COVER STORYOct. 13, 2006
Just the Artifacts, Ma’am
The Palisades Museum of Prehistory houses 5,000-year-old stone tools, pottery sherds, and arrowheads, as well as evidence of how the first Washingtonians relaxed after hunting and gathering: Jacuzzi.
By Huan Hsu
(Photograph by Charles Steck)
The entire collection of the Palisades Museum of Prehistory, if sold on the open market, would fetch about $50. And the museum itself appears to have been built for not a whole lot more.
The structure is a triumph of DIY. Most of the building materials, from the pallet-board walls to the roofing trusses to the decorative flourishes, are recycled or reclaimed. Inside, artifacts—stone tools, pottery sherds, and projectile points, along with a smattering of Civil War objects—are displayed under fluorescent light in scavenged cases. New finds are spread out next to the sink, waiting to be washed and scrubbed. A beer tap emerges from the counter. A ladder leads down to a cellar where empty wine bottles share shelf space with bagfuls of rocks. Beside the museum is a small pond, home to a bluegill trained to snatch worms dangled between the fingers of the museum’s founder, curator, and chief archaeologist, Doug Dupin.
The museum began in 2003, when Dupin lost his job as a cartographer when a contract dissolved. Pissed off, homebound, and with plenty of idle time (aside from caring for his infant son, Max), Dupin decided to build a detached wine cellar on the edge of his backyard, and, like Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo, found salvation by shoveling dirt.
Having done some archaeological work in Hawaii after college and mindful of his neighborhood’s history, Dupin first dug a few test holes to see what might turn up. Most of it was just clay fill, but after 5 feet, he began to hit old bottles and bicycle parts, then dog tags from the 1930s, then Civil War materials, pottery sherds, and a stone projectile point. The Holmes point, named after Smithsonian archaeologist William Henry Holmes, dates back to about 2000 B.C.
“I was pretty surprised,” he says. “I thought, Oh my God; I’m going to find millions of these things. I didn’t find millions, but I found a lot.”
“The funny thing is how exceptional people think this is,” says Dupin. “I mean, it’s everywhere.”(Photograph by Charles Steck)
For the next six months, Dupin lived out a young boy’s dream—he dug a giant hole in his yard. He carved out the entire 15-foot-by-15-foot-by
The piles of dirt that accumulated in the yard didn’t faze Dupin’s wife, Rebecca J. Cooper, a national correspondent for ABC 7 News. Nor did the sight of her husband digging with Max strapped to his back (wearing homemade protective eyewear, of course). “I think most wives would think he’s kind of crazy,” she says. “But I was used to Doug’s various personal hobbies and pursuits. And they’re all interesting.”
After successfully negotiating a hurricane, the city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and a weaselly neighbor demanding that Dupin stop working until he got the proper permit—“It was so annoying, the fact that I had found all this history in the ground here and this motherfucker’s trying to shut me down,” he says—the museum opened last spring. “Having worked within the government and having no sense of accomplishment, just doing nothing day in and day out, building this is important because I have something to show for my work,” he says.
The museum is par for the course for Dupin, 39, who has a master’s degree in environmental economics but wide-ranging interests. The rest of his yard displays his other projects: a vineyard with three rows of shoulder-high wood posts supporting wires on which nebbiolos, cabernet sauvignons, and chardonnays rest their vines; a trellis crawling with hops; a compost box; a bonfire pit between his deck and a singed banana tree. Bright plastic detritus courtesy of his young sons pokes out from the grass like half-hidden Easter eggs.
A California native, Dupin has lived in D.C. for a dozen years but has held down an office job for fewer than half of them. In 1997, he left his first job as a government toponymist (he edited maps for the Defense Department) to renovate an old house. Then, he decided he wanted to skateboard all 180 miles of the C&O Canal towpath. He couldn’t find the right longboard to traverse the rolling, gravelly terrain, so he built one. The trip took him seven days. “That kind of convinced me that nothing could surprise me with my husband,” says Cooper. “Not every woman could be married to Doug Dupin, but I love it.”
Upon returning home, Dupin started a skateboard company, building longboards. But there was no money in it, and when Max was born in 2003, he had to go back to a real job, which didn’t last long. He’s been a stay-at-home dad ever since. His youngest son, two-year-old Gus, is just starting to talk, and the only polysyllabic word he can say is “artifact.” Thanks to his house-renovation work, Dupin still manages to pay the mortgage on his house. “I don’t know how he does it, but he’s just really thrifty,” says Cooper. “And he groans a lot when I come back from the mall. He doesn’t understand why I need more than one pair of new shoes per season.”
