A quick stop to let his dog drink from a brook led to a historic discovery for a Pictou County man this past year and offers a glimpse into life in the province thousands of years ago.
Alan Elliott, who works for The News in New Glasgow, was out for his usual morning walk with his dog in the Scotsburn area in May 2017 when he stopped at a stream. As the dog drank, Elliott saw something on the edge that caught his attention – a stone flaked on both sides and with a point.
What he’s learned in the months that followed is that the tool he found is a rare 3,000-year-old spearhead or knife that would have been used by Aboriginal people. The only other find of this kind in Northern Nova Scotia was a similar tool found in the 1980s on Dalhousie Mountain.
In university during the 1970s Elliott took some anthropology courses that included information on how Native North Americans lived and made tools, which sparked his interest even more. So it’s become habit for him to keep his eyes on the ground while out for walks.
“Many times I’ve picked up something that’s roughly arrowhead shaped and you pick it up and it turns out to be a lump.”
But this approximately 5.5-in.-long stone was clearly unique.
“When I turned it over I could see it was flaked on both sides. It was obviously made as a blade and it was symmetrical, so I knew it was genuine.”
The first place he phoned was the Museum of Industry where he was put in touch with Debra McNabb, who photographed the item and sent pictures to the Museum of Natural History.
When she received photos of the discovery and heard where it was from, Katie Cottreau-Robins, archaeology curator for the Nova Scotia Museum, was instantly intrigued and made plans to come out to have a look.
She said the stone implement, which she calls a bi-face, appears to be from the Late Archaic Period, estimating it at about 3,000 years old. She said that is determined by comparing it to other collections including ones from other Atlantic provinces and Maine.
She said this particular tool was likely a spearhead for hunting or a blade that would have been used to skin animals. It was made of rhyolite, which was quarried extensively by Native Americans.
Around that time period, Aboriginal people in Nova Scotia would have likely hunted caribou, moose and beaver inland and sea mammals along the coast.
“I was excited about it because we don’t have a lot of Late Archaic sites in that part of the province,” she said.
Larger finds from the era have been made in Yarmouth and Kings counties and archaeologists speculate that some of the sites inhabited by aboriginals may now be underwater because of rising sea levels.
She and a team visited with Elliott in November to look at the site where he discovered the particular item.
“We had a good look around for other artifacts and for characteristics that might indicate a site,” she said.
While it appears it was an isolated item, she’s still happy to have found it because it’s one more piece in the puzzle of life in Nova Scotia.
The item will soon be on display at the Museum of Natural History for others to admire.
For anyone who finds an item they believe may have historical significance, such as an arrowhead, Katie Cottreau-Robins encourages them to contact the Museum of Natural History at 902-424-2170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.