“Sometimes we encounter mysterious artifacts that we just can’t figure out! Check out this 3D model of sandstone sculpture found in a field near Newton Grove, NC. What do YOU think it is? Maybe the first emoji”
The North Carolina Office of State Archaeology posted that appeal to its Facebook friends this week (if you’re not one of them, you can see the 3D photo here) in hopes the state’s amateur archeologists could help their professional ones identify a mysterious sculpture uncovered by a worker plowing a field. Mary Beth Fitts, assistant archaeologist at the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology, explained to The News & Observer that Tom Giddens moved what he thought was just a 56.4 cm long by 40 cm wide (22.2 in by 15.75 in) rock out of his path to the side of the field. When he later went back and casually flipped it over, he found something that surprised him enough to notify the office.
“It’s a very unusual artifact. We haven’t seen anything like that before. Normally we would be able to do research into similar artifacts but it is beyond or usual methods.”
It looks like nothing ever found in North Carolina, so Fitts turned to Facebook. To help wannabe archeological sleuths, she points out that the rock is sandstone, an uncommon stone in North Carolina that is difficult to date. It’s also a soft stone, which made it easy for someone to carve an image in it. What that image is will help determine who made it and how it ended up in what is now North Carolina. The suggestions came in fast and furious.
“Wow! That’s great! We’ve already gotten a lot of suggestions about its origin/influence, including Tuscarora, early African American, Norse/Viking, and Roman. We’re just as excited about this mystery as all of our followers.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to see a face in the carving. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. Native Americans came to the area 12,000 years ago, but if that’s its origin, Fitts and her office would most likely have seen similar artifacts. No one from the Tuscarora people – North Carolina’s most common indigenous tribe – has identified it as one of theirs. The others are historical possibilities but pure speculation for now.
As expected, Fitts is thrilled with the help offered so far, especially with the story being picked up by national media. Although he wanted the stone back she still commended Giddens for making them aware of it and encourages anyone else finding anything unusual to do the same.
“Note, if you find an artifact on your property let us know! It helps us build a more complete picture of past life in North Carolina. To learn more, visit https://archaeology.ncdcr.gov/get-involved.”
If only David Letterman still had his show so he and Paul Shaffer could play a game of “Is This Anything?”.