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Students explore life of Archaic Native American family

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • May 23, 2019 at 7:00 PM

Pleasant Elementary students complemented their studies of Native Americans in prehistoric Huron County with a field trip to Laning-Young Historic Research & Exhibit Building on Monday morning, with their teacher, Kimberly Caprara.

Matt Burr, a board trustee, introduced them to the idea of “a mile-high glacier, the Wisconsin, coming out of Canada” which covered large parts of North America.

By about the year 14,000, it had melted, leaving streams, hills, swamps and bogs in Huron County where bones of ancient animals such as the giant buffalo and giant sloth collected. Burr conjectured that Native Americans of this era hunted these animals for food, then used the Niver bog as a food-safe or, ancient refrigerator.

By using some of the flint and stone tools in the Laning-Young collection, Burr demonstrated how people of that era could use them to kill and butcher such huge animals. Slice marks on the bones prove humans were in Huron County thousands of years before even the pyramids of Egypt were built.

Mortar and pestle stones of all sizes have been found, used for grinding seeds into flour for food. Stone ax heads with grooves to facilitate handles are some of the earliest Paleolithic tools. Stone scrapers cleaned hides to make clothing and shelters. Stone awls put holes in leather to be sewn into cloths.

As time moved on, people became more adept at chipping flint and shaping rock. Burr explained how the archaic period in Ohio is believed to have seen the largest population of hunter-gatherers to date. These people travelled long distances to find special types and colors of flint and stone for their tools as they improved methods of working with it. A drill was developed to punch holes in the stone. The drill was powered by a small hand bow, drawn back and forth at the point of the hole. Since this was very time-consuming, gorget stones with holes were likely used for decorative purposes or special ancient rites.

Adena people, the mound builders “lined up their mounds to celebrate seasons,” Burr said.

“he Hopewell people who followed the Adena wore copper ear ornaments and may have had tattooed faces. They used mica pounded flat as mirrors, for trade. Their pipes became more elaborate with use of animal effiges.”

Thousands of years could separate Adena, Hopewell, Fort Ancient cultures, named by archeologists as they discovered innovations in use of tools. Such as, said Burr, "the first use of bows for hunting," by people of the Fort Ancient Period. Difference in shape of flint points allowed them to detach from arrow after striking prey, which likely would then die of blood loss.

The museum now has a life-sized exhibit featuring an Archaic Native American family, modeled as wearing authentic leather clothing of 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. Some of the beads on it are actual crinoid stems, ancient sea creatures that were petrified over the ages. They were found and used by real residents of that time, then re-discovered more recently in a grave of a Native American woman as part of her dress. Because these bones had natural holes, they were easily used to decorate archaic clothing. Attached to her dress is her awl and a knife. A pendent with deer antlers is around her neck, a turkey feather in her hair. All these items are direct from the museum collection.

The latex life forms of the exhibit are exceptionally realistic. Finger nails and veins of the images are so natural the figures seem to be alive.

Three Native Americans include a woman wearing the dress with crinoid beads, who is carrying a small baby wrapped in a soft leather blanket. She is named “WaWetSeca” in Algonquin, probably the local language spoken in this area, which translated in English is “pretty woman.” The man is named Uncas, a character in the famous novel “Last of the Mohicans.” He is holding a spear with a special throwing attachment, called an atlatl.

The exhibit was created by Life Formations, a company out of Cincinnatti, whose studio in Bowling Green. Life Formations did the work to order for the Laning-Young center specifications. The company is known for creations for Disney productions. 

A visit to the museum of Laning-Young Historic Research & Exhibit Building and the Firelands Historical Society isn’t just for students. It is a historical find for adults as well. One-of-a-kind articles will have you saying, “You mean this is unique to Huron County? Wow!”

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