Amateurs are responsible for some of archaeology’s greatest finds. In the ‘70s, a recreational archaeologist stumbled into the best-preserved paleo-Indian site in the country.(Photograph by Charles Steck)
Dupin has since dug at five different houses in his neighborhood, finding artifacts at each one, and cases construction sites for potential excavation. There’s a big one in Georgetown down by the new Swedish Embassy that he’s trying to get into. Part of what compels him to dig is a curiosity about the natural world, part of it is assembling narratives from what he finds, and the rest is enjoying the solitude. “It’s something where you have control,” he explains. “I mean, we’re basically animals, so we’re somehow part of this whole thing. A lot of people, when faced with these big issues, will gravitate to religion, and that probably fills that void, but that doesn’t fill any void for me.”
Collectors have been finding prehistoric artifacts in Washington for centuries. The Smithsonian has records of fluted points, dating back to around 11,000 B.C., turning up near the Anacostia. In 1897, Smithsonian archaeologist Holmes expressed his amazement at the concentration of prehistoric sites in Washington. “The greatest aboriginal bowlder quarry known, and the most important implement shops yet observed on the Atlantic slope, are located on Fourteenth street 2 1/2 miles from the President’s house,” he wrote. “One of the most interesting native soapstone quarriesÉfrom Massachusetts to Georgia is on Connecticut avenue extended, barely beyond the city limits; and the most important ancient village-site in the whole tidewater province is situated on Anacostia riverÉlittle more than a mile from the capitolÉThe spot now the political center of the nation was thus in prehistoric times a chief resort of the native peoples of the region.”
“You can learn a lot more from a turd than a lump of gold, if the turd is well-preserved,” says professional archaeologist Stuart Feidel.(Photograph by Charles Steck)
The Palisades area, with its proximity to the Potomac and the various creeks that fed into it, was more than just a pleasant spot for ancient Washingtonians; it was critical to their survival. The anadromous fish migrations—shad and striped bass running back to spawn in their native streams—that drive modern-day sportsmen onto the river each spring coincides with what was the ancient Indians’ leanest time of year. Just when they had depleted their winter stores and before the berries appeared or cultivated crops could be harvested, they received tens of thousands of pounds of protein in the form of schools of fish so thick that 17th-century explorer John Smith tried to catch them with frying pans. If anything, Dupin’s findings verify the impression archaeologists have about the area’s density of materials. “The mantra of today’s real-estate agent also holds in prehistory: location, location, location,” says Stephen Potter, the regional archaeologist for the National Park Service (NPS). “Prime real estate is and always will be on the waterfront.”
Lining the west wall of the Palisades Museum of Prehistory are photographs of various petroglyphs—rock carvings—that Dupin has found around Great Falls. Archaeologists tend to be dubious of such things; they’re difficult to date, verify, and study, and they’re impossible to preserve. But for Dupin, who aims to photograph all the area petroglyphs at night, they are another opportunity to assemble narratives. One of the pictures on the wall depicts a small petroglyph resembling a sailing ship. “I was thinking it was an Indian who saw John Smith’s shallop and got tired of being asked by all the other Indians, ‘What did you see?’ ” says Dupin. “And he finally [carved it] and said, ‘OK, this is what I saw.’ ”
The mother lode of petroglyphs is in the Southwest, but whenever someone suggests he take a trip out there, he demurs. “For some reason, I’m only interested in the immediate area,” he says. “There’s just so much here, and I know I can talk some of my neighbors into digging some holes. If I had a backhoe or something like that, I’d probably be doing it all the time.”
One moonless night late in September, Dupin sets off to photograph a petroglyph in Great Falls, Va. He’s wearing long, red-tipped hiking socks, one pulled up to his knee, scabbed from skateboard wrecks, the other scrunched down. He and a skateboarding buddy, Anthony Smallwood, drive up Clara Barton Parkway and turn into the parking lot across from Angler’s Inn. A truck holding the last of the kayakers sweeps its brights through Dupin’s car. “Just dropping off some bodies,” he quips to them.
City archaeologist Nancy Kassner would like to conduct an archaeological survey of the entire Northwest quadrant. “I would think we have a lot out there,” she says.(Photograph by Charles Steck)
“Is what we’re doing illegal?” Smallwood asks.
