Kirk Burley spent most of his life bending over, hands clasped behind his back, looking down. No, he wasn’t born with a back deformity nor is he clinically depressed. This Nazareth man is a Native American artifact hunter and a hugely successful one at that.
Some people have a sixth sense when it comes to finding things. Couple Kirk’s near-psychic ability to be drawn to artifacts, with his vast knowledge of the ways of our native people, and what results is a colossal collection of artifacts. Enough to open a museum.
Cloud Nine is a 800 square foot museum in Kirk’s basement which is literally stuffed with glass display cases, framed pieces, and art. There are beads, knives, scrapers, mortars and pestles, skinning stones, over 55 banner stones, 150 tomahawks, 800 hammer stones, 20,000 whole arrowheads (points) and 30,000 broken points, etc. The amazing part is Kirk found all of them within a 5-6 mile radius of his rural home, some right in his yard, his garden. That’s as local as it gets.
Kirk studies the rich plowed earth, looking for discoveries, hints of the past, clues to life and the native people who came before him. He pokes at the soil, prods, brushes off the dried dirt and holds the piece close to his eyes for scrutinizing examination. A piece can date from the contact period to 10,000 years ago. He fingers the piece, turning it over in his hands, knowing that it was probably not touched by a human for hundreds or thousands of years…until now.
Arrowhead hunting is much akin to treasure hunting. It is calming as you walk, yet your mind and vision is very active. I was fortunate enough to go out arrowhead hunting with Kirk last year for a story and visited his wonderful museum. The “rest of the story” will be in Pennsylvania Magazine’s upcoming March/April issue. (www.pa-mag.com). In the meantime, get out in a plowed field, (if you can find one- after you ask permission) and bend down close to the earth. First SEE them in your mind’s eye!