David Bertrand of Georgetown didn’t know what he had found when he discovered a rock-like object in the dirt near his home. Archaeologists are puzzled over the object, but say it could have been used by early Native Americans.
Georgetown, S.C. — David Bertrand, a volunteer at the Georgetown County Museum, was planting jasmine in his garden when his shovel hit what he thought was a rock.
He put the object aside, wondering why a rock would be in the shallow soil near his driveway.
The object, after he washed away the mud, appeared to have a tiny, human face.
There are crosshatch marks on the object, which appear to have been made with a thin, sharp edged object.
“I only went down about six inches, and when I turned the dirt over, I saw this thing that looked like a rock in the dirt,” Bertrand said. “I continued with the rest of the jasmine and went back to it. I wanted to find out what kind of rock it was. It wasn’t a rock.”
On Tuesday, archaeologists speculated that it could be anything from a net weight to a rare “boat stone,” which some say they have never encountered in Georgetown County.
The object could date back to the earliest settlements of Native Americans in Georgetown County.
A boat stone, according to archaeology Web sites, is a weight attached to a throwing stick. The weight improves the distance the stick can be thrown and improves the accuracy.
The search for the true nature of the object has taken Bertrand, a history buff, to archaeologists in Charleston and Mount Pleasant.
Many other archaeologists also weighed in Tuesday on the question of what the object could be.
“I've been in archaeology in South Carolina for nearly 30 years and have never seen one before, if that means anything,’’ said researcher Carl Steen.
The object has a hole in the top and bottom and appears to fit on a necklace, stick or a fishing net.
It is about the size of an egg and has a hollowed out back.
It appears to be made of unglazed clay, Bertrand said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,’’ said Ron Anthony, an archaeologist at the Charleston County Museum. “I don’t know what to tell you. Usually when we get something really odd like this, I suspect it’s something genuine. In all the publications, I haven’t seen anything like this.”
He said it closely resembles artifacts that come from the Deptford period, but he isn’t sure.
According to Internet sources, the Deptford culture was from 2500 BCE to 100 BCE.
“It was characterized by the appearance of elaborate ceremonial complexes, increasing social and political complexity, mound burial, permanent settlements, population growth, and an increasing reliance on cultigens.”
Steen said the piece appears to be Native American in origin.
“It’s a pretty curious object,’’ he said. “I would say it’s an important find because of how interesting it is. It will stimulate conversation, if nothing else.”
Bertrand said he has been told by some experts that the object could be about 3,000 years old.
“We didn’t know anything about it and we still don’t,’’ said Martha Zierden, curator of the Charleston County Museum.
“It wasn’t anything we recognized. From time to time, people bring us odd things we don’t have an answer for.”
For now, the piece is housed at the Georgetown County Museum, along with other Native American objects.
Bertrand hopes one day he can find out more about the object and make a display featuring the piece at the museum.
Visitors to the museum are surprised at the appearance of the strange object.
Bertrand said, so far, he hasn’t found any other unusual pieces in his yard.
He doesn’t know if his house rests on other unique historical objects.
“People are astounded that it was found in the area,” he said.
By Kelly Marshall Fuller