Dupin and Smallwood mount bicycles and crunch gravel down the C&O Canal towpath, holding flashlights to compensate for the new moon. After a few miles, they ditch their bikes and hike down to the water. They hug the rocks along a small outlet, following the sound of rapids. A narrow path opens into a sheet of water cascading down a field of rocks. Across the pond, tree trunks are balanced atop rocks 30 feet overhead. Dupin and Smallwood skip over the rivulets and sweep the boulders with their lights. Dupin finds it first, on the flat side of a 6-foot-high rock that would sit in the middle of a large eddy during high water: three concentric diamonds encasing three dots. When Smallwood perches on the boulder and shines a spotlight from above, illuminating the petroglyph as the sun would, the three dots form a perfectly proportioned, and spooky, face.
Dupin says that the fish would get stopped up here and become easy pickings for Indians. As for the petroglyph, he says, “It’s a placeholder so when they came back and saw someone poaching their spot, they can point to this and say, ‘Fuck you, dude. This is our spot.’ ”
Professional archaeologists have an uneasy relationship with their amateur counterparts. The experts’ interests lie in the amount of information they can glean from an excavation; amateur diggers, they fear, are only interested in the monetary or aesthetic value of what they dig up. Taking the flashy object, such as an immaculate Clovis point, and leaving the flake debris in the dirt leaves an incomplete site, which leads to an incomplete interpretation. Dupin, while respectful of academic archaeology, takes a more utilitarian approach to his excavations: “If it’s going to be lost forever, what’s it matter anyway?” he says. “I’ve never understood not wanting to dig.”
That kind of talk sends chills down professional archaeologists’ spines. Anyone can go to a hardware store and buy a screen with which to sift dirt, but how many know how to take pollen cores, recognize a posthole, spot a soil stain, or identify a charred maize kernel? In archaeology, you only get one shot to get information out of a site. Once the original context is disturbed, there’s no chance to apply new techniques or technologies. To professional archaeologists, the sound of Dupin’s shovel scraping against a rock is the same as fingernails on a chalkboard.
Stuart Feidel, an archaeologist with an environmental consulting firm and the author of Prehistory of the Americas, was recently checking on some public land in Palisades when a woman living nearby told him that a man had appeared on her property about five years ago. He claimed he was from the Smithsonian and started digging. “We’re pretty sure he wasn’t from the Smithsonian,” says Feidel. “He probably found stuff, too, because we found some stuff around there just on the surface.”
“If it’s going to be lost forever, what’s it matter anyway?” says Dupin. “I’ve never understood not wanting to dig.”(Photograph by Charles Steck)
Stories about unprincipled “pothunters,” as they’re called, often obscure the fact that some of archaeology’s greatest finds were discovered by amateurs. In the 1970s, Don Kline, a recreational archaeologist in northeastern Pennsylvania, stumbled into what is generally recognized as the best-preserved paleo-Indian site in the country. The Shawnee–Minisink site, as it is known, has been radiocarbon dated to 10,900 B.C. and has yielded more than 55,000 artifacts, including carbonized seeds, calcified bones, stone tools, and in the higher strata, longhouse remnants. It’s still studied to this day.
To protect their own archaeological gold mines, researchers tend to keep their maps very general and site locations imprecise when they publish their reports. The versions tagged for wide distribution will sometimes even have the maps excised. “It’s like endangered species,” says Feidel. “If you constantly bring tourists to see gorillas, some time one is going to come kill it. That’s how people just seem to be. We don’t want to give the unscrupulous collectors a treasure map.”
But a treasure map is exactly what Dupin thinks will raise public awareness of prehistoric archaeology. He aims to create an online database that catalogs all the archaeological finds throughout the city, beginning with Palisades. Modeled after the Casey Trees Endowment Fund’s arbor maps, Dupin’s electronic map would mark the address of each site that has produced artifacts, accompanied by photographs and provenances of the most significant objects.
“[Dupin’s] map is going to give every professional archaeologist a heart attack,” says Michael Katherine Haynie, a former NPS archaeologist (and Palisades native). “You’re opening the door to all sorts of looters and wackos with malicious intents, and besides them, hobbyists who think they’re doing a favor but can’t do advanced lab techniques.”
Haynie recalls a mentor who worked on 17th-century tiles in England. When he found one face down, he had to wait three days before he could turn it over because he had to first document everything about its context. “It takes a lot of self-restraint not to just flip the tile over,” she says. “Archaeology isn’t just about taking [an artifact] out and putting it into a museum. It’s about the story of how you found it, how you take it out.”
Feidel explains it simply: “You can learn a lot more from a turd than a lump of gold, if the turd is well-preserved.”
