A projectile point more than 9,000 years old rested on its cataloguing envelope for inspection, not just by researchers but by the general public.
Dr. Matthew Douglass from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s department of anthropology and Dennis Kuhnel, the manager of the National Grasslands Visitors Center hosted an Artifact Roadshow at the Trailside Museum Sunday. The show gave local residents the opportunity to bring in their own archeological finds for study, but also provided visitors to the Trailside Museum with a hands-on experience with important artifacts from the region. Douglass and his students brought several artifacts with them that were discovered in the Panhandle and worked on identifying and documenting those items, teaching the public the process as it occurred.
“You can’t do that every day in most museums,” Kuhnel said.
Kuhnel first hosted an Artifact Roadshow in 2013 at Hudson-Meng, when he was the director there. It was so successful, he began searching for a way to expand the project and found the right fit with UNL and Douglass, who Kuhnel said is a well-known member of his field on more than one continent. Now working out of Wall, S.D., at the National Grasslands Visitors Center, Kuhnel’s goal is to continue to build on the program. Each show generates more interest, he said. At a recent show in Wall, an individual brought in more than 100 artifacts for identification; they were all found in the Nebraska Sandhills and were approximately 9,600 years old, Kuhnel said.
His goal now is to host an Artifact Roadshow on every national grassland in the U.S.
The partnership with the National Grasslands benefits Douglass and his students as well. The department of anthropology is interested in digital heritage projects, Douglas said. While museums are wonderful, the public has to go there to see the artifacts, and that’s not always possible. To eliminate that hurdle, the department is working to build a digital database of archeological finds by creating 3D images. At Sunday’s show, Douglass’ students worked to identify and scan items in the school’s collection, but also did the same with private collections individuals brought in.
The field school gives the students experience not only with the artifacts but also in working with the public and learning how to share the importance of archeology, Kuhnel said. Likewise, the public learns how to handle artifacts they discover. Anything on public lands should be left alone, Douglass said. Take a photo and contact personnel at the public site to alert them to the find. For finds on private lands, Kuhnel said it’s important to document where it was found; share the stories with family members, write them down, take photos of the area so the context of the find is preserved.
Students Sunday first used the design of the projectile points to estimate a date, and studied the material the points were made of to determine the original source point. From there, they used 3D photogrammetry and laser technology. The 3D images will eventually be compiled into an online database with two levels of access, one for the general public and one for professionals for research purposes.