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American Anthropologist. 

Vol. IV. WASHINGTON, D. C, OCTOBER, 1891. No. 4. 


BY J. D. m'GUIRE. 

A comparison of stone implements, wherever found, reveals great 
similarity in them, not only in shape, but also in the method of 
their manufacture. Local peculiarities, it is true, are often to be 
observed, but as a rule they are more often due to material than to 
shape or finish. If we except the Government publications on 
archaeology, and Evans* Ancient Stone Implements of Great 
Britain, works relating to this subject are, generally speaking, poorly 
illustrated j outlines are well executed, but the character of work 
on the implements does not appear to be considered of importance, 
and as a rule is inadequately shown. In referring to what has been 
written on the subject I have often been forced, in interpreting the 
text, to rely on mferior delineations. Moreover, there is often a lack 
of sufficient information regarding the proportion of the figures to 
the implements illustrated. 

Through the courtesy of the officers of the National Museum I 
have been enabled to examine a collection of implements from dif- 
ferent parts of the world for the purpose of endeavoring to demon- 
strate the probable function of one implement which appears to have 
been put to a use different from any heretofore assigned to it, and to be 
found over a wider range of territory than has been generally under- 
stood. There are many kinds of stone hammers, and they are of many 
sizes — from that of a walnut to the large mauls used in quarries, which 
were often heavier than a single individual could readily manage. 
The hand hammer, familiar to all, was probably the tool upon which 
races living in the stone age relied more than upon any other object 
to fashion other stone implements. Figure i is a typical hammer of 
39 (301) 


quartzite from McMinn county, Tennessee, the periphery of which 
is pitted by use, and the flattened sides show that it has been used as 
a rubbing stone as well ; for not only did the savage rely on the 
hammer to peck an axe or celt into shape, but it was also used for 
rubbing or polishing the implement after it had been shaped. 

There is no implement more common among the relics of the 
stone age, none the uses of which have been less discussed by 
archaeologists, and none more deserving of thorough discussion. 

An examination of these objects will demonstrate that three types 
probably contain them all. 

First. The oblong or flattened ellipsoid having a pit on one or both 
sides ; the pits probably being intended as finger-holds to relieve the 
index finger from the constant jar occasioned by quickly repeated 
blows on a hard surface. The periphery of these will often be found 
quite smooth, at other times rough, according as it has been last used 
as a hammer or as a rubber, although hammers of hard and tough 
material, when used on stone of similar character, wear away on 
the periphery as though rubbed. Often one or both of the flattened 
sides show the effect *of rubbing, as in Figure i. 

Second. The spherical implement slightly flattened at the poles, 
showing a battexed and commonly a smooth surface. These two 
types may be considered as common all over the world. 

The third type would appear to be the grooved hammer, of the use 
and distribution of which is less known. This type was evidently 
intended for hafting, which would interfere with its use as a rubber. 

All three types vary greatly in dimensions, but as a rule the two 
first are of a size suitable for hand use, not only for hammering but 
also for rubbing. 

It is intended to discuss here the hammer used in stone pecking 
as distinguished from the chipping hammer. By the latter a slower 
and more deliberate blow would be given, and consequently its shape 
would not be material. 

That nuts and bones could be cracked and paint and grain could 
be ground with hammers is admitted, but it is contended that no 
reasonable amount of such work would cause the implements to 
present the appearance they do if only so used. Moreover, any 
unshaped stone would have answered these purposes as well as a 
finished implement; hence, is it reasonable to suppose that savage 
man would trouble himself to fashion useless objects ? 

Hammers were made of any hard stone that could be obtained. 
It is common to find them of diorite, quartzite, or other tough 


material capable of the greatest amount of work with the least wear; 
they would be gritty, as is almost invariably the case, to grind the 
pecked surface as work progressed. It can hardly be doubted that 
men living in an age of stone must have been conversant not only 
with the best sources of material, but also with its adaptability for 
particular uses. 

