Traveling back 13,000 years

By Melanie Speicher

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BOTKINS — A childhood dream of finding an arrowhead resulted in the discovery of a site more than 13,000 years old near Botkins.

Dave Mielke, a Botkins Local School District retired teacher, found his first arrowhead when he was five years old. While he was a teacher, he discovered a Clovis point at a farm owned by Mark and Paul Buehler. And his discoveries at the site will be the topic of conversation Friday, April 29, at Botkins Local School when Kent State Associate Professor Metin Eren will be the guest speaker. The program begins at 8 p.m.

Eren, who is an archaeologist, grew up in Ohio and has done digs all over the world. He was in England for eight years. When a position at Kent State open up, he decided to return to his home state to focus on Ohio archaeology. He has published more than 150 papers on archaeology.

“I started to work with local collectors,” said Eren. “They can find some amazing things.”

When he would publish his papers, Eren would include the local collectors as co-authors of the work.

“Then one day I got an email from Dave Mielke,” said Eren. “He said he had some things I might be interested in.

“I was amazed. He had some beautiful Clovis points,” he said.

The Clovis people were the first settle in North America 13,000 years ago. They came to North America from Asia across the Bering Strait. They were a prehistoric Paleo-American culture.

Eren said if a collector is willing to donate their collection to a public institution, tests can be conducted to find the age and history of it.

“If the collector is willing to donate their collection to a public institution, then we will give it the five star treatment,” said Eren.

And that’s what Mielke did and why so much is now known about the Mielke Clovis site.

Eren will be discussing the site during the April 29 program. He encourages other collectors to bring their finds to the program so he can look at them.

“It’s fun to see what people have found,” said Eren. “Then some of them will want to get published themselves.”

Eren said he gives about a dozen speeches a year around Ohio.

“I love meeting new people. I’m really looking forward to it (Friday’s program),” he said.

Eren’s paper, “The Mielke Clovis Site (33SH26), Western Ohio, USA geochemical sourcing, technological descriptions, artifact morphometrics and microwear,” will be published in the “Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology.”

Eren said the Clovis people were the first to colonize North America. As they adapted to the living conditions throughout North America, they also evolved into different cultures.

“Their behaviors changed,” said Eren. “They weren’t wiped out. We can look at the DNA of Native Americans and tie it to the Clovis people. There’s an unbroken 13,000 year connection there. There’s also a match of the Clovis DNA to Northeast Asia. The field of ancient DNA has exploded the last 10 to 15 years.”

In was in May 1971 when Mielke discovered his first Clovis point on what is now the Mielke Clovis Site.

“We were sitting at home, and my wife was working on exams for me,” said Mielke. ‘There was a terrible thunderstorm, and the rain was so heavy. She knew exactly what I was thinking.

“So I told her I was going to the school for more ditto sheets for her. The first words out of her mouth were ‘you’re not going to go hunt for arrowheads. If you do, I’m done (working on tests).’”

So while he assured her he was going to the school, Mielke did in fact go look for arrowheads.

“I knew I was going to my favorite site,” said Mielke. Once he arrived at the site, he discovered it was full of water from the storm and very muddy.

“I took three steps, and I saw a glint of flint under the water and mud,” he recalled. “I felt the flutes between my fingers and I ran for to the car. I went to the boys restroom at the school and washed it off. This was the best one I’ve ever found.”

After cleaning up his shoes and washing up, Mielke got the ditto paper and returned home. He never told his wife of his adventure that day … until now.

When his children — Nikki, Lesli and Ryun — were growing up they went with him looking for arrowheads.

Mielke shared his love of artifacts with his Ohio history students at Botkins. In 1982, he stopped hunting for arrowheads after his collection at school was thrown away.

“At that moment, I was done with collecting artifacts,” he said. “Now, 40 years later, the site material has been published.”

The other Clovis sites in Ohio are the Wauseon Preform, Maumee River Valley Finds, Sheridan Cave, Paleo Crossing, Jackson Farm, Black Diamond, Nelson Cache, Welling, Nobles Pond, Salt Fork, Sandy Springs and 33M5391.

He was walking through a cornfield at a farm in Lindsey, Ohio, when he discovered his first arrowhead.

“I remember picking it up, and the first think I wondered was who were the Indians who made it,” he said. “I watched ‘Rin Tin Tin’ growing up, so I thought it was made by the Apaches. My mom took me to the Hayes Memorial Museum, which had an arrowhead collection and booklet.”

Through the booklet, he discovered the arrowhead was prehistoric.

When he was seven or eight years old, a friend, Elmer Hess, who was in his 80s, showed Mielke a National Geographic magazine. In it was a story about the Clovis people of New Mexico. At that instance, he knew he wanted to find a site like the one in New Mexico. And that’s what he did in 1971.