Fifth grader finds 14,000-year-old arrowhead
Noah Cordle and his family were vacationing on Long Beach Island in New Jersey last summer. That's when a discovery cut his boogie boarding session short.
Something pointy brushed against his leg. "It didn't feel like any of the other shells," Noah says.
He reached into the water and pulled out an object. Without his glasses on, he thought it looked like an arrowhead or a giant shark tooth. It was about the length of his palm and the color of charcoal.
His family contacted the New Jersey State Museum. There they learned that it was likely a hunting tool used by early Americans thousands of years ago. Any doubts they had turned to excitement.
"I thought it was a waste of time," Brian Cordle, Noah's father, says of his initial reaction. "I was a nonbeliever, but they converted me."
This week, Noah, who is 10 and lives in Fairfax, Virginia, visited the National Museum of Natural History. He met with archaeologists and donated his finding, which experts say is a Clovis point. The museum has several hundred in its collection, one of which was discovered as far back as the 1870s. Noah's is the first one to join the collection from New Jersey.
"You can lay out Clovis points from one end of the USA to the other, from California and now New Jersey, and look at them and study them side by side," says Pegi Jodry. She is a curator in the museum's archaeology department. She says the museum will make a cast of Noah's point for him.
Hurricane Sandy devastated Long Beach Island in October 2012. It's possible that efforts to restore sand to the beaches aided Noah's discovery. The point may have been buried for thousands of years before the sand was moved.
At the Natural History Museum, Dennis Stanford is the Smithsonian's expert in Paleoindian archaeology and stone tool technology. He showed Noah how ancient hunters would have attached the point to a spear. Then they would have thrown it at creatures like mastodon.
"It's been used and re-sharpened several times," Stanford told Noah about his artifact.
Noah's response: "Whoa."
Experts consider the Clovis to be among the first Americans. Stanford says the artifact is "a classic Clovis point." It dates from 13,500 to 14,000 years ago. It's made of a silicate, probably jasper. The museum will study its shape and how it was made. Stanford says it's black because it had been in salt water for so long.
Noah is in the fifth grade. He says his favorite school subject is science. He's a fan of ancient artifacts.
Noah says he's unsure of what he wants to be when he grows up. But Stanford hints that he should consider a career in archaeology. After all, Stanford discovered his first arrowhead when he was nine years old, he says, "and look what happened to me."
Stanford says that Clovis points are rare. But it's not uncommon to find them on beaches.
"You gotta be in the right place at the right time. Or it will disappear just like that. He was really lucky."