As some may doubt whether the stone hammer could do the 
work suggested, a specimen is shown in Figure 2. It is made of 
a close-grained black porphyry that in 1878 was pecked out and 
grooved entirely with a stone hammer by the writer as a first effort 
to demonstrate the method of axe-grooving. The work on this 
stone represents approximately five hours* labor. When the hard- 
ness of material is taken into consideration, it is safe to conclude 
that it could not have taken more than one-half as much time to 
groove an ordinary axe, since they are of much softer material. 
From this may roughly be calculated the time that would be required 
to fashion a stone axe or in fact any other stone implement which 
was made by pecking and polishing ; and it will be seen that, granting 
a liberal allowance of time, the manufacture of stone implements 
consumed a small portion of the time supposed to be requisite. The 
statement that the manufacture of an axe or in fact of any other 
stone implement was a long process has so often been made that it 
may be regarded as a common belief among archaeologists. So 
great have the difficulties of their manufacture been supposed to be 
that it has been surmised even that early races had other than stone 
tools. Among the well known authors who have suggested one or 
the other of the above ideas may be cited, Evans, Dawson, Bancroft, 
Lubbock, Southall, Schliemann, Wilde, Kellar, and Wilson, of 
Scotland ; yet all of them must have been familiar with the hand 
hammer, which is common wherever stone implements are found, as 
will be shown ; and many of the above named authors furnish illus- 
trations of hammers, though they usually call them by other names. 
Others describe the hammers as objects of unknown uses, or 
attribute to them uses other than pecking. Jones, author of *' An- 
tiquities of the Southern Indians,** suggested that they are nut- 
crackers, and Dr. Rau concurred with him. Stevens in ''Flint 
Chips '* suggests their use for flaking by percussion, with which view 
Nillson appears to agree. Sir John Lubbock doubts whether they 
really belong to the stone age. 

The pecked surface of implements, which differs so greatly from 
the grooved and polished surface of those made of flint, does not 


appear to have been adverted to by more than one or two authors, 
and the origin of the pecked surface appears to have been left unex- 
plained. In the collection of the National Museum are celts, both 
pecked and polished, from Sweden, Denmark, France, Switzerland, 
England, Ireland, Greece, the United States, Central America, the 
West Indies, Mexico, Brazil, Sandwich Islands, New South Wales, 
New Zealand, Japan, and India ; all of them show the marks of the 
stone hammer. Figure 3 is a rudely pecked celt of indurated clay 
slate from Bradley county, Tennessee, the whole surface of which is 
pecked. Figure 4 is a diorite celt from Yverdon, Lake Neuchatel, 
the blade of which is ground, but the rest of the implement shows 
clearly the pecking process. These two implements may be taken 
as fair types of stone-hammer work, the one in its rough and the 
other in its more complete stage. 

Schliemann found celts at Tiryns and Mycenae, and at Hissarlik 
more than 500 were discovered. Judging from the photographs of 
these objects as they are presented in ^'Trojanische Alterthume," 
they were evidently pecked into shape with stone hammers, of which 
he found thousands in the four lower cities of Troy. 

Dr. C. C. Abbott, in ''Primitive Industry/* says hammers are 
supposed to have been used for pecking axes and celts, and also 
mentions them as rubbers, but appears to think they would readily 
be broken, and that it would be vain to attempt to determine the 
particular purpose of all hammers. 

The material of which hammers are made varies greatly in hard- 
ness, and it would naturally be selected with reference to the 
particular stone to be worked. In forty-odd hours' work a jasper 
hammer, in the hands of the writer, showed little wear, although 
the material upon which it was used was nephrite — one of the 
toughest of known stones. Quartzite varies in texture. Some of it 
is almost as soft as sandstone, and again it is almost as hard as jasper. 
The hammer of hard quartzite is hard enough to fashion a number 
of almost any sort of implements found on the Atlantic seaboard. 

The supposition that a great length of time was necessary to fashion 
a stone implement gained a certain credence probably from a passage 
in Lafitau*s ^'Moeurs des Sauages Ameriquains,** Paris, 1724. 
" Hatchets,** he says, ''have been used over the whole of America 
from time immemorial. They are made of a pebble hard and diffi- 
cult to break. They require a great deal of time to make them ser- 
viceable. The manner of preparing them is to sharpen them by 
rubbing them on a sandstone, and to give them, by means of time 


and work, very much the appearance of our hatchets, or of a wedge. 
Often the life of a savage was not sufficient for this purpose, from 
which it comes that such an article, though rough and imperfect, is 
a precious heritage to their children.** 

A large proportion of the Indian tribes were living in a state of 
savagery at the date of Lafitau*s work in America, but the French 
had occupied a large portion of Canada one hundred years before, 
and metal must have generally supplanted stone for tools prior to 
the time of Lafitau. Iron axes and hatchets would have great value 
to an Indian possessed only of those of stone, and the trade in iron 
implements must have spread over vast distances. John Smith 
found at the head of Chesapeake bay, in 1608, articles of European 
manufacture, which he supposed had come into the Indians* posses- 
sion by trade with settlers on the St. Lawrence. Lescarbot in 161 8 
describes the Canadian Indians as being indolent and idle, except 
in regard to hunting. Lafitau goes further and says of the natives, 
'* Idleness, indolence, and laziness was at the bottom of their char- 
acter,'* and he adds that '' they passed their time with arms crossed, 
doing nothing except singing, dancing, and attending their assem- 
blies. * * These descriptions agree better with the generally received 
opinion of savage character than those which attribute to an indi- 
vidual of the stone age the patience of a Chinese ivory carver, or 
even of those more advanced races who first wrought sculptures in 
hard stone. Captain Cook in his voyage to the Pacific found the 
aborigines living in a pure age of stone, and traded metal exten- 
sively with them ; yet upon his return, only two years later, he found 
that stone tools, which were common at the time of his first visit, 
had almost entirely disappeared from use and were difficult to obtain. 
Lafitau* s remarks in regard to the length of time necessary for the 
fashioning of stone implements were evidently made carelessly and 
in ignorance of the facts, for the necessaries of life were too difficult 
to obtain to permit a lifetime, a year, a season, or even a month, to 
be spent in fashioning a hatchet that might be lost or broken by the 
first careless blow. 

