The interesting exhibit was courtesy of Steve and Doris Cundiff of Somerset, who were visiting the Wayne County Middle School for the first time. The couple were very passionate about the extensive collection, which included everything from primitive arrowheads to rustic knives to a sleek bone fish hook. The 700-piece exhibit showed off artifacts made from shale, flint, and mussel shells.
“We’re teenagers with white hair,” laughed Steve, who encouraged the students to go from station to station to try and determine what the fossils were used for in a previous culture. The Somerset man is a third generation collector. His grandfather used to pick up artifacts when plowing fields. The bulk of the collection is from Pulaski, Wayne, and McCreary Couny. The Cumberland River area has provided a rich resource for collectors because of the natural shelters, food supply, and transportation that made the area a center of population in past generations.
Cundiff said he has no way of knowing how old the pieces in his collection are, guessing anywhere from 200 years old to 10,000 years old. While he is well-read on the artifact subject, he said he tends to disagree with some of the conventional wisdom. Cundiff, a retired building contractor, showed the students a stone axe that may have been used as a hammer.
Some of the items in the collection were used for jewelry and appear to be beaded necklaces. Amongst the many arrowheads was a spear head that could have been used as a hunting tool. Another item known as a cooking stone made of a flint-like material may have been used to keep in a fire pit to keep food hot. A hammerstone may have been used to help tan a hide. He explained that a sharp bone may have been used like a needle to poke holes in a hide.
Cundiff said the interesting part of collecting artifacts is imagining their uses and how old they are. “There is bound to have been much more of a story connected to them.”
“It is sort of tantalizing to determine what some of the artifacts were,” said Cundiff. “It is interesting to see how things have changed over the years.”
Steve Cundiff showing the students an artifact from the collection
Doris Cundiff told the students about a primitve sewing needle they had found
Students visited Doris' station to learn more about the extensive collection
(l-r): 8th graders Brooke Fletcher and Grady Casada
(l-r): Doris Cundiff, Madison Debbelt, Charlee Campbell, and Cody Burris
Steve Cundiff presenting arrowheads to the students