Truth is, it’s hard to get a lot of archaeology done in a city like Washington. The National Historic Preservation Act allows for archaeology to be done before any publicly funded project, and Indian burial sites are protected by law, but local and regional governments don’t have a lot of leverage when it comes to forcing contractors to pause projects long enough for archaeological evaluations. In Washington, the District’s Historic Preservation Office handles such matters. If a site is identified as having historic or archaeological significance (which can be a convoluted process in itself), city archaeologist Nancy Kassner can ask for an evaluation, but a private developer on private land isn’t obligated to do any archaeology before starting work.
In fact, Dupin’s modest museum may well house the largest collection of prehistoric artifacts from Palisades. “Doug—he’s sort of filling a vacant niche in that neighborhood of D.C.” says Feidel. “It’s been known since the 1880s that it’s a major prehistoric site, but since it’s all in private ownership, there’s no legislative catch to protect anything if it’s dug up. So he’s sort of stepped into the breach to make everybody aware they’ve got archaeology and let’s try to keep our eye on it.”
Kassner admits that she sometimes wonders what’s been found on unexplored sites beyond her jurisdiction, and one of her goals is to conduct a thorough survey of the Northwest quadrant. “I would think we have a lot out there,” she says. “Having the results of a survey would allow us to go out and say, yes, there’s a site, and either avoid it or excavate it.”
If the survey sounds a lot like Dupin’s map project, it doesn’t seem that way to the city. When Dupin asked Kassner’s office about possible funding, he was alternately told that his project is infeasible and that it falls outside of the city’s purview. Kassner’s not the only professional archaeologist Dupin’s butted heads with. His interactions with the NPS’s Potter have been testy. When he contacted Potter to ask for help identifying his artifacts, the federal archaeologist only seemed to be interested in making sure Dupin didn’t pull them out of federal property.
Dupin isn’t shy about voicing his frustrations, which don’t help his relationships with Kassner and Potter. His museum’s Web site harangues the city for not evaluating the archaeology before the Swedish Embassy was built on the waterfront, and it all but accuses the NPS of taking a petroglyph out of Pimmit Run (true) and keeping it from the public (conjecture).
Dupin confesses that when digging his museum’s foundation, he paid little attention to the context of the artifacts he found. He keeps better track of it these days, but he still doesn’t understand the fear of providing the public with too much information. “I think they overplay it,” he says. “Like all the other government out there, they want to keep things a little bit farther away from the public. It’s easier for them when they’re out of scrutiny. If nobody knows about it, then they don’t have to put it up on display. And that’s just a bureaucratic hassle for them.”
The Palisades area, with its proximity to the Potomac and the various creeks that fed into it, was more than just a pleasant spot for ancient Washingtonians; it was critical to their survival.(Photograph by Charles Steck)
Since Dupin doesn’t profess to be anything more than an amateur, he freely admits that there are two particular artifacts he’d like to add to his collection: a fishing sinker and an atlatl (primitive spear-thrower) weight. After a recent rainstorm, Dupin cases his neighbor’s property to see if those goodies might have become exposed. The house has been knocked down and cleared away, leaving a 10-foot-deep rectangle in the ground where rain and groundwater have pooled at one end. As Dupin approaches the pit, something splashes in the water—perhaps one of the two bluegills he portaged from the canal in an effort to control the local mosquito population. The site has produced, among other things, a Palmer point—an exquisite, 9,000-year-old object that looks like the tip of a cherry leaf.
The two artifacts in Dupin’s collection that he most treasures are a Marcey Creek lug handle, made from soapstone and one of the earliest examples of American pottery, and a smooth, fist-sized stone with one end worked into an edge. Depending on whom Dupin has talked to, it either functioned as a scraper for animal hides, as something that took fibers out of bark for ropemaking, or as a planer. The best point that Dupin has found, however, isn’t in the museum. It’s somewhere in his lawn. “I put it out on my deck with some other stuff, and a rainstorm blew it into the grass for future archaeologists to find,” he says. “My curatorial skills leave a lot to be desired.”
Dupin scours the piles of dirt along the pit. He turns up an abundance of fire-cracked rock, which makes him crouch down for a closer inspection. Archaeology is a lot like fishing. Searching for artifacts is less about hunting for the object than about finding the right spot, and one of the best indicators that there may be ancient artifacts in an area is the presence of fire-cracked rock, which are cobbles that have lined a roasting pit or a fire hearth. The repeated exposure to heat causes the rock to become brittle and prone to cracking.
