Dig Gives Glimpse Into History

By: Damon Dillman
By: Damon Dillman

Now it's just a field, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  But the lonely spot, on the banks of the Shenandoah River in northern Page County, used to be a much busier place.

"It's funny about archaeological resources," USDA Forest Service archaeologist Mike Barber said Thursday.  "They don't come to you.  You have to go to where they are."

That's why Barber, along with other USDA personnel and dozens of volunteers, has turned the field, known as the Keyser Farm site, inside out.

"I love the idea of history, of not knowing what's there," said volunteer Cynthia Hansen.

Barber says it's believed that roughly 400 years ago, the area was once a central location for Native Americans in the region.

This is the second summer Barber has headed a dig at the site.  Last year's efforts turned up a few artifacts, but this year has proven much more fruitful.

"We're really finding a lot of the broken ceramics, the animal bones from the meals," he said.  "And so we're getting a general picture this year of the overall lifestyle here."

Also among the discoveries have been several "beamers," a tool made of bone that Native Americans used to process animal hides. 

Close to 100 beamers have been found during digs at the location, it was first excavated in 1940, and Barber says they're a good clue into the history of the location.

"It seems like these folks were actually involved in a fairly extensive deerskin trade, and the 1550 to 1600 date sort of places that where they may have been indirectly trading with the colonials," he said.

The three-week dig will continue through Saturday.  Barber hopes to be able to return to the site again next summer.


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