Rockin’ historical artifacts

Rockin’ historical artifacts

Hillsboro man unearths history here and across US

By John Hackley

Hillsboro resident Paul Gaines has been collecting arrowheads and stones for more than 30 years, and he has amassed a collection of nearly 5,000 pieces.

His fascination with the artifacts began when he was in the fifth grade.

“When I was in school, we learned about the Native Americans, and I just liked arrowheads, and I like rocks,” said Gaines. “I found my first one in Marshall, near the center of Marshall, when I was riding a bicycle, and I rolled the bicycle down a hill and wiped out, and there was an arrowhead lying on the ground.”

Over the years, Gaines has sought to learn about the items he has found.

“It used to be through books and magazines, and then I went to some artifact groups, and now Google is a good aid, but I have a lot of friends throughout the United States, and we all talk amongst each other, and we just have a common interest in these artifacts.”

He has traveled around the country to purchase and trade artifacts, but he won’t sell or trade any of the ones he has found.

“I would never sell any of my own personal finds – not for any amount of money – but I do sell some of the ones that I buy because I don’t have any personal attachment to them.”

Among the most valuable items Gaines has found is a slate pendant from the ancient Hopewell Native American culture that he values at about $2,500.

“The thing about a pendant that makes it so significant is that it’s a personal item,” said Gaines. “You don’t really get a lot of opportunity to personalize with this culture because they didn’t focus on personal items like we do. The stuff they had was just for business, and their business was surviving.”

Gaines also said it is also unique that the item is engraved. “It’s faint, but it’s definitely there,” he said.

Gaines found most of his artifacts locally in plowed fields and nearby creek bottoms, but he has traveled around the country in search of the items.

“I have found them as far away as Idaho before, but in the state of Idaho, you’re not allowed to keep them, so you have to lay them back down because that’s the law. But I have found some nice pieces out there, and I photograph them,” he said.

Nevada also proved to be a productive place for Gaines to search.

“I found some really nice pottery out there,” he said.

He has also made finds in Kentucky and West Virginia.

Through his profession running a landscaping and tree service, Gaines has made additional finds.

“Everywhere I go, I look for rocks,” he said. “If there’s gravel exposed, if there’s dirt exposed, if a hillside is washed a little bit, if they’ve dug a ditch, if I’m on a job site and they’ve been digging a foundation or if I happen to be giving a bid, and I see a spot where a mole has uplifted some dirt, then I just pay attention to all that, and I’m pretty successful at finding them.”

Other notable finds Gaines has made include a Thebes artifact made of flint — likely the blade of a knife — that he said dates to about 4,500 years ago.

He has also found an e-notch arrowhead that he estimates is worth about $1,200, and this year he found a Hopewell blade made of black flint called Coshocton flint.

“The material, it doesn’t come from this part of Ohio, so the neatest thing is this piece of flint was carried 45 to 60 miles before it got here,” said Gaines. “They had big trade routes, and some of the stuff comes from the other side of the United States.”

Gaines said collecting the artifacts is an “obsessive hobby” to him.

“You get excited every time that you find one, and it’s like the feeling of if you were to hit a jackpot at a casino – that rush that you get – it’s just the same rush,” he said. “I’ve hit a jackpot before, and I felt just the same, maybe a little bit better when I found the slate pendant, and it wasn’t about the money either because it was about the personal connection to the rock.”

Gaines said his search for the items gives him a closer connection to human history.

“It hasn’t been held in about 4,000 years, and here I am holding onto this nice, beautiful stone that somebody probably was very personal with at one point, and your imagination goes wild as to what was going on there.”

Salt Magazine

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