They’re signs of something more than just a couple of guys hanging out for an hour or two. Fire-cracked rock suggests a fairly substantial fireplace, which extrapolates to some sort of sedentary living, which is of great interest to archaeologists because it’s hard to study people who were constantly moving.
Sometimes smaller stones were used to heat water. Ancient Indians would pull them out of the fire with sticks and toss them into a water receptacle. The safe guess is it was for cooking. There’s a 16th-century watercolor of Algonquins in North Carolina boiling corn on the cob.
Dupin has read everything he can get his hands on about fire-cracked rock. He’s even conducted his own experiments by throwing chunks of translucent quartzite into his bonfire pit. The heat gave the rock a reddish tint, and when he dropped a piece of fired rock into a bowl of water, it quickly heated it to a boil. As Dupin contemplated the bubbling water, he imagined another function for fire-cracked rock: “They may have been having Jacuzzis.”
If it sounds outlandish, remember that one of the prerequisites for an archaeologist is an overactive imagination—the ability to assemble narratives. “I’ve noticed that with lots of amateur archaeologists, they always seem to put this slant on things,” says Dupin. “Everybody sort of tailors it to their own biases, which I’m fascinated by, because I feel like I’m very objective, in that I realize that I might not be.”
Jacuzzi remnants are all Dupin finds at his neighbor’s, so he heads over to a friend’s house where they’re putting in an addition. He’s found a number of flakes there—the byproduct of chipping stones into tools, and tantalizing signs of an Indian site—but nothing substantial. He hops the fence, exchanges hellos with the owner and her kids, and starts digging. Within a few minutes, Dupin’s chest is heaving, and he’s worked a full-body sweat. He pauses to catch his breath. “Whew,” he says. “See how hard this work is? No way anybody’s going to steal these things.”
The owner comes out to check on Dupin’s progress and ask for a ballpark age of the flakes he’s found. He launches into an impromptu lecture on the settlement of the Potomac, the evolution of tool-making techniques as the population exploded in 3000 B.C., and the types of rocks ancient Indians favored.
“That is so neat,” she squeals.
“The funny thing is how exceptional people think this is,” Dupin says as he returns to his digging. “I mean, it’s everywhere.”
After an hour, Dupin polishes some quartzite flakes with his fingers. “Goddamn!” he says. “I just keep finding these things. It’s good, but I want to find something.”
(Photograph by Charles Steck)
In early October, Dupin finally gets a break. He’s been given permission to dig to his heart’s content for the next week in Palisades Playground, a 14-acre city holding a few blocks from his house on Sherier Place NW. He’s had his eye on the park ever since he learned that the city was planning on putting in a soccer field. To make room for it, crews have cleared a large swath of trees and are now digging up the earth as much as a dozen feet deep, to level the surface.
Giddy over what a dozen extra hands might be able to produce, Dupin puts out a call for volunteers, wraps up some artifacts in cloth to show people what to look for, and throws a screen and a tape measure on his bike trailer. (“To at least give the appearance that I know what I’m doing,” he explains.) “This is going to be great,” he crows. “If we have a week, we’ll get 10 times the stuff that archaeologists get. The problem is they have to abide by protocol. They don’t half-ass. They have to set up their grid and everything. We’ll do the best we can, but we’re more like salvage archaeologists.”
(Photograph by Charles Steck)
Dupin may not have much longer to dig. With a third child due in November, he is under spousal pressure to contribute to the family’s coffers, and that means going back to work. “I guess I have to,” he says. “I’ll never be totally ready for it, but I can do it for a couple years.”
But when he arrives at the park, the only people in sight are two men in bulldozers, carving up rich, red-tinted earth from the tree line and dumping it in enormous piles next to the tennis courts. Pieces of chain-sawed trees are stacked on the baseball field. “Wow!” Dupin exclaims over the rumble of the machinery. “Look at how much dirt they’re moving!”
He watches the bulldozers for a moment, in his mind’s eye comparing the scene against yesterday’s, trying to locate the holes he already dug. They are nowhere to be found, and he realizes that he’s actually watching the earth movers tear up the exact area where he had hoped to continue digging. “Damn, they’ve decimated it,” he mutters as he moves to get a better look. “It’s gone. They’ve scooped it out. Doesn’t take long to fuck things up, does it?”
“Well, so much for diagnostic archaeology,” he says. “Now it’s just whatever you can find.”
