Ancient spear point found on campus

A University of Washington freshman who was clearing a plot of rocks to plant grapevines found 3-inch tan and red stone spear tip. It was just a foot under ground, so Ellen Van Wyk didn’t think it was all that old, but comparisons with other pieces found in the region suggests the spear point is between 4,000 and 7,000 B.C. years old.

Peter Lape, an associate professor of anthropology and the curator of archaeology at the UW’s Burke Museum, said Van Wyk’s discovery holds significance.

“People find stuff all the time. But that one projectile point is actually pretty unusual. You don’t see a lot of those,” he said. “That style seems very limited to the Lake Union and Lake Washington area. It’s kind of cool; it’s very interesting.”

Ellen Van Wyk shows spear point to Burke Museum collection manager Laura PhillipsSeattle has seen a great deal of development in a short period, so it’s rare to find such an ancient artifact within the city limits. It’s been 90 years since an ancient artifacts was found on the UW campus. The last was a fishing net weight and a stone tool found in 1919 near the Fisheries Building, appropriately enough.

After Van Wyk’s find, archaeologists from UW’s Burke Museum dug three more test holes and found 2 more stone fragments. The area has been registered with the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and Lape and his students have applied to the state for permission to excavate further in the spot.

Construction projects on the site and in other parts of the campus will be put on hold temporarily while archaeological surveys are performed.

The point will likely go on display in the Burke Museum, although a specific date has yet to be set.

Fun fact: this is the second archaeological find by a UW student this year. Megan Webb was scoring a few credits at the UW’s Tel Dor Field School in Israel this summer when she came across the sensational carnelian ring stone engraved with Alexander the Great’s portrait.