Simulated archeological digs and atlatl slings sparked the curiosity of 3-year-old Addilyn Hoffman as she took part in Saturday's Archeology Day at OU's Sam Noble Museum.
"I got a humongous fossil in the sandbox," the youngster said as her eyes widened. "I saw this giant thing."
Hoffman, who came to the big event with her neighbor Debbie Wedin, enjoyed the sandbox and simulated archeology dig experience so much she went back a second time as OU archeology students Asher Stephens-Ticman and Victoria Paige explained the finer points of searching for centuries-old bones and ancient artifacts.
At first, the 3-year-old starting digging with a trowel, but Stephens-Ticman quickly demonstrated a more gentile way of using the tool and a brush to preserve potential archeological finds.
"I think the kids were more interested in finding a complete artifact as opposed to pieces of an artifact," the OU senior said. "But maybe it piqued their interest in archeology. Finding pieces of artifacts is typically how it's done."
Hoffman and several other children also took an interest in atlatl demonstrations that occurred outside the museum. Tom Luczycki, chief of the museum exhibits, explained the purpose of the atlatl and then used a modern version of the centuries-old device to fling darts several hundred feet down the museum's lawn.
The atlatl, or spear-throwing lever, is a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart throwing. It also includes a bearing surface which allows the user to store energy during the throw. The atlatl may consist of a shaft with a cup or spur at the end that supports and propels the butt of the dart. Luczycki said the atlatl pre-dates the bow by about 5,000 years.
Susie Fishman-Armstrong, collections manager for the museum's archeology department, said the atlatl was primarily used for ancient hunting and games.
Meanwhile, Neil Garrison stayed busy outside the museum as he demonstrated flint knapping, which is how people during the Stone Age manufactured spearheads, hoes for gardening, primitive axes and knife blades for hunting.
In the demonstration, Garrison used a portion of a deer's antler to carve a rock into one of the ancient tools.
"It's a hobby of mine," he said. "Ancient hunters used this process to make hunting weapons and specialized boat-making tools."
Marc Levine, curator of archeology at the Sam Noble Museum, said the purpose of Saturday's event was to "connect with kids, teens and adults so they will be curious about Oklahoma's past and its native cultures."
Levine said he and his colleagues hope visitors gained an appreciation of archeology and the need to preserve ancient sites and artifacts in Oklahoma.
OU's archeology event was part of the celebration of International Archeology Day and coincided with Oklahoma Archeology Month, which is a state tradition celebrated every October. Visitors to the museum on Saturday also learned about traditional cordage, participated in making ancient arts and crafts and took archeologist-led tours and searched for Oklahoma relics during archeo-scavenger hunts in the Hall of the People of Oklahoma.