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8 November 2008
Bone tool oldest ever found in Indiana

A simple tool carved from a deer's leg bone that college students unearthed in 2003 is more than 10,000 years old, making it the oldest non-stone human artifact ever found in Indiana (USA), scientists say. University of Indianapolis researchers said radiocarbon dating shows that the 5-inch-long tool - a device called an awl likely used to punch holes in leather - is about 10,400 years old. That makes it the oldest organic tool ever documented in the state, said Christopher Schmidt, who directs the college's Indiana Prehistory Laboratory.
     Schmidt said stone tools such as spearpoints found in Indiana in or near charcoal deposits from ancient campfires have been dated by that proximity at between 10,000 and 12,000 years old. But the bone tool excavated from an ancient glacial lake in northwest Indiana is a rare find, he said, because tools made from organic material such as bones or wood typically decay over thousands of years. The findings will be published in an upcoming edition of North American Archaeologist. Schmidt added that the precise date provided by the tool supports the growing idea that Paleo-Indian peoples had migrated farther north just after the end of the last ice age than scientists had once thought.
     The bone tool was fashioned from a white-tail deer's leg bone, with one end ground to a point. Schmidt said scratches and notches on the bone suggest it was probably used along with a stone knife to punch holes in leather, perhaps to make clothing. He said the nature of that activity suggests that the people who used it were not nomads but instead enjoyed a more settled lifestyle. "This isn't just people passing through. This is people settling down, making homes," Schmidt said.
     Little is known about the people who lived in Indiana 10,000 years ago, so the tool's discovery is all the more important, he said. The tool was found in 2003 in glacial lake deposits in Carroll County near the town of Flora by students taking part in the University of Indianapolis' annual summer archaeology field school.

Sources: Associated Press, WTHR-TV, MSNBC (2 November 2008)

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