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Goulais River man unearths ancient spear tip near Thessalon

Milwaukee Public Museum says the find is likely between 5,000 and 9,500 years old
2021-08-05-CopperArtifactFindJH01
Marc Guttenberger recently found a copper spear tip while using a metal detector near Thessalon. The Milwaukee Public Museum says the 'conical point' is likely somewhere between 5,000 and 9,500 years old.

Marc Guttenberger has only managed to find junk like nails and beer caps since picking up a metal detector a couple months ago.

But more recently, the Goulais River resident’s new hobby led to an ancient discovery near Thessalon while camping for the weekend: A copper spear tip that is estimated to be anywhere from 5,000 to 9,500 years old. 

Guttenberger, who has been reading up on artifacts found in the area - including a SooToday article from last summer where a similar spear tip was discovered - was taken aback by the random find. 

“I take my metal detector out of the truck, and within 10 seconds, it goes off,” said Guttenberger. “I was like, okay, this sounds good, because it makes different sounds for different metals and stuff.”

“So, I dug about seven inches into the ground and I see that thing, and I was like, oh my god - that looks almost identical to the other one that was found.”

Guttenberger then brought the copper spear tip to the Sault Ste. Marie Museum. He was subsequently directed to the Milwaukee Public Museum, which specializes in Old Copper Culture - a term used to describe ancient Indigenous North American societies which used copper for tools or weapons. 

Dawn Scher Thomae, curator of anthropology collections at the Milwaukee Public Museum, informed Guttenberger via email that it was an Old Copper Culture conical point that likely dates back anywhere from 5,000 to 9,500 years ago. 

“I looked at the email, and I had to read it a couple times and I was like okay, that’s pretty wild,” said Guttenberger. “I’m just trying to imagine how many lifetimes ago that is, right?”

William Hollingshead, executive director and chief curator of Sault Ste. Marie Museum, says that in his experience, the museum has yet to come across anything quite like it.  

“Nothing like a spear point that old. We do have some tools that would be that old, and maybe some shards and stuff - but nothing quite like that,” he said. 

It was Hollingshead who directed Guttenberger to Milwaukee Public Museum, due to its specialization in copper conical points. The museum head also advised him to contact the band office in Thessalon First Nation due to the fact that it was found in the Thessalon area. 

“For those types of items, we like to confer with archaeological experts and then First Nations band offices and First Nations members to advise on where they should properly rest and stay,” Hollingshead said.

Although Guttenberger wouldn’t mind keeping his find, he told SooToday that he would be willing to donate it to the Indigenous community if approached. 

But for now, he'll keep packing the metal detector in his truck, in hopes of unearthing his next big find.    

“I bring it everywhere with me now - it’s in the back of my truck all the time, and whenever I get a chance, I fire it up and see what I can find,” Guttenberger said.