Thursday, December 17, 2009

Local Indian stone tools

Pestle from Eel River Near Alderpoint. Most likely Wailaki or Lassic, depending on the age of the artifact:


A long-time aquaintence of mine told me the other day that he likes reading this blog, and that he especially likes the stories about the Indian culture, the Indian people and the Indian artifacts. So do I. He went on to tell me that he had found a pestle in the area of Alderpoint while on a kayak trip down the river. He said that he had to stop and relieve himself. Near the bank of the river he saw about four or five inches of the pestle sticking up out of the river silt. He at first thought that it had something to do with the railroad, so he went over to it, and pulled it out of the sand. This pestle is what he found. As you can see from his photo it is one of the most perfectly formed pestles that I've ever seen. It is perfectly round, and the sides are perfectly staight, It has a perfect taper to the hand shaft. The end is broken off with only slight wearing of the sharp edges, which lead me to wonder if it was just left that way, or if it got broken somehow.

This man gave me permission to identify him. Then changed his thoughts to just give his first name. This item is so precious and perfect that I think that I will leave it to him to identify himself, if he wants to. He reads this blog. He also has a collection of about a dozen very crudely worked arrow heads. He didn't send me any photos of them, or I would include them here. It always amazes me what the local Indian people could do with simple stone tools.

Most of the mortar and pestles that I have seen from the local Indians looked like the photos below. This mans find is amazing. The shaft near the bulb end shows the pecking that the Indians used to shape their stones. I have ofter wondered what kind of stone that they used to peck the stone tools. There are two methods that they used. The direct method, by hitting the stone with a sharp tool, and the indirect method, where they used the working tools like a hammer and chisle.
Mortar and pestle from Clear lake:

Stone bowl from "Humboldt County"

29 comments:

Ernie Branscomb said...

If anybody has any photos of local Indian artifacts, of any kind, and would like to share them as part of our local history, please email them to me. I will hold your identity confidential if you would like. Or I would GLADLY give you credit for your photos and stories.

My email address is up there in the top left corner of the front page of this blog site.

unanonymous said...

you gentlemen are conspiring in a federal crime. be careful.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Unanonymous
I'm sure that neither of us would want to do that. Where this item was found was in the river stream-bed. I know that disturbing Indian burial grounds is against the law, and rightfully so. But, if this item had not been collected it would have eventually been destroyed.

If you know the rules to possessing Indian artifacts could you please elaborate for all of our benefit? I would like to know. Any number of items can be bought on the internet. For instance the grinding bowl at the bottom of this post is a Pomo Grinding Bowl and it is for sale for $850.00 (not by me)

Link to artifacts for sale site




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Ernie Branscomb said...

The Bowl at the bottom of the post is for sale for $4,200.00

Anonymous said...

That is a great find! There is a longer tapered grinding stone at the Burlington Center, Redwood State Park visitor center/museum that is very uniform as well. The thicker end is very flat, unlike the rounded ended ones one more commonly finds.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say grinding pestle.

Ben said...

Imagine the time and effort which went into this tool. The stone was laid in sand or soft soil and chipped then turned, chipped and turned, chipped and turned until the tool was finished. Of course it could be used for generations. Acorn grinding involved basket with an open bottom placed on a stone base. A brush was used to move the ground acorn onto the sides of the basket and the fine particles would stick, the coarser falling back to be reground. I wonder is these really large pestles had some special use. The pestles I have found are rather small but nicely formed.

unanonymous said...

I guess I should have said may be conspiring..... It is hard to tell without a better location. Being close to the bank it may have eroded from a sacred site which I believe are protected on Federal, State and private property. Additionally, it appears the finder is below the high-water mark of the river, which at that location would be defined as navigatable waters. These are public/State waters and all collection of NA artifacts on State lands is not allowed without permit.

NA Heritage Commission does not have to disclose public record of sacred grounds which kind of leads to a catch 22.

Best info. I could find was at: http://www.ibsgwatch.imagedjinn.com/learn/californialaw.htm

As one would expect, the laws are about as clear and easy to follow as CA gun laws. Again be careful, the burden of proof is on you.

unanonymous said...

I should also say, nice find. It is really a beautiful piece of workmanship. I would love to tell you about the beautiful obsidian knife point I found in Saline Valley, but as far as I and you are concerned, it never happened!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank-you unanonynous

I made the url into a link for those of us who are interested. It should be considered to be required reading for those of us that walk amoung history's most treasured artifacts.

the law about collecting Indian artifacts



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Ernie Branscomb said...

Most of what I got out of reading the laws that relate to graves, and religious or cultural sites is that they cannot be disturbed, and it is a felony to do so.

I found nothing saying it wasn't okay to possess indian artifacts found in non-grave or religious sites.

It would seem to me that in the interest of preserving history, and the locations of these artifacts being found, people should not be punished for finding them. They should enforce artifact laws like game laws. It should be okay to find and possess items not related to graves or burial grounds, or to locations of high cultural value.