Dupin walks over the crisscross of tread marks to the dirt mounds and paws through them halfheartedly. He picks up a few rocks, turns them over, and tosses them back onto the pile. One of the bulldozers pulls up, and Dupin braces himself for an argument. The operator turns off the engine, throws open the door, and grins. “Y’all find anything?” he shouts.
The site foreman, Steve Bennett, climbs down holding two pottery sherds that he found, both decidedly modern. Bennett happens to be a curious sort and tells Dupin he scans the dirt while he works, hoping to spot “something big, like whole arrows and stuff.” The chef-d’oeuvre of his collection is an intact Clorox bottle from the 1920s. He’s yet to find anything prehistoric, mostly because those artifacts are difficult to spot from the cab of a moving bulldozer. “Can you imagine, though?” he says. “Oh, if I could [look for artifacts] full time, that’d be neat as hell. Believe me, I’m a snooper.”
Bennett manages construction sites all over D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. When asked how often he works with an archaeologist, he says, “never,” which is also how often he sees amateurs looking over his sites. “To be honest, half the time the contractor’s telling you to keep your mouth shut and don’t stop work,” he says. “You figure if someone doesn’t come by snooping around, no one will, and it’ll be buried for another 200, 300 years.”
Dupin asks Bennett if he’s seen much red rock—fire-cracked rock. “We’ve been finding lots and lots of it,” he says, as Dupin’s face brightens. “Most of it over there.” He points to the corner where Dupin had dug the day before.
“Well, you all can snoop around, just don’t stand behind us,” Bennett says as he climbs back into the bulldozer. “I think what you all are doing is neat as hell. If you all find anything, I don’t want to steal it. I just want to see it.”
The workers knock off and Dupin traverses the fresh earth. “Well, I don’t know what we’ve got here,” he says. “I can’t tell if this is old fill or what. The whole soil horizon’s been obliterated.”
In the middle of the slope, far enough down that Dupin’s head is below the baseball field, he comes across a field of cobblestone-sized rocks. “Man, this would be good for someone’s yard,” he says.
Dupin digs two holes that yield lots of quartz pieces and nothing else. He gives up and walks farther down to the lower perimeter of the site, trying to relocate a hearth he found the day before.
Three neighborhood kids appear on the crest and make their way down to Dupin, presenting him with an irritation that rivals the NPS, the local government, and obtuse developers. Circling Dupin like giant mosquitoes, the kids pepper him with questions as he works. “How does charcoal get underground?” “Wouldn’t it be cool if you found one of those dead Indian’s bodies?” “How much would you pay to see that?” “Find anything yet?” “Do you know Michael and Adam Morris on Carolina Place?” “You’re that guy who makes skateboards, huh?” “Find anything yet?”
The youngest, Hunter Battle, inadvertently stands on a branch that Dupin tries to move out of the way. “Hey, get out of here, dude,” Dupin says.
“I’m just watching,” the 11-year-old replies.
“Well, don’t impede what I’m trying to do.”
“You’re not doing anything.”
Dupin lets out an exasperated chuckle. “OK, now you’re starting to annoy me.”
He digs in silence until he reaches about 2 feet. He stops and surveys the tree line. “This can’t be it,” he says. “There were definitely more trees yesterday. I oriented myself with the trees, but there are no trees today.”
Dupin moves to another spot and buries his shovel blade.
“How come you don’t fill in the hole?” asks Hunter.
“I’m waiting for one of you to break your leg in it,” Dupin says, not looking up. “Then I’m going to bury you in it. Just up to your neck, though, and I’ll come by with a bowl of mush every three days.”
When the sun reaches the treetops, Dupin is working on his fifth hole. So far he has a pile of rocks and a root to show for his work. About 2-and-a-half feet down, the soil begins to get loamy. Cooper calls to remind him his shift with the kids begins soon. He hangs up, crouches down with a hand trowel and turns over some dirt at the bottom. Almost instantly a projectile point floats to the surface.
“Ha!” he shouts.
Dupin turns it over in his hands. It’s about 2-and-a-half inches long and in good shape. A few more shovelfuls of dirt reveal flakes and worked stone. “Now it’s starting to get interesting,” he says.
But family calls, and Dupin reluctantly loads up his bike trailer. He leaves his hand trowel with a kid who wants to stay and dig. “I’m really glad I found that,” he says, sighing with satisfaction as he mounts his bike. “Makes you wonder who the last guy was who left them there. Like, Oh shit, I forgot my arrows.” CP
Copyright © 2006 Washington Free Weekly Inc.