A view of the bannerstone showing
Most Indian artifact collectors would like county-and-state attribution
for our prized specimens. Occasionally we have to settle for only the
state where it was found, or no provenience at all. Recently I purchased
a notched crescent bannerstone that came with about as good a provenience
as one can hope for, a street address.
The story begins on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, when a fellow named Darren
Larsen contacted me by email about a bannerstone he had found. He had
discovered me via the Internet and my web site, which features bannerstones.
He sent along a few colored pictures, and I saw that it was the Notched
Crescent type. This style is appropriate to New Jersey where Darren lives
and where he had looked in vain for arrowheads for years. Darren wanted
the piece authenticated and appraised.
Growing up in northern New Jersey, I had seen a few of these banners
over the years and knew that the orange and black serpentine of which
it is made was also appropriate for the area. But the vivid color, thinness
of wings, condition and large size took me by surprise. The piece measured
6 3/8” across the wings, which taper to 1/16 near the tips. The
barrel surrounding the hole is also quite thin, at 1/8,” and the
hole is large, 11/16” at the widest and tapering to 5/8.” In
the latter regard it reminds of the Wisconsin Winged banners, which also
show large holes, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a
developmental or perhaps functional relationship between the two. Maybe,
I mused, these large-holed banners were used with rigid wooden shafts,
whereas the small-holed banners were used with flexible shafts.
Anyway, I told Darren I wouldn’t bother getting it authenticated;
there simply was no doubt it was ancient. I also gave him a range of
values, noting that there was a “flea bite” out of each wing
that would hurt the piece’s value a bit. And, of course, I asked
if it were for sale. It was not. I congratulated him on his find and
asked if I might visit and examine the bannerstone when I return to New
Jersey to see family to which he agreed. To my surprise, soon after Darren
wrote to say he had changed his mind and would part with the bannerstone “because
of these difficult times we all find ourselves in.” I, of course,
was wild with excitement on having the opportunity to add this fine piece
to my collection.
I asked Darren to give me all the details of his finding the artifact: “In
July of 2005,” he said, “Barclay Brook, the creek behind
his house in Jamesburg, N.J., had turned into a raging river when 7-8
inches of rain fell in 20 minutes. The brook swept away his back fence,
inundating the yard. The nearby Manalapan Lake poured over its banks
and contributed to the deluge. The Larsen home was left an island amid
the raging water.” Darren sent some pictures that showed a fellow
kayaking down the street, a truck riding high in the water and the gap
were the fence used to be.
Because there is a natural bend in the brook behind the Larsen house,
old bottles collect there. After the water subsided, Darren went out
to look for what washed out. Instead of the old bottles he anticipated,
he spotted the artifact, lying where the fence used to be. He thought
it was a boat propeller until he picked it up and felt the stone. “I
realized that I finally had that ever elusive artifact in my possession.
I didn’t know what it was or anything about it, but I knew it was
something,” he later said. Darren contacted a professor in the
Native American studies program at Monmouth University, who told him
it was a bannerstone and an impressive one at that. Now 44, Darren said
he hopes he and his 10-year-old son will look some more around the brook
behind his house when the weather breaks to see if he can find more Indian
relics and bottles.
I should note that in discussing his search for Indian relics in northern
New Jersey, where he had lived before moving to central New Jersey, Darren
mentioned hunting arrowheads in the fields along Route 517 in Tranquility,
N.J., without success. He remembers that when the wind was just right,
he could smell the chocolate of the M&M/Mars plant miles below in
I grew up five miles south of Tranquility, on High Street, which is
Route 517. I began collecting arrowheads when I was about 8 years, walking
the corn fields of what was then Baker’s Farm, which less than
a decade later became the site of the M&M/Mars plant.
Above: Two views of the bannerstone
showing both sides. It measures 6 3/8 inches across, and is shown