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Native American Lesson Learned

Posted by on June 2, 2017

One of the main benefits of metal detecting is constantly learning new things through the objects you find. You may not, as they say, “learn something new every day,” but certainly, it seems, you “learn something new every dig.”

On my last outing, I unearthed some notable items, including a William III copper coin (1694-1702), 2 early-1800s U.S. large cents, and some 1700s tombac buttons. I didn’t know it when I returned home, but my best find of the day was something I might have overlooked if it wasn’t for my archaeologist neighbor’s experienced eye. Among the miscellaneous “other” finds from the day was a small, curled metal piece, seemingly made of copper or brass. When I showed the collective finds to my neighbor, he picked out this curled piece and said, “See, I told you to look out for these.” I remember that initial conversation, but not specifically what items he had referred to. He said, “This is a Native American tinkler. It would have been worn on a belt with several others and these would ‘tinkle’ together during movement to ward off spirits.” I was surprised and happy to hear that I had found a Native American artifact. Further research yielded more info. These “conical tinklers” were made from metals (usually copper or brass) acquired via trade with original settlers—an interesting fact that also helped to date the piece. Not only were tinklers worn by some to ward off spirits, but also to heighten the meaning and spectacle of ceremonial dances.

So on this day, like so many before, I learned something new via an item I dug out of the ground. For metal detectorists, that’s exactly why we “do what we do.” Here’s to continued learning!

Native American Tinker

Native American Tinkler

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