead of those whose goal is to deceive with a recently made Boatstone, Celt or Discoidal.

Had I owned these broken artifacts ten years ago, I would have avoided the fake artifacts I purchased. The fakes in no way resemble these real broken pieces. Spending a few dollars on broken pieces and learning from them is a great and affordable way to educate oneself.

By collecting in this manner you can assemble a collection for just a few hundred dollars that exhibits the rarest and finest artifacts. I've seen many Bannerstone collectors take great pride in a broken quartz butterfly or a Paleo collector show off his broken bases of Cumberlands and Clovis.

These pieces show off the art of the ancients. How often do we see a Greek statue that has it arms, legs or head missing. It's in a museum and has sold for millions of dollars.

Our broken ancient American artifacts sell for a fraction of that. Maybe someday they too will have more value. For now, anyone with a few dollars in their pocket can own them.



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