Friday, May 8, 2009

Some Odd Artifacts to Ponder...

As many of you would guess I check the stats on all of my websites frequently. As a result, I can tell you that when I post artifacts, there are many people in search of answers about there own artifacts and have used this blog to try to find some answers.

The neat thing is that I don't always have the answers, and instead, it is you the readers that send comments to these posts that are there to help others who visit the page the next day, or the next year after we have discussed it. Here is a good example of one of those postings.

Although many see a blog only from the last posting or or "front page" at the time and as a running journal of sorts, it is actually an archive of every posting I have made for the last two years. And this one in particular is connected to search engines such as Google and because of that, ANY ONE OF THE POSTINGS can be accessed by someone searching for items we have discussed at anytime.

Another way that this blog has become useful is for instances like when recently I had a guy who lives more than a hundred miles away, email me and ask me what an artifact that he sent me a picture of was...Immediately I could reply with an email link - this one was in fact to the bannerstones discussion, where he could see a bunch of other artifacts that looked just like what he had sent to me.

The point I am trying to make is that by continuing to post items and their images on the blog, I really believe that we are able to help other collectors out there that might be running acrossed the same artifacts, and you the readers can make sure the post any ideas you have about them as well.

For this reason, I thought it was about time that I posted another one of those "What is the heck are these?" postings for all of us to ponder and share ideas and theories about. The following are a mish-mash of artifacts that make me wonder what they were used for, and as always we welcome comments by having you click the comments link at the bottom of the posting here.

Here goes:

1.) The first is from a site we call "Spanish Hill" in South Waverly, PA. Many believe the flat top of this hill that once had ten acres enclosed by embankments with interior ditches was a ceremonial space. This particular specimen below came from this place.

It seems to have two ears and a grid type incision on it and more incised lines on each side.

And when you turn it over, it has been hollowed out to for something else, possibly....

My guess is that it is 1/2 half of ceremonial piece that was fitted onto a staff or something like it - something like my diagram below:But I am interested to know if any of you might have other ideas for this..

2.) The second artifact I wanted to share is what the person who donated this called a "turtle effigy" - made by some great green banded slate and does actually resemble a turtle in many ways:

It is approximately 1 1/2 inches long, and this picture is an enlarged image for you to see the details of it. I wonder if anyone thinks it might have been a tool of some sort instead?

3.) Ted Keir's collection has a few of these next artifacts and we have seem many others over the years in other collections, that always seem to have a nice polish to them:

We wonder if they were possibly used for sewing. Inparticular because the early people would have used bone needles and hard to penetrate leather hides for many things like clothing and shoes. Would they have used something like these artifacts to hold on the other side of the leather as they forced their needles through it? The middle one, Ted believes could have been used to be a form for a children's leather moccasin or shoe. Tell us what you think!

4.) Lastly, we have what many refer to as a "wooden shovel" and at first glance, that is what you'd think! This is about 2 1/2 feet or so long.

One usage is thought to be that it could have been used more like a spatula in putting pottery into the ovens and retrieving them...

But again - - we'd like to hear from you and what you think! So go ahead and click that comments link below this article and share your ideas and or knowledge with us!

We'd also like to know if you have artifacts like these as well!

Thanks in advance for taking part!


  1. To Deb and all:

    At the risk of offering up identifications based only on photographic
    evidence, I would hazard that the first of the presented artifacts is a
    beaver effigy in which the tail and the hind legs have been rendered in
    more or less the same plane, as though splayed out on a flat surface.

    I have no comments to offer on the others, but as a general premise, the
    material employed should be noted whenever possible.

    I would encourage others to take a look.


  2. Alan's note that photos do not provide much to go on is THE BEST WORD OF CAUTION.

    Of course, Mr Party Pooper, has volumes to add to each of these items (long years of having people bring their finds for review PLUS being saddled with CRATES of stones with odd shapes collected and stored in the Univ. basement! Throw them away, and they come back another day!

    General notes. Native stone artifacts in NE (etc) are either chipped, abraded, or both. Weathering does some interesting stuff to argillite and steatite, but otherwise - it's probably natural. All these stone items . . .

    I hsaven't heard the "mocassin last" line in a few years (I've been hiding). I'll be polite for the LIST!

    First - experimental work would demonstrate that fabrication of leather stuff . . . AND -There ain't no culture nowhere what uses stone shapes to form mocassins (etc). What's the point? Isn't there a leatherworker out there? If one wishes to pierce a piece of leather (canvas?) one does NOT push tool thru to a stone (doh) and blunt the point on piecing tool- but preferably to a HOLE, the materials (wood?) around which would support the leather/ material and the hole allowing perforator to go thru. BUT - although I have done a lot of this, I honestly say that I know of no ethnographic example.

    Sewing was NOT a strong point of native folk in NE - another reason why cloth was SO desired. CAN be sewn with relative ease (although though scissors were an erly trade item, when tailored coats became available ca 1650, the native GOBBLED THEM UP! Saved labor - and shows that in all cultures. one never loses money by underestimating the laziness of the customer (I'll bet that applies even in an economic "downturn"). .

    Thanks for sharing-

    Best to all-
    Mr PP