Jackson, CA Change


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Carolyn Schmitz
06/06/2014 10:56 AM

Only a man like Indiana Jones would hike up the side of a volcano, then hike miles deep into its belly, stumble upon precious, ancient treasure and, while trying to return it to its rightful owner, be relentlessly pursued by factions wanting the treasure for their own glory. Amador County native, Trevor Carter, is such a man, and his tale of a possible treasure unearthed is fast becoming a mini-drama worthy of Hollywood.

Carter discovered a green-gold obsidian spearhead when he strayed off the trail inside the volcano in Haleakala National Park, on the island of Maui, in Hawaii. He was on a hike with friends at the famous site following his friend’s wedding on the previous day. As an avid nature lover, Carter had wandered off the path when he found something unusual. “I just noticed this chalky-looking black rock,” he said. Noticing something out of place about it, Carter “realized it had shape.” At about three inches long and more two-and-a-half inches wide, “I knew it was something.”

The obsidian, shaped like a hand-carved spearhead, is not native to the island. “Many

people find stuff (in the parks), but the Hawaiians didn’t use spears. Weaponry was not the same,” Carter said. “They used clubs, not spears. It’s something so highly irregular to its surroundings. Who wouldn’t be intrigued?”

In fact, it is identified by many, including Dr. Janet Six, lecturer in anthropology at the University of Hawaii: Maui Community College, as being the wrong color for Hawaiian obsidian. There are many volcanos in Hawaii, and a few produce obsidian. However, Hawaiian obsidian is always black. Because of its unusual greenish-gold color, Dr. Six tested and confirmed that the spearhead was made of Pachuca, a type of obsidian found in Mexico. More testing is needed to confirm that it was not manufactured for the tourist trade, or brought to the site by tourists.

Not taking native superstitions lightly, Carter and his friends, including Brian Axtel, another Amador County native who now resides on Maui, were concerned that a possibly significant piece of history might become lost again if they left the piece where Carter found it. “We didn’t want to piss off Pele,” he said about their dilemma. Profoundly impacted by the spearhead, they decided to document the item. The group photographed it, measured and journaled what they found, their impressions of it, and the exact location and circumstances where it was found. Carter drew its likeness, and the group made a pact to find out its story, and do “whatever was right.”

For a 30-year-old man with the heart of an adventurer, “whatever was right” was obvious: Take it to the Park Rangers, tell them his suspicion that it has historic value, and show them where it was found so it can be returned, if necessary. At the bottom of the mountain, though, the National Parks Office was closed for the day. The next day, the Carter and Axtel telephoned the National Parks Service, who, according to Carter, were disinterested, stating that the artifact couldn’t be Polynesian. So, when the object of so much speculation was not being tested by Dr. Six, or used as a teaching tool in her classes, the spearhead remained in a wooden box, together with the documentation made when it was found, in Axtel’s home on Maui.

According to Six, the Hawaiian Natives are very interested in recovering historic artifacts and finding clues about the past. “If this is junk, this is museum-quality junk,” Carter recounted.

One of Six’s students contacted The History Channel, and on November 12, 2013, the show, “America Unearthed: The Spearhead Conspiracy,” met Carter and Axtel in Hawaii for filming. By the time Carter landed on Maui for filming, he had already learned that an agent from the National Parks Service had contacted Axtel to meet, with her constituent, about the script and the artifact. While Axtel met with officials from the Parks Service, a plain-clothes U. S. Forest Service agent flashed an official badge, confiscated the spearhead she had asked to examine, and threatened legal action against Axtel and Carter. The agent also banned the men from Haleakala National Park. Park access and permits were denied to the film crew, causing the program to be filmed on Haleakala Ranch, which is private property.

Scott Wolter, a forensic geologist and host for “America Unearthed,” identified the spearhead as made from a mineral deposit found in a Mayan quarry in Central Mexico. Dr. Six’s tests confirmed it.

One of Carter’s pictures of the obsidian spearhead was featured on the cover of Maui Times in February, when The History Channel program aired. Since then, news reports and online blogs have speculated about the mystery, suggesting that the item could have been brought to the island by Mayans crossing the sea; or it could be a trinket brought to the island by a harmonic convergence held at the park. There are those who blog about what they know about, using the greenish-gold obsidian spearhead as their springboard. Their topics include Polynesians, volcanos, hippies, Mayans, rocks and minerals, hiking trails and young outdoor enthusiasts.

Carter, who is a paramedic for American Legion Ambulance Service, and a fireman with CAL FIRE, was influenced and educated about the outdoors through his biologist grandmother’s love and respect for flora and fauna indigenous to California. He is anxious for an answer to what the obsidian spearhead really is, and if it means anything important to social history. “I believe that history has a right to be changed if it’s true,” he said.

Since then, neither Carter nor Axtel has been able to learn what happened to the captivating obsidian spearhead. Calls to the National Forest Service and the National Park Service have been non-comital and dismissive. Still, Carter and his friends would like to know. “I want to get this thing proven, then give it back to the Parks Service and the (Hawaiian) people.”

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