However, I find something about selling Indian artifacts, or any treasure of historical value, to be highly offensive. The treasures should remain in the possession of the person that finds them, their heirs, or at some time donated to a museum.

spyrock said...

i had the idea of building a pond on doves land and being 20 acres it took awhile to narrow it down. there was this logging flume on the high ground above the driveway that kept calling me. this ditch was full of ashes and debri and was sort of a compost site. most of the logs had decomposed so i had it clean in no time. as i was forming what would be the lower drain, i saw a long stone sticking out of the ground. i was going to toss it until i realized that it was a pestle. a perfectly formed pestle. later, my cousin karen who is being trained by a medicine man came up for a visit. i decided to test her powers and she walked right to the spot where i found it. she said that there was some more stuff there and that it belonged to an old indian woman who was fine with me having it. sometimes it rests in a grinding bowl from spyrock, sometimes it rests in a kwan yins lap, sometimes it's used as a talking stone and passed to the one whose turn it is to speak, in a clockwise direction of course. the thing that's difficult for us euros to grasp is that this stone is maybe over 10,000 years old and has been passed down from generation to generation all that time in that place and was appreciated until gold was discovered and the owners were killed or removed to the reservation. 150 years later i find it and it told me that it wants to stay on the land where i found it.
once dove's son heard i might dig a pond up there, he decided it would be a good place for him to build a small cabin there so he chopped down a bunch of trees and filled the ditch back up with debri. he made enough room to drive a truck up there and drop a container off so i'm trying to manifest a long rectangular container to drop into the ditch instead of using a liner which was my original plan.

annonymoose said...

Ernie , I am now glad that I asked you to keep my name off the post with people calling my actions illegal. I did find this pestle in the sand below winter high water It could have been washed down from above .The broken end was probably smoothed off by the action of the river flowing over it and it could have been buried and unburied uncounted times over the years before the spirits revealed it to me. There is no way that these are "navigable waters" as it was above Island Mountain Falls and only navigable by a whitewater craft. I believe that the railroad construction destroyed many "sacred sites" and objects along the Eel. I will send you pictures of the other objects when I get back to my cabin and can take pix with my camera rather than blurry cell phone ones

Ernie Branscomb said...

Anonnymoose
I firmly believe that you are the right person to have the pestle. We are all creatures of the Earth and if we should all be treated equally, you have more right to it than anyone. I'm sure that you treasure it almost as much as the person that made it.

Anonymous said...

There is a big difference between someone who serendipitously finds an artifact and an archaeological site poacher. Some of the worst violators of indian artifacts have been the anthro/archaeo types whose accumulations largely stay out of sight of the public.
You have every right to your find no matter what some tinhorn Fed says. This is Humboldt County after all.
Great story Spyrock. It illustrates the energy side. Rocks hold energy longer than wood or water. When you hold that pestle in a quiet way, there may be energies, old, old energies that come to you as a gift. Think of all the life experience associated with that pestle, and admire the amazing craftsmanship. You are fortunate.

I know someone who found a grinding stone and when she first used it to grind her grains, had the sober and unsolicited vision of a circle of women sitting together and singing as they ground their food in their mortars.

Synchronistically, today I was in the Humboldt Room at the HSU library and there on the desk was a '40's newspaper article about a local couple whose hobby was going artifact hunting. There was a picture of two rows of pestles that they had found.

Anyone remember that the Redway "Ponds" are atop one of the larger Indian encampments in the area? Curious logic. My opinion: typical and telling. There was a newspaper article on that, so I am not revealing anything.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Most of our towns, highways and railroads are built over and through old Indian dweling sites.

I wonder how that would be done today?

Anonymous said...

You mean you haven't heard of eminent domain?

Oregon

Anonymous said...

Dontcha mean "immenent ripoff"?

Anonymous said...

Since this is a controversial topic I had best not say too much. But you can bet that there are some large collections in private hands round here. These really large ranchers would have to have them!
Today I heard about a fellow a few decades back from the -------- ----- area who had three pits from dwellings on his newly bought land which contained many dozens of arrowheads. I assume that this is not uncommon.
Later in the day I heard a story about one of the oldest grinding stones in California.
Used to be the pot patches were the best kept secret...nuh uh.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great to have a local museum and display area?

Ben said...

