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Exploring pieces of local history

(From left) Ali Jankowski, 11, Mary Kistler 11, Justin Lynch, 10, and Josom Scates, 12 , sort through soil and debris they have sifted during their dig for artifacts at an old Ramsour homesite off River Road in Lincolnton.

Archaeology campers learn as they sift through local artifacts

AMANDA SEBASTIANO
Staff Writer

Campers enrolled in the Lincoln County Historical Association’s (LCHA) archaeology camp aren’t just playing in the dirt.
The archaeologists-in-training are learning a variety of new skills, from using a compass to laying out grids on a dig site, LCHA’s camp leader and curator of archaeology, January Porter, told the Times-News on Thursday.
Four campers are digging, sorting and exploring their campsite this week – the Kistler property in Lincolnton – where members of the family have resided for at least the last 100 years.
Among them is 11-year-old Mary Kistler, whose great-grandfather once lived in the building that lent itself for this year’s camp – a once-home that now consists of rock and sand remains that resemble a horseshoe shape.
The house was caving in and falling apart, literally, and was burned down by Kistler’s relative, she said.
Years after the demolition of the structure, enthusiastic children in dirt-covered sneakers and blue jeans with sunburned faces fish around for interesting items that may have been left behind or others that were somehow revealed over time.
So far the group hasn’t made any major discoveries, but those watching them would never guess the door hinge they found earlier this week wasn’t a hidden pot of gold.
The foursome shared the excitement as they discussed the possibilities of their new treasure’s past. “Wonder if this was part of a door that used to be over here,” and ideas of what the home looked like before were shouted out as the team safely put the hinge into the appropriate Ziploc bag to clean off and further explore later.
“It’s one thing to hand the kids a piece of paper and another for them to actually see it and learn about it,” Porter said. “We’re studying what these artifacts are really telling us.”
LCHA has been hosting archaeology camps for the last five years, sometimes having up to 12 campers at a time. Porter is comfortable with the smaller-sized classes she has been having in this summer’s sessions, enabling her to give the children that extra time to explore the county’s history.
“These kids are growing up in Lincoln County and it’s important for them to know about the area,” Porter said. “Some of the first people to come here lived right on this property.”
Nails, broken glass and a red fragment that 10-year-old Justin Lynch believes to be a prehistoric crayon, are among the session-two group’s collected items found so far. As the second week of camp comes to a close, the four will tour a field to the right of their dig site, which is thought to be home to American Indian artifacts.
Last Friday, a group discovered spear tips while combing the field for items – an exciting discovery that gives Porter hope that the land will be more fruitful than the abandoned building the current group has been searching.
Though Porter suspects a majority of the items that were once found on the grounds have been washed away or perhaps already collected, she doesn’t doubt the site was once home to an array of interesting items.
In previous years, she found pieces that were dated as far back as 8,000 B.C.
Also in the vicinity is the Rhodes family Clay Hole, a pillar for the start of the pottery craze that would later be prevalent in the county. Porter intends on further exploring the Hole and other surrounding areas within the property boundaries, even after camp has ended.
After the corn has started to grow in the fall, the archaeologist plans on trekking through the area, where she believes she will find many more American Indian pieces.
“History is really important; we learn everything about what will happen in the future by knowing what happened in the past,” Porter said.
One more session will kick off Monday and will go through June 29, each camp day lasting from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Josom and Mary examine a bullet casing they find.

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