Antiques Road Show: historic Ypsilanti edition

A few months ago I received an email from a fellow by the name of Roger Pellar. He’d apparently read my interview with historian Matt Siegfried about Ypsilanti’s Native American past, and was hoping that, through this site, I might be able to help him identify a few artifacts that he’d uncovered while making his way across Ypsilanti with a metal detector several years ago. (He also wanted to know where he could donate these pieces once they’d been identified.) So, we began trading emails, and, just yesterday, he shared the following two photos.

The first piece, according to Pellar, was found about ten years ago on the banks of the Huron River as it passes along Frog Island. The object, he says, is carved bone. And the metal component appears to be made of silver. He suspects that it’s Native American in origin. If it is, my guess would be that it was relatively recent, given the design and construction of the metal piece, which appears to be some kind of clasp, but I’d welcome other input.


The second piece, which appears to be a belt buckle, was found about ten years ago as well, when the City was tearing up our downtown streets in order to replace our aging water mains. According to Pellar, this piece was found beneath Miles Street, just north of Michigan Avenue. His guess is that it might in some way be connected to a pre-Civil War militia. My guess is that it might have belonged to a member of an early Ypsilanti Fire Company, but, again, that’s just a wild guess. (An image of the buckle’s back, if it helps, can be found here.)


All input is welcome.

One last thing, regardless of what we discover about these two artifacts, I think it’s incredibly cool that Pellar has decided that they belong in the hands of a local organization and not in his own collection. At a time when, I suspect, most people would be tempted to put such items on Ebay, and see what, if anything, they might be able to get for them, I think that’s worthy of praise… Who knows, maybe this will be incentive for others in our community to come forward and share their finds with us.

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  1. Posted November 19, 2014 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Wow, the bone pendant is really intriguing. I am sure that someone with the knowledge could date the metalwork at least to a period and may even be able to identify the bone and even the markings. From a distance, it certainly looks Native American to me.

    I am wondering which bank of the Huron it was found on, since the banks of Frog Island are relatively recent. Of course, these things can travel out of context in all manner of ways. The metalwork places it likely in the 18th century when this area would have been well populated and primarily Potawatomi.

    I would suggest sending this photo and any other information to the State Archaeologist, Dean Anderson for his input. Glad to know the finder is going to donate them. I would identify them and then determine where best to donate. Please keep in state if possible and update us on findings.

  2. Posted November 19, 2014 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    The second piece is out of my expertise altogether, except to say that Ypsi had an active militia for many decades after the Civil War, so if it is something related it could be more recent.

  3. Posted November 19, 2014 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Matt, I just reached out to Dean. Hopefully we hear back soon. And I agree about the metal work placing in the 18th century or later.

  4. Jean Henry
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    That’s a fishing spinner carved of bone. May have been used for ice fishing if there is no hook.

    My dad collects tackle. I can find some examples. They are not uncommon but not common either. The buckle might also be some kind of livery piece– for horse bridles.

  5. David McNeal
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    The one on the bottom looks like a tape measure.

  6. Posted November 20, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I think it’s a plum bob. They are made of every kind of material, including wood:

  7. Jean Henry
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I know I have seen these. I can’t find an image with the stripes. The top being a white metal means it’s not that old. No white metal here. Older would have been copper. The stripes are there to make it look like a fish. It would have been trolled behind a paddle and the fish caught with a spear or net unless it had a hook.

  8. Peter Bask
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    The top one is a bull-roarer, from when Ypsilanti was still connected to Australia. The other piece is a mid-century earlobe distender.

  9. anonyous
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Ypsilanti Fire Department buckles didn’t look like this in 1870.

  10. Eel
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    And, one day, people will be talking this way about our tubes of Sure Grip Tighten Her Cream.

  11. Fig
    Posted November 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Likely antler, not bone.

  12. Posted November 20, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    There were no commercial planes on 9/11.

  13. Roger
    Posted November 23, 2014 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Could the carvings represent Ogham carvings. Looks very similar.

  14. Roger pellar
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    The metal on the bone or antler is silver for sure. I had it tested. It was found close to the Huron river near frog island park. I’d like to see samples of this fishing spinner. If it was a fishing spinner it would have a hole at the end. The belt buckle is the youngest portion of a two part buckle I am looking for experts it amature asses to help me identify these items for a historical perspective and to preserve items for a historical sense.

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