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How I became an ArchaeologistPosted Tuesday, July 9, 2013, at 3:50 PM
The Olive Branch site in Thebes, Illinois.
Archaeology is not an exact science; however, it is an art that beckons the archaeologist: "Come discover the many secrets buried beneath our feet." It is a fascinating procedure, but should not be regarded as a treasure hunt, and should be performed in a systematic and professional manner.
We are all travelers in time, and the landscape around us whispers to the attentive mind the history of those who passed this way before us. Through careful study of artifacts and any items, with which these artifacts may be associated, and through the use of carbon dating, the archaeologist can reveal a fairly accurate picture of the history, the customs and the life-style of the people who created these artifacts.
Here on the North American Continent, archaeology and the American Indian are closely associated. Prior to the coming of the Europeans, the Indians were the only people to have ever inhabited this country. The Indian had been here for over fifteen thousand years and left no record of his existence, other than what the archaeologist can decipher from the trail of stones and bones he left behind.
I became interested in the American Indian at an early age, having found my first arrowhead when I was about twelve years old. Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with many noted archaeologists in several different states and on some of the off-shore islands in the Gulf of Mexico. I have put together a collection of artifacts, which has attracted the attention of archaeologists from various parts of the United States. Writers of books on archaeology have come to view my collection, take pictures and get data for their books.
Part of this collection, having an appraised value of $25,361.00 has been donated to the Missouri Department Of Conservation and is on display in their Interpretation Center in North County Park at Cape Girardeau, Mo.
While I was putting this collection of Indian artifacts together, the people of our community began to know me as "the fellow who is always digging or looking for old stones or bones that some Indian had lost or had thrown away a thousand years ago." They also learned that I would prepare their income tax forms for them and accept Indian artifacts as my fee. For twenty-six years, I prepared income tax forms for about 300 people in our community, helping them convince Uncle Sam that they were paying 100% of their taxes.
However, in 1970 I notified my clients that they would have to find someone else to help them cheat the I.R.S., as I was going to become an archaeologist. I didn't know exactly what I would have to do to become an archaeologist, and at that time I was not even sure as to what the word archaeology meant.
Anyway, I did have one educated friend who even used the letters B.S. after his name, and I figured that this friend with his B.S. could help me become an archaeologist,
My friend said that in order to qualify as an archaeologist, I would have to be very patient and careful in my work. He said that I would have to make lots of notes, draw lots of diagrams, and, above all, I should keep a record as to the exact location of each and every artifact I came across.
This friend knew that I couldn't even remember the location of my car when I parked it in the lot at the mall. He also knew that, come Easter I could hide my own eggs and have a ball trying to find them. However, this friend said that he had a plan that was "Fool-Proof." I knew right then that this fool - proof plan was just what I needed.
This friend told me to go to the variety store and buy a bag of 100 marbles. He said that when I was digging and came across any artifact I should stop right then and there, carefully pick up the artifact, for measurement or a picture, and, so that I would not lose the location of the artifact, I should mark the exact spot by placing a marble in the place where the artifact was found. He said I would qualify as an amateur archaeologist when I had lost all my marbles.
"Wait just a darn minute," I told him. "I don't want to be just an amateur; I want to go first class." But he told me that in order to qualify as a professional I would need more than 100 marbles.
Anyway, I think I am now a qualified archaeologist, as I lost all my marbles a long time ago.
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Paul Corbin is a 98-year-old historian, humorist, and amateur archeologist from Advance, Mo. He grew up in the Greenbrier area west of Advance, where he attended Stepp School on the banks of Cato Slough and the Castor River, important waterways throughout his life. In an age when many area residents did not go to high school, the young Corbin made the decision to walk the five miles to Zalma, graduating in 1933. Throughout his life, he was an enterprising businessman, selling Watkins products from house to house throughout a large area - and later opening a variety store in Advance. He and his wife Geneva traveled throughout the United States, even following the route that the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled. His knowledge of Native American culture is extensive, and he has donated a sizeable collection of his artifacts to the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center and the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History in Marble Hill. Throughout the years, he has submitted articles to TBY, the North Stoddard Countian, the Ozark Mountaineer, and several other Missouri publications. He has also written two books - "Reflections in Missouri Mud," and "Fragments of my Feeble Mind." The first one is out of print.