This granite discoidal is from Hancock County, Illinois. Discoidals were used in the game ‘chunkey’, which emerged during the Mississippian period, ca. 1400 BP, at the major population centre of Cahokia, near modern St Louis, Missouri.
This well-made example has the concave sides typical of this artefact type. It was made by hammerdressing followed by grinding and polishing.
The artefact is in the Michigan State University Museum, Archaeology Teaching Collection, catalogue no. 2000.2.24.
Chunkey was a popular game in eastern North America from ca. 1400 BP. It was still practiced in the early 1800s in the Southeastern United States and Great Plains. The game involved rolling the discoidal along the ground and throwing or sliding 2 metre-long hand-thrown spears (chunkey sticks) after it on the hard-packed surface. Among the Cherokee and Choctaw people, the score was tabulated based on the proximity of marks on the chunky sticks to the position of the discoidal stone when it stopped and fell over. Special arenas were prepared at aggregation sites, where large audiences witnessed the game and often gambled on the outcome. The game is represented in the art of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, along with representations of scalp locks and severed heads, suggesting that the game sometimes had serious overtones. The stones were owned by the town or clan rather than by individuals. Chunkey is still played today.