TWIN FALLS — Sometime near the end of the Ice Age, a couple of men left their stone tools in a cache on a terrace overlooking a small tributary of the Big Wood River. About 13,000 years later, a road grader inadvertently uncovered the artifacts on the Simon farm northeast of Fairfield.
Fast forward 55 years to April. A man stole five replicas of the artifacts from a locked display case at the Herrett Center for Arts and Science on the College of Southern Idaho campus. Apparently the man thought the replicas were the real deal, said Joey Heck, display and collections director.
The crime drew so much attention to what is now known as the Simon Clovis Cache, the Herrett Center decided to put the real artifacts on display for three hours Saturday afternoon. The display case was under constant guard during the viewing.
The real artifacts are normally kept locked in a vault.
It was a rare opportunity to see artifacts of such importance, Heck said. He considers this one of the top 10 collections in the nation.
The Clovis people were the earliest known inhabitants of America and were the ancestors of American Indians. Their knapped points are characterized by a short, fluted base where they were attached to arrows or spears.
Anthropologists say the largest Clovis spearheads were commonly used for hunting mammoth and bison, but it’s unknown whether these artifacts were used for hunting or were ceremonial. When found the artifacts were covered in a crust of red ocher, an iron-rich pigment that was often used in Stone Age ceremonies.
The Simon Clovis Cache represents some of the finest Clovis artifacts ever discovered, says a report written by Idaho State University anthropologists. The entire collection consists of 60 stone tools — points, blades and spearheads — in various stages of completion.
The knapping and flaking skill demonstrated by the makers is amazing, Heck said.
The flaking patterns in the tools show two different knapping styles, indicating more than one person made them, the report says.
The Simon family donated 32 of the artifacts to the Herrett Center in 1997 after the collection made the rounds for several decades. Other pieces of the collection are in museums and universities around the country, including ISU.
The Herrett collection also contains resin replicas of the artifacts — produced with amazing accuracy — for display. Stolen replicas recovered by the police are still in police custody, Heck said.
None of the artifacts are obsidian, a stone commonly used in knapping. The Simon cache consists of jasper, chert, quartzite and agate. None of the material used has been sourced, he said.
The artifacts are priceless, Heck said. No amount of money could replace them.