While Kevin Dowdy, of Bainbridge, Ga., enjoys a good turkey hunt or deer hunt as much as the next south Georgian, he’s just as excited to hunt much smaller trophies.
Dowdy is the president of Flint Media, which includes the radio stations 101.9 FM, 106.3 FM and 99.3 FM. He’s also an avid collector and trader of Native American artifacts, which range from arrowheads to larger objects like spearheads and a unique ornately-decorated “sun disk.”
“I found my first arrowhead when I was a young boy,” Dowdy said. “Even if you didn’t have a lot of luck hunting or fishing, you could find a few arrowheads and it would still be a good day.”
Dowdy said he began to get more involved in the hobby in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when he made friendships with other collectors and began to attend shows around the Southeast.
“It was really just a matter of meeting one friend who’s got the same interest, and then another friend, and then discovering that there’s a whole large following,” he said. “I attended my first artifact show in 1988 or 1989, and I’ve been enjoying them ever since.”
In fact, Dowdy is an organizer of an upcoming show in Bainbridge, that he said will be the largest the area has ever hosted. The 2012 Bainbridge Deep South Super Show will be held at the Kirbo Center on the campus of Bainbridge College, which will be held May 12, in conjunction with the area’s large “River Town Days” Festival. He said that all exhibitors’ tables are currently sold out, but there is a waiting list available. Call Dowdy at (229) 416-6021 for more information.
Dowdy said he currently has 500 to 600 “pieces” in his personal collection of artifacts, but has had as many as 1,000 in the past. He has also written four books on the subject, including the only full-color “Indian Artifact Point and Identification Price Guide” in the country.
Some of the smaller arrowheads are arranged in an ornate pattern in a special display case; one of Dowdy’s larger designs contains 230 pieces and took four hours to arrange. Other larger pieces are featured in cases of their own, including a “gorget,” which was an adornment that was likely worn by the Adena culture (existed from 1,000 BC to 200 BC). Dowdy said it’s also likely the gorget was used for a turkey call.
Another large item in Dowdy’s collection is a sun disk, which is constructed from greenstone and features an ornate design that has been etched onto the surface. Dowdy noted that the disk has 13 notches, which could represent the 13 moons of the year, and suggests the disk may have been used as a calendar.
“That item was actually found on a construction site in Calhoun County, Ga.,” Dowdy said. “A bulldozer excavated it, and the workers thought it was a hubcap at first, then they looked at it a lot closer and realized it was an artifact.”
Dowdy said the design seems to suggest a “circle of life” motif, showing that humans thousands of years ago still had a spiritual understanding of their mortality.
“This is just an educated guess,” Dowdy said, before showing the different parts of the design. “But it seems to say ‘Great Spirit breathes life into man, his works are seen, when he dies he becomes bone, and he begins a new journey and returns to the sun.’ It really is a beautiful design.”
Dowdy said many artifacts are discovered deep under the ground when farmers or construction workers excavate the land, while others are found in rivers or streams. Most are found right in the ground, and can easily be missed by an untrained eye.
“It’s very rare that you’ll see the entire arrowhead the first time you notice it,” he said. “Usually you’ll only see a tip of the point, or part of an edge. You have to develop an eye for it. Sometimes you’ll only find a broken part of an artifact, but when you find an intact specimen it’s really an exciting thing.”
Dowdy said that some collectors have given the hobby a bad name, because they have ventured onto private land in search of the artifacts. He noted that collectors should always get the landowner’s permission before searching, and that most owners will say “yes” as long as they are asked. He also noted that it is currently illegal to remove artifacts from navigable waterways in Georgia, but it is legal to take them from non-navigable waterways like small streams.
“Don’t give the hobby a bad name,” he said. “It is absolutely legal to possess them, collect them, or find them, but you need to have permission first.”
Dowdy said he most enjoys searching for arrowheads because it is a “family-friendly” hobby that touches a variety of his interests — outdoor sports and history.
“It’s truly amazing to pick up a piece of history, a tool that hasn’t been touched by human hands for years,” he said. “When I was in school, I made straight A’s in every history class, so it’s always been a subject I’ve had a lot of interest. If it weren’t for collectors, a lot of this history would be lost forever.
“I actually think it’s paying respect to the people that were here before us, and passing on that history to the next generation.”
In fact, Dowdy said that he is always trying to interest young people in the hobby. He is a member of the Tri-State Archeological Society (TSAS), which offers the Broome-Haddock-Wingate Scholarship each year to a student who is interested in the hobby. In order to qualify for the scholarship, the student just has to have a family member join the society — a $20 membership fee or $5 junior membership fee.
In addition, Dowdy said it’s always fun to bring young children out and let them search for artifacts for the first time.
“It’s funny, because when they first start out, they’ll pick up every little rock they find and they’ll ask you, ‘is this one?’ ‘is this one?,’” he said. “But as they get more experience, they start to have a more trained eye and they’ll learn what to watch for. It’s always great to see their smiles when they find their very first arrowhead.
“It’s all about preserving history and giving that interest to the next generation.”
Dowdy will appear on American Pickers
Dowdy’s interest in Native American artifacts will be broadcast nationwide sometime in the spring, when he appears on an episode of “American Pickers” on the History Channel.
Dowdy said he was contacted by the show’s producers to come to northern Georgia and appraise a collection.
“They wanted to get my expert opinion and my appraisal on the items,” he said. “On Jan. 12, I drove up to just north of Atlanta and met everyone there. It was definitely a fun experience.”
Dowdy said that the producers had not yet confirmed an air date for his segment, but they had verified that it will be broadcast in either April or May.