Sunday, July 27, 2003
Hunting used to be harder
Visitors at Jeffers Petroglyphs get demonstration on how atlatls were used to kill bison long ago
By FRITZ BUSCH
Journal Staff Writer
JEFFERS -- Visitors at the Jeffers Petroglyphs Historic Site Saturday got a taste of what it was like for prehistoric people to hunt bison thousands of years ago.
Site staffers demonstrated how atlatls were used to hurl long darts with stone points at a stationary buffalo target. The darts were placed against a hook at the end of the atlatl.
Hunters around the world used a whip-like motion to hurl six-foot darts at the midsection of bison or to defend themselves from invaders from a distance of up to 100 yards.
The darts packed the punch equal to a .44 magnum gun and changed the course of history, according to Jeffers site manager Tom Sanders.
"It was one of the most important inventions known to prehistoric man," Sanders said. "It turned people from scavenger hunters to being able to kill large bison. There are many drawings of atlatls among the petroglyphs here."
Next Saturday at the Petroglyhs,"Star Track: Nightly Path of Constellations" will be held from 9 p.m. to midnight at the site. Sanders said the event is among the most popular at the site.
Clothing, shelter and food of the prairie will be featured from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 1.
Native American storyteller Ehana Woyakpi will perform story and dance from 19 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20.
The site, located 10 miles southwest of Comfrey or 15 miles northeast of Windom, contains thousands of ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings) on glacier-scarred bedrock, rising in the middle of native and restored prairie.
Sacred images of atlatls, humans, deer, elk, buffalo, turtles, thunderbirds and arrows are carved in the rock outcroppings. Native Americans have come to the site for prayer, communion with the spirits, teachings from elders and directions left by travelers for more than 5,000 years.
An eight-minute multi-media presentation, exhibits, historic site guides and hands-on activities help tell the story of the carvings and their prairie environment. Visitors can follow paved, hiking trails through the rock outcroppings, and restored and virgin prairies teeming with cactus, blossoming flowers and rare plants.
The site is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 1. Hours will be reduced to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 5-28.
For more information, write Jeffers Petroglyphs, 27160 County Road 2, Comfrey, MN 56019; call 507-628-5591 or visit www.mnhs.org