Ernie... I'm going to do my stock rant on "Tribe Names".
We like to name things and to have categories where we can place cultures and their objects. It is useful but we should remember that no Native ever called them self "Lassic" and Wailaki only appeared in the last 150 years. "Sinkyone" was also a dialect name rather than anything used by the Natives though it has now been forever sanctified by a State Park A State Park named after the South Fork of the Eel River, sin kyo kok rather than a coastal name more appropriate.. The locals called themselves ken nes ti or kun nes ti. Translated as "people" but made up of word parts which mean :
ke nes+speaks and ti= us. So... talks like us. A logical name for folks who sometimes had three or four dialects in a single watershed. One reason for this may have been that food was so plentiful that it was not necessary to travel far.
So I've turned a topic on artifacts to my own interests as I've noticed folks often do in conversation. Again and again, I have been astonished at the number of flakes and worked pieces I see on the ridges here. Along the river, floods and the highways have obliterated the majority of village sites but thr summer camps up on the hilltops wherever water was found are so covered with worked rock that one is quickly aware these people were here for a very, very long time.
I have a superstitious turn when it comes to arrowheads. Some were "poisoned" by prayer before use so that they would find their mark and kill. I am leery of them and don't keep them. I do have two pestles, both gifts.
I have a friend who lives by the river near a big creek. Her place is a named site and every time she tills her fabulous garden, stone tools appear by the dozen. I have heard stories that the front walk of the Witter ranch house out past Kettenpom is lined with grindstones and pestles found around the place. Dozens from what I hear. Some "newcomers" have bulldozed recorded sites thinking that leaving them would invite anthropologists onto their private property.
When the Industrial park needed a sewage pond built at the Redway site (Ravencliff) , archeologists were called in to assess the location. They found plenty of evidence of a very old site and OKayed the pond as it would cover and "protect" the artifacts. Seems a bit strange to me but, oh well, those guys know best. They're professionals, right?

Anon 9:27 said...

I was once on a College summer dig in the desert outside of Grants, New Mexico. The tedium of the measuring and recording of meaningless minutae discouraged my possible career interest in archaeology. For fun one day, I shoveled a 2" brown rubber scorpion into the sorting screen. That got a response from the girls! I also mischieviously planted a half of a Midwest mussel shell in a shovelful and sooo rudely embarrassed the teaching assistant who showed it to our prof and thought she had proof of trade with the coast, Oh dear. I did grovel in mortification. Contaminating sites is very much frowned down upon in Archaeology.
That said, I remember going for a walk along the base of the mesa a few miles from camp and seeing twenty some small rounded "heishi" style beads and one longer thin tube shaped bead under a bush. They had been there 5-600 years. There were two of us and we talked about it. On the one hand no one would ever know or probably find these again. On the other, it was not protocol to take anything at all, obviously. We each took one small "secret" bead, and tried to get a good locational description to report to the Professor who said it would probably never be seen again but we did the right thing by taking no beads. Small gulp.


I grew up around Alaskan relics and an arrowhead collection. The Midwest, particularly in the Serpent Mound areas, have many grey flint arrowheads. My father was quite the farmfield arrowhead collector.
When he passed I had no attraction to keeping his collection and let my mother dispose of it. I do treasure the two arrowheads I found in the middle of the Eel riverbed. I think if I found something common I would keep it, but if I found something rare I would want to turn it over to a museum.

Anonymous said...

THANKS for that Ben!

Anonymous said...

I know a guy that lives close to Laytonville that can make beautiful arrowheads and he whips them out fast. It would make an Indian proud.

Oregon

Anonymous said...

Today's I was told of grinding bowl made in the approximate shape of an hourglass. Are you listening JB?

Anonymous said...

One would assume that varieties of mortars and pestles would be in abundance in this area. Too heavy to carry around, they would be stashed at campsites that were used seasonally located in all the best places in this beautiful beautiful country. Whenever I come across the Briceland Bridge I look up and downstream at how the tall trees come to the edge and I try and picture how that must have looked all up and down the Eel, with Indian encampments at many flat areas during fishing seasons.

For the second time I heard today that acorn technology is fairly recent and that before that they were used exclusively for grains.
Anyone know more about that. The first time it came up was when the owner of a grinding stone that was very smoothed in the grinding area said it was probably from pre-acorn days. I would love to know more.

Ernie Branscomb said...

"I would love to know more."

Wouldn't we all. Unfortunately, Christopher Columbus wiped out eighty percent of the indigenous population with disease. Maybe not directly, but certainly indirectly related to his move on America. Followed by the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Alta California. Then the Indian people were chased around from reservation to reservation, killed of as possible threats to the settlers. The Indian peoples method of preserving history was to pass it down from elder to younger. That chain of knowledge was completely destroyed. We all grieve and regret the loss.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Ernie!

If you blame Columbus for killing Indians with Smallpox, don't forget to blame the Indians for killing Europeans with syphylis.

Check out Crosby's "The Columbian Exchange" if you want an authoritative and detailed description of what happened when Columbus's sailors brought syphilus from America back to Europe.

Crosby relates both sides of the story. Just as smallpox killed millions in the Americas, syphillis killed millions in Europe.

Each disease was stronger and more terrible in those early years than now. Deaths on both continents from these diseases were gruesome.

Who was to blame? Europeans? Indians?

Five hundred years ago, neither Europeans nor Indians knew anything about how these diseases were spread.

If you need to blame anyone or anything, blame the Microbes.

P.S. I am the Anonymous poster you used to praise as being saner than you. The same Anonymous poster you recently compared unfavorably to a more recent Anonymous poster.

Anonymous said...

I always thought the Indians got their revenge on the europeans by introducing them to tabacco.

Oregon