published Saturday, February 4th, 2012

6,000-year-old ax head will be shown at Prater’s Mill in Varnell, Ga.

Judy Alderman holds a 6,000-year-old ax head in the cattle pasture where it was found near Prater's Mill.
Judy Alderman holds a 6,000-year-old ax head in the cattle pasture where it was found near Prater's Mill.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

When they found a tool design they liked, the people who lived here thousands of years ago stuck with it.

At least that’s the case for a 6,000-year-old slate ax head donated recently to Prater’s Mill in Varnell, Ga.

“Tried and true” is how archaeologist Jim Langford described the stone tool, which was used by people throughout the eastern United States for major woodworking tasks such as chopping down trees and hollowing out logs.

“They used these for a couple thousand years. It was a well-known, well-used type of tool,” said Langford, president of the Coosawattee Foundation, a Calhoun, Ga.-based organization that works to preserve archaeological sites.

Dalton, Ga., resident Dilbert Bryson donated the ax. His grandfather, Jess Kile, found it in what’s now a cattle pasture near Lake Frances, a small, spring-fed lake close to Prater’s Mill.

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“He thought it would be a good idea to preserve it forever with us,” said Judy Alderman, president of the Prater’s Mill Foundation.

Bryson’s grandfather found a number of other ancient artifacts, Alderman said. A Dalton-area man acquired the Kile collection, and he displays the stone tools during the Prater’s Mill annual country fair. The artifacts draw a lot of attention, Alderman said.

“We’ve been telling people that this site is a significant site, and it represents the common heritage of humanity,” she said.

Erosion and activities such as plowing bring artifacts to the surface, and sites often yield artifacts left by subsequent settlements, Langford said.

“You’ll have something from 5,000 B.C. next to something that’s several hundred years old,” he said. “A great place to live once was a great place to live a second and a third time.”

Prater’s Mill will have the ax head on display for special functions. Officials said they may loan it to the Coahulla Creek High School so it can be displayed there.

As to whether the land where the artifacts were found should be preserved as a historic site, Alderman said, “Right now, they’re protected by the cattle. The cattle would run you off.”

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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