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This Is Life
By Brian Williams
Times Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2004

KOUTS -- Discovery of an arrowhead dating to about 200 B.C. has pushed back by 1,300 years the earliest artifact find at a southern Porter County archaeological site.

The ancient arrowhead found this month was among the mix of treasure and junk unearthed so far at a dig led by University of Notre Dame anthropology professor Mark Schurr.

The excavation, at a historically important crossing point on the Kankakee River, is now in its second summer. Last year, Schurr and his team of volunteers found pottery pieces dating back 900 years.

The arrowhead's age was determined by comparing it to others, according to Schurr's assistant, Wheatfield resident Tom DeCola.

"Arrowheads evolved over time," DeCola said. Their sizes and shapes changed as environments and the hunting techniques of Native Americans changed. The new find dates from the Adena people of the Early Woodland period, he said.

Other items unearthed include a mid-1800s military button, the top part of a flint lock hammer, a 2-inch pocket knife, bones, teeth, pottery shards, marbles, a .45-caliber lead ball and even a yellow plastic Native American figurine. Still, the whole project is about more than the archaeology, said John Hodson, president of the Kankakee River Valley Historical Society.

It's about piquing interest in the history of the river valley, he said.

Hodson was particularly intrigued by the discovery of a brick foundation about 20 yards from the 1898 Collier Lodge. The find gives proof of an earlier hunt club that Hodson has only been able to find one written record of.

Hodson said the volunteer digging and sifting, which is open to anyone, is a chance for people to find out if they like archaeology.

"You gotta love it to get this dirty," said volunteer Kathy Graham of Winamac. "I could do this the whole rest of my life all day long."

"This is life," echoed Sophie Wojihoski of Portage as she sifted through bone fragments, rusted nails and ceramic shards that included a pink flower on a white background.

"It's the unknown that keeps me going," Wojihoski said.

"I thought it might be fun to see what they came up with," said Kassie Haberkamp of Valparaiso as she washed the dirt off bone, brick and metal objects. Haberkamp, 13, volunteered in order to spend some time with her grandfather, Bill Beck. Beck, 72, grew up two miles from the site and remembers finding so many arrowheads that he never bothered to collect them. "Oh, there's another arrowhead," he recalled thinking.

The excavations will continue next summer as part of an on-going project, Hodson said. Some of the artifacts discovered will be displayed at the Kouts Pork Fest and Valparaiso Popcorn Festival this fall.

Brian Williams can be reached at bwilliams@nwitimes.com or (219) 462-5151, ext. 348.