BERLIN — Stone axes, bowls, spearheads and other objects buried for thousands of years were displayed recently as part of a presentation on Native American history in Connecticut.
The collection, shown at the Berlin-Peck Memorial Library on Oct. 22, was a small slice of the approximately 1,000 items found by a Newington “pothunter” — amateur artifact collector — who donated his finds to the Institute of American Indian Studies upon his death in 2008.
Nancy Najarian, a volunteer presenter with the institute, said the stone artifacts amateurs find outside of official archaeological digs can help our understanding of a history that was obscured by colonization.
“This is history that’s lost,” she said. “History is written by the victors, so a lot of the Native American history got erased and it’s sort of being pieced back together now. We kind of call it decolonizing museums ... history didn’t start with the colonists, it started well before that.”
Archaeology in New England is still a difficult task, due to generations of development that often cover artifacts and because of the area’s naturally acidic soil.
“One of the problems is when you live in a colonial area everything has been covered up for so long,” said Najarian, who also serves as the community outreach chairperson from the Lapidary and Mineral Club of Central Connnecticut. “I mean, there’s just layers and layers of development of colonial sites and modern sites that just obliterated a lot of things.”
The Institute of American Indian Studies, located in Washington, Connecticut, holds regular artifact identification days for items people have found.
One typical mistake is that people believe they’ve found arrowheads, when they are actually parts of spears.
“People would call them arrowheads, but they didn’t have a bow and arrow … bow and arrow was later,” she said. “What they used was spears ... they would take this (atlatl), or throwing stick, fit the spear on it and used the atlatl like a lever to throw the stick. And it would go much farther.”