At least 500 years old
Cherry Republic employee Andrew Moore found more than radiant fall colors and beachgrass on a walk in the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes earlier this fall. He came across shards of clay that appear to be specimens of Native American pottery from long before Columbus landed in the Americas.
Moore says the patterned way that the shards, also known as potsherds, were laying caught his eye, as if someone had left a design in the sand. He told Cherry Republic CEO Bob Sutherland, who called the Park service the next day. Park curator and historian Laura Quackenbush visited the site and concluded that the sherds were once the rim of a clay pot, which concurs with pottery discovered from other archeological sites in Northern Michigan.
Quackenbush and other Park officials believe that the specimens are more than 500 years old—probably from the late Woodland Period, between 200 BC and 1500 AD. Quackenbush has since contacted Andrew Stewart and William Lovis, archeologists at Michigan State University, who hope to test the soils in the specimens to calculate their age. Cherry Republic will soon launch a fundraising effort to help pay for the soil-testing costs.
Quackenbush believes that more pre-Columbian artifacts may be unearthed in the National Lakeshore as climate change pelts the Park with rain and wind to reshape the dunes.
“The interesting story here is that people lived temporarily in the dunes, in environments that are no longer there, buried in the dunes,” she says. “What they left behind is now coming to the surface.”
Park officials encourage anyone who comes across more unearthed pottery specimens to respect the antiquities and call Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at 231-326-5134.