U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Artifact Road Show Draws a Crowd
by Brad Purdy
It didn’t take long for Curator David K.Wade to realize this year’s Artifact Road Show at the Billings Curation Center was going to be different.
“People were waiting to get in 30 minutes before we even opened up the event, we had more people in the lobby than attended the event last year,” said Wade. “It was great to see all the boxes filled with artifacts for our specialists to look at.”
The team of BLM specialists gathered in the Curation Center waiting for David’s return, their specialties ranging from paleontology and aracheology to tribal history and culture.
“I was surprised how great the attendance was this year,” said BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office Tribal Coordinator Mark Sant. “Maybe the only thing more impressive than the amount of people who showed up was the artifacts they brought.”
Sant was especially impressed with some decorative items that looked to be 100-150 years old.
“We really need to take some steps to preserve these,” he commented to the owner.
Several large, well-constructed knives in great condition, probably used as knives at one time, also caught Sant’s eye.
One of the busiest men in the room was BLM Paleontologist Greg Liggett. Greg examined a fossilized horse jaw, the skull of what probably is an extinct species of bison, and several examples of baculites, an extinct group related to squids and octopuses. Greg was also a victim of the annual “stump the expert,” which happens often when examining this number of artifacts in a short amount of time.
“At first I thought I was just looking at a rock,” said Liggett. “Then I noticed some spots that had a spongy bone texture. I took it over to the microscope and it turned out to be some sort of fossil. I sure hope the owner brings it back, I’d like some more time to study it.”
“I completely understand what Greg was going through,” said Carolyn Sherve-Bybee, BLM Billings Field Office Archaeologist. “I was part of the ‘stump the expert’ crew last year, but we got it figured out this year.”
Last year, Carolyn and Mark Sant were stumped by a large stone that was certainly modified by humans.“Well we knew it was a tool of some sort, it was too large for a hammer or club, we just couldn’t figure it out,” Carolyn explained.“This year, Chris Finley, an archaeologist from the
This particular type of horse hobble was a large stone used in the late 1700s or early 1800s by tribes in the area. A 4-5 foot strip of leather or rope was tied around the stone and the other end was tied around a horse’s leg to keep it from running away.
“That’s part of what makes this event so great,” said David K. Wade. “There’s nothing we archaeologists and paleontologists love more than a good mystery to work on, except for solving that mystery. I hope that the people who were asked to send pictures or bring a sample back actually do it. We’re all fascinated by these things and want to know what they are just as much as the owners do.”