by Ashley Smith
Due to the construction, notching and threading on the bow found by Kellie Arledge, its origin was determined to be Native American.
In the late Sunday afternoon hours, the family walked along the shoreline on Lake Mitchell, located on the Coosa River in Central Alabama. Mark Arledge and his daughters Julie and Kellie were at their lake cabin for the day. Always a favorite place to gather for swimming, fishing, canoeing and spending time together, this family enjoys being outdoors at the lake. As the three of them walked, 12-year-old Kellie noticed a stick on the ground and exclaimed, "Well, I’ve finally got me a bow!" Just 8-10 inches from the waterline lay a long stick fashioned in the familiar, curved shape of a bow. After a quick look at the wood, Mark excitedly instructed her to proceed with care; this was no ordinary stick! Something appeared to be attached to the wood at one end. The attached string/cord would help to prove the authenticity of this historical object.
The Coosa watershed was home to Native Americans many years ago. Coosa derives from an Indian tribe name. Evidence of these early dwellers can still be found in freshly-turned fields. Julie, age 15, and Kellie, now 13, have both unearthed arrowheads during time spent looking for these artifacts with their dad. Historical records prove Native Americans once lived, hunted and provided for their own families in the area now known as Central Alabama. It is a local well-known fact that Indian villages were once scattered all along the Coosa River. Several rock shelves along the river provided hideouts for these occupants many years ago. When Kellie spotted "her bow," there was no doubt in Mark’s mind – this stick very well could be an actual Native American bow! As the water level for Lake Mitchell was much lower than it has been in a number of years, it made sense such a unique item was now being discovered. The family took special care in collecting their find. They wanted the string-like material attached at one notched-end of the stick to remain intact for further research.
|Kellie and Mark Arledge displayed the historic bow found on the Coosa River’s Lake Mitchell.|
Mark contacted the University of Alabama in an attempt to learn more about the bow they discovered on November 11, 2007. After making initial contact with and emailing photos to Dr. Robert Crouse, University of Alabama Museums director/Office of Archeological Research director, the bow traveled with Mark, Julie and Kellie to the Alabama History Museum in Tuscaloosa.
Dr. Crouse confirmed their initial thoughts about the four-foot long bow and stated, "Considering how it was constructed, the notching made on it, and the threading attached to it, indicators suggest Native American construction."
He eagerly shared information.
"The bow is indeed a unique and rare find," said the professor. "There is no doubt it is quite old!"
In Crouse’s observation, the bow string appeared to be sinew, likely from a deer, attached with the thread of a large animal, specifically comparable to horse hair. (Horses were reintroduced to the area in the 1550/1600 timeframe.)
|Mark Arledge is proud of his daughters. He smiled for a quick picture with (from left) Julie and Kellie.|
Bows and arrows as weaponry have only been in this part of the world for the past 1,000 years. The sophistication of the weapon suggested the age of the bow to be less than 400 years old, most likely approximately 300 years in age. While Carbon-14 testing is a possibility, it would require approximately ¼ of the wood for testing purposes – the Carbon-14 test would ruin the integrity of the bow. There is also a range in error of 100-150 years for Carbon-14 testing. Crouse did not recommend such testing for the bow as it currently exists in good condition. The good condition of the bow is attributed to the likelihood of it having been in a water-logged situation where the temperature and humidity remained constant. When questioned about the worth of the historical object, Crouse stated the value would be great, but is currently unknown as one has not previously been found in this area.
For Kellie to have discovered an historic Native American bow is right on target, according to her father.
"Kellie is the toughest girl I’ve got," shared Mark when talking about his three daughters. "She has always loved the outdoors and is a real go-getter!"
When Kellie talked of finding this exceptional treasure from the past, she smiled and revealed it has sparked an interest in history, particularly Alabama history. Her sister Julie loves history and father Mark is a self-proclaimed Alabama history fanatic.
If you would like to further discuss Alabama history, particularly Native American history, with Mark, drop by the Mid-State Farmers Co-op in Clanton. Mark has worked at the store for the past nine years and is currently the assistant manager.
While you are there, be sure to pick up seed, feed, fertilizer or other farm needs. Like all of the Quality Co-ops, the store in Clanton is ready to serve you.
And if you happen to be walking the shoreline of one of Alabama’s many lakes and rivers, keep your eyes open. Perhaps you might make the next discovery from Alabama’s history!
Ashley Smith is a freelance writer from Russell County.