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Green County man loves mysteries behind ancient arrowheads, stone tools

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Shelly Birkelo
September 20, 2012

— As a boy, Jerry Stabler picked up stones in the fields of his family farm in Spring Grove, south of Brodhead.

As a young man, he collected fossils.

By the time he was 40, he "really got into arrowheads," Stabler said.

The appeal is their history, said Stabler, a former auto mechanic who retired as a service manager for a dealership.

"You walk along the field, pick up an artifact and realize the last person who picked it up was 5,000 to 6,000 years ago," the 76-year-old said.

That's when Stabler's curiosity is piqued even more.

"Who was this guy who made it? Was he tall? Was he skinny? Did he have a family to provide for?"

While he enjoys the hunt for arrowheads—tips of spears, knives or scrapers made from flint or stone—Stabler is more attracted to the intrigue.

"I'm more of a history buff and into genealogy than a collector. It's a hobby," he said.

"I want to know what it is and how it was made. It's not easy to make arrowheads or spear points," he said.

"When these were made, they were sharp as a razor," Stabler said, running the tip of his index finger along the jagged edge of an arrowhead.

"But after laying in the ground for years, the frost chips away at 'em," he said.

When Stabler found his last arrowhead on his late grandfather's 100-acre farm in spring 2011, he literally jumped for joy.

He figures the 4.5-inch-by-2.5-inch chert—the impure part of a flint—was used to hunt animals to provide meat for a family, as well as for protection.

Stabler used to walk for hours in search of arrowheads but doesn't do it as much anymore.

"They're getting harder to find," he said.

Many of his favorite spots are now fields worked by area crop farmers, who plow with large equipment that more easily breaks arrowheads into pieces.

Stabler said the arrowheads in his 150-piece collection are all different styles that represent different periods and different cultures. He considers them art.

"Some date from the time the Pilgrims came here to 2,000 years before the time of Christ. Most of the others are much older," he said.

Stabler said an unusual beaver tail point arrowhead found by his sister in the 1940s got him started collecting.

The piece still intrigues him today because in North America, the black, shiny volcanic glass comes only from Mexico, New Mexico, Texas or Washington, where a volcanic fault line runs.

"The question is how did this rock get in my grandpa's Spring Grove farm thousands of miles away?" he asked.

Stabler's favorite arrowhead is a 6.5-inch spear point with a broken tip. He estimates it is between 10,000 and 11,000 years old.

"The patina comes from laying in the ground in an area that was never farmed," he said of the tarnish.

"A friend of mine found it hoeing his garden."


 

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