Now You See It, Now You Don't
The weezling had been anticipating this day all week, when we would go to hunt for shark teeth in the Edisto River. Every day he came home from school, he checked the river level with his fingers crossed that the water level had continued to fall in his absence. Saturday came and he was already dressed to go when I woke up. It was time to take that boy to the river!
We arrived at the boat landing and launched. “Which way do you want to go?” I asked him.
“I don’t care – which way do you want to go?” he replied. I told him that we hadn’t looked down river all year, so we could check there. It was decided and we set off. A short 5 minute trip with the current and we arrived. I got into the water first. I could feel gravel under my feet as I walked towards where I intended to hunt. I had been on this bend a bunch of times, but I never remembered the gravel bar extending this far up the sand bar where we parked. I excitedly told my son that we could be in for a banner day collecting - This could be a newly uncovered area. He’s a smart boy and knew that meant his old man hadn’t picked it clean yet. He was underwater before me!
The spot was exactly what I thought it was, brand new. The sand had moved after 10 years and revealed new gravel bar rich with fossils ready for the plucking. Its all a blur now that I remember back, but I know each time I would put a tooth in my bag, I would already have another one sighted before I pulled my hand out. Less than 15 minutes into the hunt I found my first 3 inch tooth. I heard my son’s signal and I swam over to him as he was fanning out a massive, complete ray plate. I filmed its exposure, and the weezling pulled it out. He let me hold it and I noticed it dwarfed my hand.
It was my turn next as I found an exposed 3 inch shark tooth. I signaled my boy over so he could see the prize on the bottom, with tip intact. What a find!
We met up on the boat and he says, “Dad, what is this? It looks like an angustidens but there are no serrations.” I looked it over and thought at first it was just a badly worn angy, but then it hit me that he had found a giant thresher with cusps – light years better than the best I had ever found. He was beaming as soon as I told him that I didn’t have one that good. “Ready for gravy mode?” I asked.
My next find was a complete shame. It was a massive spear broken diagonally down the middle. I almost left it there, but I ultimately decided to pick it up just on principle. But I didn’t film it, I just threw it into my bag and kept swimming. Then I found a little gem of an angustidens and it made me feel better about the busted spear. Then I pulled another gem out, this one close to 3 inches and I forgot about the spear for the rest of the hunt.
At the end of the day, both the weezling and I were ecstatic with out finds. He had never had a better day in the river than this day had been, and it was hard for me to remember having as much fun. Is there anything like picking up a ton of teeth? Not much! And the best part was as long as the weather stayed dry we would have a repeat performance the next weekend when da fossz would join us.
As luck would have it, the next weekend when da fossz came down, I had all the days finds laid out. As he browsed my wares, he picked up the broken spear that I had lamented the week before. He said, “You might not know it, but you have a really rare, super artifact there.” Surprised, I asked “That broken spear?” “Oh yah, look at the edge. See how it’s been worked into that shape? This is called an Edgefield Scraper.” Sure enough, there was flaking along the “broken” edge. A little more examination revealed further customizations to the artifact, including an impression perfectly shaped for a finger to steady the tool when it was in use.
Two lessons were reinforced for me here – The first is to pick up everything that looks even remotely interesting. The second lesson is that it’s always valuable to let other knowledgeable people look at my finds. I almost left the first Edgefield Scraper I ever found on the bottom of the river, and then I almost dismissed that same artifact as just a piece of busted junk. Thanks df for keeping me on the path to paleo enlightenment!