Other Lithic Materials
A variety of non-chipped stone lithic materials were recovered from the Cowan site. These materials include ground stone tools, cobble tools, abraders, pigment sources, fire-cracked rock, and unmodified but culturally introduced rocks.
The various non-chipped stone lithic materials from the Cowan site were segregated into general categories related to their lithology, modification, and use. These general categories include ground stone tools, cobble tools, mineral, fire-cracked rock, and introduced (but unmodified) rock. A distinction was made between ground stone tools and cobble tools. Ground stone tools typically exhibit intentional shaping by pecking, grinding, and polishing. This category includes celts, and most manos and metates. Cobble tools are simply cobbles that exhibit only modifications resulting directly from their use. Hammerstones, pecking stones, and anvil stones are examples of cobble tools. In spirit, most of the abraders recovered from the site were cobble tools, in so much as they usually exhibit modifications only related to their use. However, some abraders such as arrowshaft abraders have been extensively modified and shaped. All abraders, regardless of their degree of modification are considered and discussed herein as a single class. In theory, the distinction between ground stone and cobble tools is fairly simple. In practice, this can be another matter. Many of the manos and metates recovered from the Cowan site appear to have been put to use with relatively little intentional shaping. The majority of the manos, for example, a flattish ovoid rocks that were selected for this function. Here, we discuss all manos and metates as a single group within the ground stone category, even though some specimens exhibit far more intentional shaping than others.
Most specimens fell clearly into a single classification, however, there were also several instances of re-use and recycling where pieces crossed over from one category to another. For example, some fire-cracked rock specimens were derived from what had originally been ground stone and cobble tools such as manos and metates. Alternatively, some fire-cracked rock pieces were re-used as tools such as anvils and as abraders in processing hematite. In cases where individual pieces transcended the categories established for this analysis, they are discussed along with specimens that share their most complex function. Thus, fire-cracked mano and metate fragments are included in the discussion of other manos and metates. Fire-cracked rock abraders are considered along with the other abraders. Some tools had multiple functions and or alternate uses creating combinations such as anvil/abrader, anvil/mano, and mano/abrader. Anvil/abraders are included within the anvil category and mano/abraders and anvil/manos are discussed with the other manos.
These materials were characterized by the type of rock or mineral from which they were made. More general groupings (e.g., misc. igneous/metamorphic) were employed in sorting the fire-cracked rock. More specific raw material identifications (e. g., andesite, basalt, gneiss, granite, etc.) were made for the ground stone and cobble tools. Igneous and metamorphic rock classification followed standard petrological guidelines as described in Klein and Hurlbut (1977). Mineral composition and grain size and arrangement were determined by visual examination, sometimes with the aid of a microscope. Grain size and cementation were noted for the sandstone abraders.
The most common minerals recovered from the Cowan site are limonite and hematite. The presence of rubbing, striations, and polish were noted when they occurred on these pieces. An attempt was also made to differentiate the forms of hematite found on the site to determine if they were obtained from local bedrock sources or from secondary glacial till and stream gravel deposits.
The various non-chipped stone lithic materials from the Cowan site reflect a variety of activities. In many ways, this assemblage is more or less typical of the range of ground stone and cobble tool forms recovered from Great Oasis and Mill Creek sites. Characteristic tools and their respective functions include celts (wood chopping), manos and metates (food processing), abraders (bone tool manufacture, arrowshaft making, celt manufacture, ocher processing, etc.), anvil stones (ocher processing and bipolar core reduction), hammerstones (flintknapping), and pecking stones (ground stone tool manufacture and maintenance). A single piece of worked catlinite was recovered from the site, but this piece may have been ground simply to produce reddish pigment. The hematite bead from the site is unique.
In other ways, the analysis of the Cowan site materials has resulted in other observations that are somewhat different from statements made of other contemporary sites. Manos and metates are said to be typically rare on Great Oasis sites (e.g. Henning 1996). However, a substantial number of manos and metates are represented in the Cowan site assemblage. The majority of these are highly fragmented, many of them fire-cracked. As such, they are not as immediately recognizable as tools as are complete specimens. We have noted that in many previous studies, fire-cracked rock is often given little more than a cursory examination. If the Cowan site is any indication, many tools and tool fragments might be found by a more thorough analysis.
Cowan | General Contracts Program
Webpage originally by Tim Reed March 19, 1999.
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