Michael Collins, left, and Francis Widmeyer, recently discovered two artifacts of Native American orgins while diving. -- CAIN MADDEN|TIDEWATER NEWS
Michael Collins, left, and Francis Widmeyer, recently discovered two artifacts of Native American orgins while diving. -- CAIN MADDEN| TIDEWATER NEWS

Archived Story

Lumber divers find artifacts in river

Published 11:52am Saturday, July 20, 2013

FRANKLIN—When local divers Francis Widmeyer and Michael Collins go diving, they are expecting to find forgotten treasures.

That treasure is normally logs that have been in the river for many years, which the duo sells to make luxury furniture items. Not long ago, however, Widmeyer was diving and put his hand on something unexpected.

“I was swimming along the bottom of the river, and I found a small pot,” he said.

Knowing that he was not supposed to remove items like this, Widmeyer put the item in a stump and surfaced. They contacted the state archeologist and were advised to go ahead and recover the items and keep them safely for the state to pick up.

“I go back down there, put my hand in the stump and grab a catfish at first,” he laughed. “But I got it, and I found a bigger bowl not far from where the other was.”

State and Tidewater region Archeologist Mike Barber said based on seeing pictures of the two bowls, that they seem to date from the late woodland period, which was 1000 AD to 1650 AD.

“It is incredible that they were found,” Barber said. “The concept that they were recovered from the river, the odds of that are extremely small.

“Dated at the latest time during this period, 1650, that was 300 or more years that they have been in river, jostling around and they’re still whole? That’s not going to happen very often.”

Barber said the two bowls seem to be of Algonquian origins. The Algonquian people occupied the coastal plains of Virginia. Barber said a unique thing about Southampton County is that the Algonquian people would have interfaced with the Iroquois people, and that the region was influenced by both tribes, their trading and battles.

The two bowls are being donated to the Department of Historic Resources. Barber said he hopes to return the bowls to Southampton County to be displayed by a local museum.

“These are probably impressive enough, that someone would like to have them to demonstrate items made by local Virginia Indians,” Barber said.

Widmeyer said he was ready for the state to pick the items up, so he did not risk breaking them. He did, however, hope that the items would one day be returned to Southampton County, and Collins agreed.

“I hope that they can come back to the county where people can really get a chance to enjoy them,” Collins said.

As far as diving itself, Widmeyer said he loved it.

“I feel like it is the closest thing I can do to walking on the moon,” he said. “You are going places where no one has been.”

The exact location of the item is being held by request of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Barber said his concern is that people will go looking for more items and inadvertently destroy them.

“Archeological resources are extremely fragile, and once they are gone, they are gone forever,” Barber said.

  • Liberty With Responsibility

    If they want to give it to the museum, that’s fine, but these fellows did not have a choice, apparently, if they wanted to be legal. People give stuff to museums all the time, but I know that state museums have also sold artifacts at auction before, so some things later end up in private hands, and I doubt that was the wish of the person doing the donating. Property I own on waterways shows I own to the centerline of the run of water, some other guy owns the other side to the water center on his side. Where does the state get in on demanding something in the water is “theirs?”

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  • sav91192

    are you jealous?? he did the right thing by calling the state and making them aware of this awesome find and now we have something to admire. it’s not like the state raced right over to get it either. a piece of history was found. no one has a problem with it and no one got arrested for this. people find artifacts all the time and give them to museums. and if you find an arrowhead on your personal property, you don’t have to call anyone. i think you should be a little more elaborate on your comments. warning someone about picking up an arrowhead is just crazy.

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  • Liberty With Responsibility

    you read the article? He “knew” he was “not supposed to remove” the items, and had to call and ask the state achaeologist for permission to remove them, then they came and took them. (Paragraph 4).

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  • RACN35

    I saw those guys the day I was catfishing…. gonna have a yrad sale soon… old items – lol

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  • sav91192

    how can u get arrested for this?

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  • Liberty With Responsibility

    All y’all that have picked up an arrowhead and put in your pocket are due for arrest! You’ve been warned!

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