Friday, September 24, 2010

"Featherstone" from the Wash Tray

Most of our artifacts are discovered in the field, but on rare occasions they turn up in the lab. This was the case with an engraved siltstone pepble found this past summer at the Heckleman site. What appeared to be just a rock in the field, turned out to be a finely-engraved siltstone pebble, but it was only recognized once it had been washed. It measures about 5.5 cm in length and came from Feature 10-30, a large cooking pit that contained abundant charcoal in a matrix of greasy black soil. Not much else was found in the pit other than FCR, but luckily we kept this inconspicuous stone. Once washed, it revealed an intricate engraving of what look like turkey or hawk features, arrayed in a fan-like pattern.
Engraved stones are rather uncommon, and we do not understand why they were made or how were they used. Over the years, fragments of slate celts or pendants have been unearthed on Late Prehistoric period village sites in northern Ohio. Some of these bear depictions of birds or human faces and cross-hatched lines which somewhat resemble Mississippian iconography more common in the southeastern United States. But to my knowledge, the depiction of bird feathers on the Heckleman "featherstone" is unique. I liked this design so much, I had it put on our annual field school T-shirt. So, the lesson is, keep your eyes open in the field AND in the lab.