The archaeological term for stone tools and weapons is lithics. Some of the earliest known lithics in North America date back over 10,000 years. These ancient artifacts provide a rare glimpse into the lives of those who created and used them. Stone tools are the oldest traces of human activity as it provides insight into different periods of time. The Paleolithic period is defined as the time from the first use of stone tools around two million years ago to the end of the Pleistocene period, around 12,000 years ago. The Neolithic period follows this and leads up to the eventual discovery of metal.
The discovery of artifacts, belonging to historic periods, is considered an invention in itself. Similarly, an ancient artifact stone tool was founded on the Two Wrasslin’ Cats, a cat-themed café located in East Haddam, Connecticut. Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House, LLC (TWC) is known for its exceptional customer service and for hosting events. The café house was founded by Mark A. Thiede, Ph.D. in May 2013. The café offers fresh food, coffee, social activism and of course, free dog treats to their canine customers.
While relaxing with his girlfriend Brenda and a cup of coffee at Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House in East Haddam, Connecticut, in May 2020, amateur archaeologist Mark Clymer noticed something protruding from the ground in the backyard that he felt must have been left behind by someone who had been there long before him — around 12,000 years ago.
Clymer, who spent weekends excavating ancient sites in Upper State New York, knew right away that the small tool he spotted was made of Norman skill chert, a type of sedimentary rock that could not have come from anywhere near where he sat and must have originated in the Hudson Valley region over 100 miles away. Clymer, who has been studying history and looking for artifacts since he was a child in New York State, told the shop’s owner, Mark Thiede, that something was interesting underfoot in that patio area and asked if he could dig a few exploratory test pits there.
Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House(TWC), is eclectic and cozy and the kind of place that is full of stories, so it was not surprising to find an active archaeological site in its backyard. Thiede, a career scientist who decided to leave his position as a Research Fellow at Pfizer to open a coffee house had no idea what he was doing when he began the business but somehow managed to purchase and renovate the lovely property and open TWC on May 31, 2013. Thiede’s Two wrasslin cats, Bruno and Larry, were named after professional wrestlers Bruno Sammartino and Larry Zbyszko because they loved to tussle. The shop is filled with cat-themed memorabilia, which Thiede claims was almost entirely donated by members of the community.
Continuing the research for the ancient artifact, Clymer began digging a 50-by-50-centimeter (roughly 20-by-20-inch) test pit after Thiede permitted him. Clymer began looking for more material, chips, and potential tools made from this Norman skill Chert. He, later contacted archaeologists named Sarah Sportman, Connecticut State Archaeologist and UConn Extension professor, and David Leslie to inform them of the exciting discovery. He invited them with Mark’s permission to examine the discovery so that they could have a lead on its origin.
Since then, the team has returned several times, each time yielding new and exciting discoveries dating back to the Pleistocene epoch, which ended approximately 11,700 years ago. On an overcast late September day, the group invested its efforts in exploring the artifacts by digging, sifting the soil, and cataloging the finds at every dig.
Customers, who were curious, stopped by while sipping their coffee. Some asked questions, while others insisted on not interfering with the dig and simply observed it from a distance. Each dig uncovered more evidence about the oldest artifacts left by Connecticut’s first people, known as “Paleoindians” by archaeologists. Sportsman justified the discovery by stating these people existed at the end of the last Ice Age, between 10,000 and 13,000 years ago and they were hunter-gatherers who moved seasonally across the landscape. She further explained that sites from this period are quite uncommon.
Thiede, who was as fascinated by the artifacts as the archaeologists, said, “I’m a facilitator of this research, even though I didn’t uncover the artifact.” He further added, “As the research team went along, they became more and more excited. It was cool to learn that they named the archaeological site the Two Wrasslin’ Cats Site. I’m just very humbled by their enthusiasm and what they’ve accomplished over the last few years in terms of science.” He is currently working with the East Haddam Historical Society and the Connecticut Office of the State Archaeologist to host a presentation of the team’s findings.
The research team was grateful for the opportunity to research what they recognize has the potential to be disruptive, particularly at the height of the pandemic when outdoor seating for coffee shops was scarce. “A lot of the time, you have property owners like Mark who are just excited to be a part of the process and learn about the site,” said Sportsman.