Life with Darrell - The Grassy Pendant

On a hot summer day, late in the growing season, my friend Darrell and I decided to go artifact hunting. I had found artifacts made of slate before, but never in the type of field conditions like I was about to experience. Certainly I had found no slate artifact like the pendant I was about to find.

Slate pendant found in Rush County Indiana. Note the small drill hole started.Other Relic Photos
As our regular routine, Darrell and I met early, had breakfast, and drove to the chosen field of the day. We had decided to check out a field in Rush County which has produced many different types of relics in the past. From axes, pestles, dovetails, thebes, and Decatur's, this field had many fine artifacts, but did not exhibit the signs of a large encampment. Flint chips were in the field with some area having a heavier concentration than others even though the elevation and terrain remains similar.

The day warmed up quickly, getting very hot, with the wind being non-existent. As we entered the cornfield we felt as if we were enveloped in a sauna like cocoon. Soon we came on another great disappointment, high grass was growing like a thick carpet in between the corn rows. After realizing we were not going to be able to search in the area we initially desired, Darrell and I decided to blaze a trail to a slight rise on the possibility that rain runoff might had prevented grass from taking root on the slopes. Heads lowered, and walking single file, we walked through the seven foot corn and thick grass to reach the rise. While we walked we had to continuously move our arms, keeping them in front of our bodies, to keep the edges of the corn from hitting us in the face. Our constant "swimming" motion looked rather odd, but helps to prevent the paper like cuts the corn can inflict. Especially painful is when the corn leafs edge hits you smack in the eye. After thirty minutes of work where we zigzagged around, we realized we had reached the rise. By stopping and turning around, when we could finally see the corn stalks tops below our eye level horizon, we knew we were in the desired location. Unfortunately the grass was just as thick on the rise as where we had started when entering the field.

Slate pendant, note the lash marks where the owner tied it.We searched the slope of the rise, hoping to find a area void of grass without any luck. If it was not the thick grass getting tangled around your feet it was the vines. The vines alone about drove me crazy. Unlike the grass which would snag you quick, the vines had some play in them since they lay upon the ground in a tangle. You would not realize you were tangled up until the vine uncoiled and your leg would suddenly stop in mid-step and you would stumble to not fall down. We decided to leave the cornfield as quick as possible so we would still have time to travel and hunt another field.

Since I had blazed the trail to the rise, Darrell took over the lead on the return trip and I reluctantly fell in behind him for another "swim". I kept within a few feet of Darrell so that the corn leaves he pushed aside would not hit me on the backswing. I also kept my head down so the leaves would hit my hat, and not my face. As we walked, I subconsciously scanned the ground. This the most natural thing in the world for someone who searches for Indian relics. The fact that grass covered the normally exposed rows between the corn did not stop me from scanning.

Suddenly through a small gap in the matted grass I saw a distinctive circle. It was very hard to see, but my sub conscience saw it through the gray - gold colored grass. The view was not large enough for me to even make out what the circle was. The gap being less than a quarter dollar in size, I could not see the complete artifact. What I was looking at was a small circle of dirt.

Reaching down and moving the grass away, I picked up in my hand a small pendant made of gray and red colored slate. The dimensions of the slate relic which is a rough oval shape is one and three fourths inches by one and an eighth inch. That is not very big as pebble pendants go. The hole is centered almost exactly in the middle of the relic, and measures three thirty-seconds in diameter. Under a ten power magnification loop, the concentric rings caused by the drill when the hole which has just been started, were visible. Just above the area where the hole was started is the indications that the pendant was once tied onto a necklace. Both edges show abrasion and marking of the lashings.

I believe the true color of the slate is grayish and weathering has caused a reddish patina to cover one side and all of the edges. When found, the exposed area of the relic is the portion which is gray. While the portion of the artifact which was covered with soil is where the reddish patina had formed. I have debated with myself over the years if the chemical reaction of the sun heating the surface of the ground caused the patina to occur rather quickly. I have no other explanation for the way the slate pendant has patina on all but one surface. The recent rains must have washed the exposed surface clean leaving only the conical drill hole filled with dirt.

The odds of finding a pendant in a cornfield with the rows covered in long grass is astronomically low. The small slate pendant, even though unfinished, is special. Special in that this is a artifact which was worn regularly, in that the owner was in the process of improvement when probably lost or discarded, and special in the manner in which it was found. The joy of beating the odds against finding anything, and finding something so nice, make this slate pendant especially special.

By Jeff Anderson
Thursday, September 04, 1997
© 1997 Jeff Anderson