Type:  Birdstone

Location: Wake County, North Carolina



MoST ID: 1777

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/FIQRTUWbl0

Model Author:  Steve Davis

This slate birdstone was found near Wake Forest, North Carolina.  Birdstones are abstract carvings thought to resemble birds, made during the Late Archaic/Early Woodland period, ca. 2000-3000 BP.

The artefact is curated in the North Carolina Archaeological Collection, Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Birdstones are so-named because of their beak-like faces, although many authors have questioned this interpretation.  They are most common in the northeast US around the Great Lakes, but also extend south into Georgia and Mississippi.  Birdstones vary considerably in shape, but most are perforated at each end of the base with two connecting diagonal conical holes made with a stone drill.  The holes are hidden from the profile view of the object.  Most were carved from banded slate by flaking and hammerdressing in the early stages, followed by grinding and polishing.  ‘Popeye’ birdstones have eye-like protuberances carved onto the head, as in this example.

The function of birdstones is unknown.  The most common interpretation is that they were weights for spearthrowers, but other suggestions include insignia, talismans, amulets, fetishes, knife handles, spearthrower handles, corn-husking or weaving tools, game pieces, parts of headgear, pipe adornments, arrow bundle attachments, emblems of maternity, and ornaments for canoe prows or canoe paddles.