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," 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. There, they learned that it was likely a hunting tool used by early Americans thousands of years ago. Any doubts the family 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. However, 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. It's possible that efforts to restore sand to the beaches is what aided Noah's discovery. 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. It's made of a silicate, probably jasper. The museum will conduct an 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?