Fifth grader finds 14,000-year-old arrowhead Smithsonian experts say the point is likely 13,500 to 14,000 years old (Donald E. Hurlbert / Smithsonian Institution)
Fifth grader finds 14,000-year-old arrowhead

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Noah Cordle and his family were vacationing on Long Beach Island in New Jersey last summer 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," he 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 and 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 to meet with archaeologists and donate his finding, which experts say it is a Clovis point. The museum has several hundred in its collection, one of which was discovered as far back as the 1870s, but 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, 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, and potentially efforts to restore sand to the beaches is what made Noah's discovery possible. The point may have been buried for thousands of years until those replenishment efforts moved sand around, a New Jersey archaeology expert told Asbury Park Press.

At the Natural History Museum, Dennis Stanford, the Smithsonian's expert in Paleoindian archaeology and stone tool technology, showed Noah how ancient hunters would have attached the point to a spear and 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," dating from 13,500 to 14,000 years ago and made of a silicate, probably jasper. The museum will conduct a morphometric analysis to study its shape and how it was made. Stanford says it's black because it had been in salt water for so long, left behind when sea levels rose after the Ice Age.

Noah is in the fifth grade and says his favorite school subject is science. He's a fan of ancient artifacts. Before his grandfather passed away earlier this year, the two of them would walk around in search of arrowheads, which are typically around 5,000 years old.

Noah says he's unsure 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. However, usually someone goes looking for them, not the other way around.

"That's never happened to anybody that I know of," he says about the point washing up to Noah. "You gotta be in the right place at the right time or it will disappear just like that. He was really lucky."

Critical thinking challenge: How did Hurricane Sandy lead to Noahs discovery?

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  • jennifern-Bea
    11/19/2014 - 02:56 p.m.

    I found this article and was automatically drawn to it because of the artifact. I agree that it is an amazing thing to find on the beach, but I disagree that this should cause him to become an .archaeologist He should be whatever just because he wants to, not because people want him to.

  • 8sydneyh
    11/20/2014 - 01:02 p.m.

    Response type: Critical thinking challenge

    Hurricane Sandy led to Noahs discovery by moving around the sand, which the spear tip was probably buried underneath. When Hurricane Sandy hit Long Beach Island, many people tried to restore the beaches, which uncovered the spear tip. This lead to his discovery, because without the efforts of people restoring the beaches it would be buried under pounds of sand.

  • 9alexmr
    11/20/2014 - 07:39 p.m.

    Noah Cordel and is family were on vacation at long-beach new jersey and was boogie boarding. When he was in the water he felt something poke his leg he didn't have his glasses on so he thought it looked like an arrow head. later the went to the museum and found out it was at least 14,000 years old. later he donated it to the national history museum.

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