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What lies beneath: Native artifacts found

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 12/3/22

Local resident Jacob Silva likes to hunt for rocks. But they’re not just any rocks found in the ground.  

Along Flat Creek and in parts of the area near H.V. Griffin Park in …

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What lies beneath: Native artifacts found


Local resident Jacob Silva likes to hunt for rocks. But they’re not just any rocks found in the ground.  

Along Flat Creek and in parts of the area near H.V. Griffin Park in Shelbyville, he’s found dozens of arrowheads and tools from Native American tribes who would have called the woods of Middle Tennessee their home up to 8,000- 10,000 years ago.  

“I found a rock over in Flat Creek right across the street from new Herman Church of Christ in the creek. You can go anywhere within that area and find evidence,” he said.  

Over in the Bedford County Archives, county archivist Carol Roberts says this whole area is loaded with arrowheads and Native American camps from the Mississippian and Woodland eras. The Chickasaw and Creek also populated this area later on.  

Roberts added, “The University of Tennessee School of Archeology has done many reviews and published reports on our whole area: Duck River, Flat Creek, and Thompson Creek watershed and all the creeks that flow south into the Elk River watershed.”  

According to a 1975 Bedford County Historical Quarterly article by Charles G. Hummel — who was a native of Bedford County and an authority on Indian artifacts in Middle Tennessee — no large town sites were located in what is now Bedford County.  

Instead, this area was in the middle of the migration pattern for seasonal hunting parties, according to Roberts. The Duck River served as a base for “bands of hunters who would return to their native city after a hunting season,” the quarterly article reads.  

According to another quarterly article from 1985 by James E. Cobb and Charles H. Faulkner, archeological digs in the area suggest that the most “intensive occupation of this region was during the late Middle Woodland [200 to 800 A.D.], known as the Owl Hollow phase.”  

These people probably had stable communities, year-round, where they hunted as well as grew crops. It’s no wonder that Bedford County is laden with arrowheads and tools of the like.  

Hummel continues that, “The people were master craftsmen in the chipping of flint into arrows, spears, knives, and other tools...”  

Amazingly, Roberts said the flint arrowheads that Silva, and many others, found were not originally native to this area. Instead, they would have been traded by hunting parties who traveled north to meet the Iroquois.  

“They had these paths that all the Native Americans would use to come up here and they would go further North in what we think of as Tennessee and Kentucky and trade with the Iroquois and other tribes up there. But they would use this area for hunting,” said Roberts. They would stay in the area along creek beds and springs, hunting every kind of game they could find.  

Among the small arrowheads, probably used to hunt small animals, Silva also found what appears to be a small, shallow bowl, no longer than two inches wide. Roberts thinks it was probably a finger bowl used to mix paint or salves for the face, either for ceremony or for war.  

Silva said, “[It’s] something that’s ancient and has been discovered in our own backyard.”  

And with the abundance of ancient artifacts lying beneath our feet, it gives historians and archaeologists specific locations for developers to be careful at.  

Roberts explained, “The state department of archaeology, through the years, has made every effort to document locations. They may not necessarily stop a construction site unless they find a burial that they can identify as Native American.”  

There are also many unidentified graves of early settlers, and a lot of tools in this county from early settler homes and farms.  

These burial site rules are even in the Bedford County Zoning Office’s guidelines.  

“I am thankful for what we have come to know or hope to get to know...” Silva said.  

He added that these left behind tools are a message from the ancient people, who though long gone, can still be remembered in the rocks.  

“...It’s been covered up and hidden and forgotten over thousands of years. I am beyond excited,” he said.