History beneath their feet

Kyle Benjamin noticed the shaped piece of flint while pulling weeds.
Kyle Benjamin noticed the shaped piece of flint while pulling weeds.

When Dave Benjamin and his son Kyle headed out to pull some weeds last year on Easter weekend, the last thing they expected was a yearlong lesson in local history, native trade routes and Stone Age technology. But they got all of that and more — they also came away with a handy addition to their kitchen cutlery.

Benjamin said the two had been pulling weeds when Kyle held up what he thought was an arrowhead.

“He decided it wasn’t an arrowhead and was about to toss it, and I said, ‘Wait, let me see it,’” Benjamin said.

It was immediately apparent that Kyle’s find was not a natural rock because it had chipping marks on it where it appeared to have been deliberately shaped. After cleaning it, he found the serrated edge so sharp it cleanly sliced through a piece of meat left over from dinner.

“To tell the truth, that little piece of rock was sharper than any knife I ever owned,” Benjamin said.

Kyle then showed his rock to the Trumbull Historical Society, which sent it to state historical experts who identified the item as what is known as a chert. Native people would chip away at pieces of flint to create blades. Also, the chert Kyle found appeared to have come from a quarry in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where people had been living as long as 12,000 years ago.

“What amazes me is that people were living here, where our town is now, 5,000 years before the pyramids were built,” Benjamin said. “And how did flints from upper New York state find their way down here to our area?”

Benjamin said the time scale put history into perspective. People may think of American history as beginning with Christopher Columbus five centuries ago, but in 1492 the area now known as Trumbull had already been inhabited for thousands of years.

The skill with which the native people worked stone into tools is also amazing, Benjamin said. The 12,000-year-old artifact can still outperform any modern cutlery, he said.

“Those ancients knew what they were doing,” he said.

After the identification of his stone blade, Kyle began looking for similar artifacts when outdoors, and promptly found a second one, this one relatively young at 3,000 to 5,000 years old.

“In 43 years, all I’ve ever found was an arrowhead, and Kyle’s doubled that already,” Benjamin said. The lesson, he said, is to keep one’s eyes open outside. History could literally be right beneath your feet.