A salmon fishing trip on the Fraser River turned up more than just fish.
Vic Carrao, of STS Guiding Service in Mission, was fishing on a river bar halfway between Agassiz and Hope.
Daughters Nicole, 9, and Deanna, 6, became bored and went looking for lost fishing gear. They found an ancient Native artifact.
"When the kids got tired of fishing, I offered them 25 cents for weights, and five cents for corkies and sharp hooks," Carrao said. "The kids had not been gone very long when Nicole came back to me and said, 'Look at this neat rock.'"
Carrao's buddy, Tom Siebel, was also on the trip. He told Nicole she had just found a rare artifact.
On their return to Mission, the Carraos took the artifact to the interpretive center at Hatzic Rock (XA:ytem). Although there was no archaeologist on site at the time, the staff there said they had never seen anything like it before and pointed out the rock had the shape of a fish, possibly a sturgeon, with a mouth and two eyes clearly visible. The staff said it could have been used as a fishing weight.
Dave Schaepe, an archeologist with the Sto:lo Nation, recognized the artifact through pictures.
It is a sculptured river cobble, with the base finished into a hand mall, he explained.
"It was most likely used as a stone hammer to pound in stakes, hammer wedges for splitting cedar planks, for house construction, and as an all-round hand tool," Schaepe said. It also could have been used as a war club.
Schaepe said the artifact was formed by grinding, not chipping, and that the fish-head shape of the tool is quite unusual. He surmised that the mouth could be a naturally formed occurrence in the rock with the eyes added on. He estimated the age to be pre-contact and up to 2,500 years old.
Schaepe said the Sto:lo Nation welcomes such items as donations, and encourages people to call with their finds, even if it is just for him to examine them. As well, he likes to photograph the artifacts for his records.
Schaepe can be reached at 858-3366 for more details.