“This was used on a mastodon!”

We are leading volunteer days to re-label the collections the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) interns have finished re-curating. It’s the stuff of volunteer dreams: the true behind scenes of archeology… read the label number in the artifact bag, find the new printed label, replace the old label with the new archival quality one, pick up a new artifact, repeat. Yes, after 3 hours we were all practically walking on a cloud.


I jest, but really, the work we completed was incredibly important to the museum collections and really a lot of fun. Any history lover will see through these mundane tasks and recognize the volunteer days for their true value: as a rare opportunity to have the museum’s treasures explained by passionate experts. Whenever someone found an interesting looking artifact, we’d all stop and speculate and oo and ahh over its possible purpose.

One artifact in particular caught my fancy:

When this projectile point was first pointed out as a ‘neat’ find, I sat looking at the size, going through my mental encyclopedia of desert animals, wondering what kind of arrow would have to be attached to such a big point! What kind of animal would be big enough to merit such a hefty tool? Coyote, maybe? Finally, coming up short, I jokingly said, “What’s so big out here? Saber tooth tiger?” And with a dead straight face the staff responded, “Mastodon, properly.”

Oh. Well ok then.

When I informed the BLM archeology staff I was going to proclaim that this atlatl point was used to kill a mastodon, they quickly shot me the archeologist mantra: “You can’t say that, we don’t know that for sure.” Yes, yes of course that’s true, but it’s pretty cool that it might have been used to bring down a mighty mastodon. It’s always amazing to think that a hunter some 10,000 years ago could have used the artifact in my hand to feed his family. Talk about bringing home the bacon!

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