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The Natchez Prehistoric Canoe

  During a spring flood in 1974, a rescue party in search of two missing persons made an unusual discovery. While searching along the sandy banks of the Homochitto River south of Natchez, Mississippi, party member Jerry Haney noticed a large wooden object that had been partially exposed by the surging waters. Upon further investigation, he realized the wooden object was in fact a vessel in the form of a canoe. Though at the moment Mr. Haney did not fully understand the importance of his discovery, he did feel that it was worth keeping for further investigation. After the arduous task of freeing the canoe and transporting it to the nearest vehicle access, Mr. Haney and his associates placed it in storage at their local fire station.

  Over the next several months, the small town residents were continually surprised at the attention garnered by their investigations into the canoe’s past. After contacting the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, they were advised to have several tests done on the vessel. Samples were sent to The University of Georgia’s Geochronology Lab for carbon dating, and also the US Forest Service for species determination. The results showed that the wood from the canoe was Bald Cypress and had been harvested in approximately 1465 A.D., which proved it was of Native American origin.

  These findings meant that this was not only one of the oldest boats ever discovered, it was also strikingly well-preserved. Following this realization, the Department of Archives contacted Senator Thad Cochran, who felt that the discovery was important enough to confer with the Smithsonian Institute about preservation and care methods, which were used to stabilize the canoe and protect from pests or decay. Over the next several years, newspapers, magazines, radio shows, universities, museums, and Native American tribes from all over the country came to view and study this rare artifact. Many interested parties made offers to purchase it, but Mr. Haney decided to keep the canoe. Over the years it gradually faded out of the spotlight and was all but forgotten. Upon Mr. Haney’s passing, it was handed down to his son and subsequently stored in a garage where it sat for two decades. Luckily, in the spring of 2014, the family decided it was time to pass this piece of history along to a new owner. Oxford Trading Post is proud to give the world a chance to view this amazing artifact once again.

  The Natchez Canoe remains to date one of the most intact, well-preserved, and well-built prehistoric watercraft ever discovered. Hewn from a single log using stone tools, it measures 13.75 feet long, two feet wide, and 18 inches deep. Though missing a small section of one end, it is estimated to be 90% complete. The wood is surprisingly sturdy and solid to have lain in the ground for over 500 years. The canoe was expertly crafted with a flattened u-shaped bottom that would have allowed for at least two passengers and cargo. Another interesting feature is the extended platform at the end with its large notch (perhaps even originally a hole) of unknown use. This could possibly have been used for mooring purposes or in conjunction with steering or propulsion tools such as a push pole or paddle.

For sales inquiries and further information, please contact Brock Smith at:

Oxford Trading Post OxfordTradingPost.com

709 N. Lamar Blvd. 662-801-1786

Oxford, MS 38655 brock@arrowheads.com

Arrowhead hobby becomes business

BY LAREECA RUCKER  @oxfordeagle.com, January 2016

When Brock Smith was a young boy, he found his first arrowhead in Lafayette County, MS.

“I think I was probably around 7 or 8 years old when I started looking for them and collecting them,” he said. “Of course, you used to find them in f lea markets and stuff, and my dad would go out and hunt for them in creeks.

I can still remember the first one I found. It was around 6,000 years old.”

Smith learned more about arrow-heads by studying The Official Overstreet Indian Arrowheads Identification and Price Guide.

“That’s probably the longest running publication about Indian arrowheads,” he said. “ When I was young, I had one of those, and I about wore it out just flipping through it, hours and hours spent looking through that thing and trying to identify and type which ones there were.”

Brock Smith stands behind the counter of The Depot Antique Mall, which includes a section devoted to Native American artifacts such as a table full of arrowheads.


Today, Smith, now 35, is co-owner of The Depot Antique Mall at 709 North Lamar Blvd. in Oxford. There is a section inside the store that specializes in selling arrowheads.

Walk into it and you’ll find a table covered with arrowheads priced at $1 each that were collected from Mississippi and many other states. You’ll also find some arrowheads and Native American artifacts behind glass cases and frames on walls with arrowheads ranging in price from $10 to $700.

