Image courtesy of David Cashbaugh at Unsplash

Sometimes the dead are quiet. Sometimes they roar like a gator and demand to be heard.

It’s easy to forget that Mississippi was once home to a flourishing Native culture, the Mississippians, that spread from Illinois, down the length of the “Misi-ziibi” (the Algonquin, or possibly Ojibwe, name for the “great river”). Existing somewhere between 700 CE to the invasion of the Europeans, there are few remnants of this society today, so every piece that is found is precious. So it’s all the more unusual (or perhaps meaningful) that some of the newest artifacts were recovered from the belly of a Mississippi alligator.

As originally reported to The Clarion, after hearing of the unusual things found in some alligator’s stomachs (as these reptiles must consume rocks to help digest their food, and so sometimes ingest oddities), Shane Smith decided to take a look for himself at some of the alligators he was processing inside his business, “Red Antler Processing”.

Apart from the usual bones, fur, and feathers, two objects stood out immediately: a teardrop-shaped, black object with two holes drilled into it, and a piece of what looked like an arrowhead. The Director of Surface Geology and Surface Mapping for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, James Starnes, was later able to identify the “arrowhead” as belonging to an atlatl spear head, made sometime between 5,000-6,000 BCE. And the teardrop-shaped rock with two holes in it? It’s a hematite called a “plummet”, but they’re still a mystery.

“The plummets, we really have no idea what they were used for,” Starnes said to The Clarion. “These things had some significance, but we have no idea. We can only guess.”

Because plummets are generally found along waterways throughout the modern-day United States, it has been speculated that they were used either to hunt birds or fish, and perhaps even worn as charms by hunters. What the plummets are made out of varies according to the culture that made them, with hematite being the favored choice among the Mississippian culture.

What does it mean, then, to have these ancient artifacts turn up now, in the stomach of one of America’s apex predators? The dead are speaking, and given all the signs and recent events, it is undoubtedly a message of warning.

[Written by Ashley Nicole Hunter.]

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