Ohio teens un­cover ax that’s 6,000 years old

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Palm Beach (Sunday) - - NATION & WORLD - By Michael E. Ruane The Wash­ing­ton Post

About 6,000 years ago, a pre­cious stone ax that had been skill­fully carved and shaped by Na­tive Amer­i­cans was lost on a ridge over look­ing the Po­tomac River in Vir­ginia. The ax, about seven inches long, had been hewed and smoothed and was nar­rowed at one end where a wooden han­dle at­tached. Its loss must have been keenly felt.

Six mil­len­nia later, on Oct. 12, 2018, Do­minic Anderson and Jared Phillips, 17-year-old high school se­niors from Ohio, were on an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dig at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton’s es­tate at Mount Ver­non, when a stone that looked like a big po­tato turned up in their sift­ing screen. Not sure what it was, they asked the Mount Ver­non ar­chae­ol­o­gists work­ing nearby.

It was the lost ax, miss­ing for 60 cen­turies.

Of­fi­cials at Mount Ver­non, who an­nounced de­tails of the find last week, said it was a ma­jor dis­cov­ery that helps take the story of the site far be­yond its place as the home of the first pres­i­dent of what would be­come the United States.

It “pro­vides a win­dow onto the lives of in­di­vid­u­als who lived here nearly 6,000 years ago,” said Sean Devlin, Mount Ver­non’s cu­ra­tor of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal col­lec­tions. “Ar­ti­facts such as this are a vi­tal re­source for help­ing us learn about the di­verse com­mu­ni­ties who shaped this land­scape through­out its long his­tory.”

Mount Ver­non of­fi­cials said the ax had been made from a piece of “green stone” prob­a­bly taken from a lo­cal river.

It had been chipped with a ham­mer stone to cre­ate a cut­ting edge and then fur­ther carved with a harder stone to cre­ate a smoother cut­ting sur­face. It was then worked even fur­ther with a grind­ing stone, and the groove was cut where the han­dle would at­tach. The tool was prob­a­bly valu­able.

Devlin said the ax was dated through knowl­edge of when such tools came into use, by com­par­ing it to other tools from the pe­riod, and by dat­ing the meth­ods of its con­struc­tion. It is be­lieved to be the first such ar­ti­fact found at Mount Ver­non in re­cent years.

The mak­ers of the ax were prob­a­bly peo­ple who mi­grated by boat up and down the Po­tomac River sea­son­ally and may not have lived in fixed vil­lages, Devlin said. The ax would have been a key pos­ses­sion dur­ing their trav­els.

“When you spend the ef­fort to make tools like this ax, you would have prob­a­bly car­ried it with you,” he said. “You wouldn’t just make some­thing like this off the cuff . . . and used it once or twice and chucked it. . . . This is some­thing peo­ple in­vested time in. It def­i­nitely isn’t some­thing that was just sort of pitched by the side, just by hap­pen­stance.”

The ax was prob­a­bly used for cut­ting or carv­ing wood, he said. It prob­a­bly was not a weapon.

The ax was found by stu­dents from Arch­bishop Hoban High School in Akron, Ohio. Fourteen stu­dents, headed by ar­chae­ol­ogy teacher Ja­son Anderson, were help­ing to map out the di­men­sions of what is be­lieved to be a ceme­tery for Mount Ver­non’s en­slaved African-Amer­i­cans and their de­scen­dants.

But the area is rel­a­tively pris­tine and has many pre­his­toric ar­ti­facts, said Joe Downer, Mount Ver­non’s ar­chae­o­log­i­cal field re­search man­ager.

Downer said Do­minic Anderson, the teacher’s son, and Phillips, the se­cond student, called out to him when they found the ax.

“Is this any­thing ?” Downer said they asked.

“I was kind of taken aback when I saw it,” he said in a tele­phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day. “I looked at it, and I held it for a minute, and I was like, ‘Well, that might be one of the coolest things we found out here.’ “

“It’s pretty un­mis­tak­able when you see it,” he said.


Two high school se­niors found the stone ax Oct. 12.

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