The name of the business is Overstreet Arrowheads, and it carries the name of the man who once owned The Official Overstreet Indian Arrowheads Identification and Price Guide that Smith used to research arrowheads as a child.

When Bob Overstreet, owner of the guide, retired, Smith’s partner and co-owner of the antique store and arrowhead business bought the business and book. Overstreet, who is well known in the comic book industry, also started a comic book price guide in the 1970s.

Smith, a Tupelo native who has lived in Oxford since 2002, said they buy, sell and trade arrowheads and Native American artifacts, which are big collector’s items for some.

“My partner in the store here actually owns Arrowheads.com, so we get a lot of people through the website that say, ‘Hey, we inherited a big arrowhead collection, and we want to sell it.’ That’s how we get leads to different places all over the country and travel to buy them.

‘The past couple of years, we’ve been to Wisconsin, Los Angeles, Florida a couple of times, and pretty much all over the Southeast. We are probably one of the biggest, most well-known websites for them.”

Obey laws

Smith said arrowhead hunters must abide by the law.

“The main thing is just to make sure you do it on your own property,” he said. “It’s illegal to pick them up on federal property or public property in Mississippi. Definitely do it on private land with permission.

“A lot of people just hop in a creek and look in the creek bottom. A lot of times, they wash down in the bottom of the creeks. And even if you don’t find an arrowhead, it’s good fun and exercise, and you’ll find other things, like antique bottles and Civil War items a little bit around here.”

He also recommends purchasing one of the Overstreet pricing guides to learn to identify arrowhead types and values.

Smith said it’s legal to pick up or dig for anything on private property, as long as you are not digging in graves or burial mounds. He said most arrowheads are found near water.

“The natives had to stay near a water source, so they wouldn’t stray too far from a creek,” he said, “but they didn’t want to stay right next to the creek, because they might get flooded if a big rain came.”

Arrowhead hunting

What should arrowhead hunters look for?

“Usually, it will be the first big hump or ridge off of a creek or river,” he said. “Of course, they were here for 12,000-14,000 years, so odds are they’ve walked on just about any spot you look at.

“Most of the stone artifacts, except for the very recent ones, actually predate all of the known tribes. Most of ours are probably 2,000 or 3,000 years old, so they are from totally different tribes than what were here when the whites settled here.”

Smith said Overstreet Arrowheads has a few Lafayette County pieces for sale in their collection. They also carry a few Panola County pieces. Most of the arrowheads are $15 to $20, but some have sold for as much as $700.

“We’ve actually sold some in the past that were up to six figures,” he said. “You get a really rare unusual one, they can bring a lot of money.

“Generally, the older types are more sought after, and the size and quantity matters. It’s kind of like a work of art. If it’s real finely made, real symmetrical, it’s worth more generally.”

Smith said most arrowheads were created as hunting tools.

“Most of what people call arrowheads, are actually spearheads,” he said. “Only the most recent tiny ones are real arrowheads, because the natives didn’t discover bow technology until very late compared to Europe and Africa. So they were using spears a lot longer than the rest of the world did.”

Smith said he enjoys finding Mississippi arrowheads, and Florida is his second favorite place to hunt.

“They have really nice unusual materials and colors,” he said. “A lot of the Florida stuff is translucent. The prettier the rock kind of adds some value to them as well.

“North Mississippi and Eastern Mississippi, they have a lot of this brown. They call it chert. And you’ll also get a lot of this red jasper. A lot of people like the Mississippi stuff because the reds are colorful.”

Smith said once you’ve handled a few large collections, you can kind of tell by looking at a rock where it was likely found.

He said in southern Mississippi, near Meridian, you’ll find arrowheads made out of tallahatta quartzite. Others are made of fossilized coral.

Other artifacts

Smith sells other artifacts, such as trilobite fossils that date back 300 million years, and megalodon shark teeth that are around 30 million years old. He said most prehistoric shark teeth come from the East Coast states of North Carolina and Georgia and are found by scuba divers.

“You can find some shark teeth in Mississippi, but usually they are pretty small,” he said.

Smith’s two best personal finds were banner stones.

“They are an interesting artifact because nobody knows what they were used for,” Smith said. “They are made of stone, and they always have a hole drilled all the way through.

“Some archaeologists used to say they were a hole for a spear-throwing device, but they are leaning away from that theory because there’s just not a lot of evidence for that.

“I personally don’t know. You find a lot of them that are partially drilled, so the hole only goes a way and stops. You can Google ‘banner stone’ and ‘purpose,’ and there are tons of debates of people wondering what they were for.”

Digging Up North Mississippi’s Prehistoric Past

Brock Smith hunting arrowheads in North Mississippi

     Filled with famous people and events, Lafayette County’s recent history has been quite a colorful one.

     Thoughts of Lafayette’s past might be filled with images of the Civil Rights movement, The American Civil War, or the fanciful stories of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. Though more well-known, these events are a mere eye-blink ago in comparison to a mysterious and much older span of Lafayette County’s history –– its  pre-history to be more exact.

     The prehistoric period of North America generally consists of the events that happened here before European contact. Native Americans had populated North Mississippi for thousands of years before the first explorers set foot on American soil.

     Throughout the United States, including Lafayette county, there is archeological evidence of native occupation that dates to at least 10,000 BC. While much of this evidence is lost to decay and decomposition, luckily, the stone items such as tools, weapons, and adornments survived the years quite well.

     From the earliest days of European settlement and westward advancement, these stone artifacts have been regularly discovered as land was disturbed by erosion as well as the building of home sites, farms, roads and other infrastructure.

Lafayette County arrowhead find.

     The discovery and collecting of these Native American artifacts has led to a diverse and rapidly growing hobby throughout the United States. Collectors usually begin specifically with stone arrowheads, which are the most commonly found and easily recognizable artifacts.

     These projectile points were largely used in the construction of spears and darts that predate the invention of the bow in North America, with only the tiniest (and most chronologically recent) ones actually being used as arrow points. Stone projectile points offer a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and styles.

     Some were crude and roughly made, while others were finely crafted in artistic forms that often belie their lethal nature. This great variation allows collectors to enjoy the hobby for different reasons and according to different budgets. Some specialize in collecting certain artifact types based on visual appearance, while others may collect only points from particular time periods or geographic areas.

North Mississippi Arrowheads

     Most collectors eventually branch out into other artifacts that are ornamental or ceremonial in nature, and therefore more rare and valuable. These include beads, pendants, pipes, gorgets, bannerstones, discoidals, and others. These artifacts are interesting because of their high-quality finish, more intensive construction methods, and often unknown use. As well as these ornamental items, another category of artifacts is the utilitarian tools that were of agricultural or industrial use.

     Examples of these are axes, hammers, grinding stones, scrapers, hoes, and celts. One of the unique aspects of collecting Native American artifacts is being able to readily go and find them. While some collectors prefer buying and trading for specific artifacts to build a collection, others are only interested in the artifacts they find themselves. Artifact hunters spend hours walking along fields, creeks, and lake beds in search of artifacts. Trudging through mud and rough terrain is not only fun and good exercise, but it can be very rewarding if a hunter is lucky enough to find an arrowhead that has lain untouched for thousands of years.

Group of North Mississippi bannerstones

     Anyone interested in Native American artifacts can find a wealth of information at artifact shows, on the Internet, and in print. One of the most popular websites is www.arrowheads.com, which features educational articles, collector forums, and a store site where dealers sell a wide range of artifacts and related items. There are also books, magazines, and field guides that cover all aspects of artifact collecting.


My daughter Emily with one of her finds.

     The oldest and most well-known artifact publication is The Overstreet Indian Arrowheads Identification and Price Guide. This book contains educational articles as well as pricing information and actual-size photos of thousands of projectile points and other artifacts.

Story by Brock Smith. Photos by Brock Smith. For more information about buying, selling, or collecting Native American artifacts, he can be reached at 662-801-1786, or by email at brock@arrowheads.com