One of the best -known implements found in Europe is the bored 
hammer, called also Thor-hammer, axe-hammer, or Danish hammer. 
Concerning the external shaping of this implement no suggestions 
appear to have been made. They are often found roughly pecked 
into shape, of great symmetry, and are almost invariably bored ; 
frequently, however, they are perfectly smoothed or polished as a 
celt. Figure 5 is of diorit efrom Sweden, and shows the same char- 


acter of work as appears on Figure 3. The whole surface and the 
hole for the handle has been pecked, yet the method of fashioning 
these implements has been declared to be inexplicable. Similar 
objects have been described from the United States, but they must 
be very rare. They are seldom, if ever, found of flint. 

The workmanship of the chipped flint of Europe differs from that 
of the Thor-hammer and celt of tougher material. Flint implements 
are almost, if not invariably, chipped or ground; usually both 
chipped and ground. Flint has a conchoidal fracture, is easily 
worked, and may be readily chipped into almost any shape. If 
battered with a hammer, flint will fracture straight through and the 
implement will be ruined. Figure 6 illustrates a celt of flint from 
Jutland, Denmark, and exhibits very perfectly the chipping and 
grinding process by which flint implements were usually worked. 
Sir John Lubbock, Nillson, Tyler, and Southall attribute the Danish 
hammer to the age of metal, and the suggestion has been advanced 
that the hole has been bored with tools of bronze. Though in the 
two lower cities at Hissarlik, Schliemann found no bronze, he dis- 
covered these hammer axes. Their points often present a battered 
appearance, as though they were used in hammering stone. The 
heavier class of stone implements, upon a careful examination, will be 
found to present (flint excepted) a pecked or battered surface, 
although instances are not uncommon when the hammer marks have 
been almost, if not entirely, ground away and the surface polished. 
The blades and thin edges of implements were ground, since blows 
upon the thin edge would likely fracture it. Figure 7 is a grooved 
axe of water- worn pebble from Northumberland county, Pennsyl- 
vania, showing the natural surface of the pebble, with the groove and 
part of the implement pecked into shape. 

The character of work observable on this class of stone imple- 
ments is the same all over the world. Whether the objects are from 
the ruins of Greece or the village sites of America ; from the lake 
dwellings of Switzerland, Ireland, or Scotland ; whether it be the 
axe-hammer of Scandinavia or the celt from New Zealand, Japan, 
or India ; the statues of Central America and Mexico or the sculpt- 
ures of ancient Egypt and Greece — all present the same character- 
istic pit-marks, the origin of which has heretofore not been satis- 
factorily explained. This origin may be explained readily on the 
supposition that they were made by the hand hammer of stone. It 
has been suggested that man possessed tools made of a copper alloy 
with which the stone objects in question might have been fashioned, 


but no such tools appear to have been found. Another suggestion 
is that the pit-marks were produced by a sharp-pointed stone tool. 
If so, scratches would be left on soft material, and a hard surface 
would break the tool. On the other hand, the stone hammer is 
capable of such work (Figure 2), has actually done it, and more- 
over is commonly found wherever stone implements are met with. 
It may be confidently asserted, for instance, that the hand hammer 
will be found wherever archaic sculpture is discovered, as was the 
case at Mycense. That no special notice of such tools appears in 
connection with these finds can only be explained, as at Mycenae, 
on the ground that excavators have considered the hand hammer 
as pertaining rather to the domestic economy of the ancients than 
to the work of sculpture. At Hissarlik, where Schliemann excavated 
^2)4 feet to bed-rock, he describes seven strata, each stratum being 
occupied by a separate city. Admitting that the accumulation of 
debris in ancient times was greater than at present, a vast number 
of years must have elapsed from the date when the first town was 
settled until the uppermost site was finally abandoned. Objects 
found at Hissarlik or Troy appear to demonstrate that man, living 
in the two lower strata was in the very early part of the age of metal, 
if not m the pure age of stone ; yet stone hammers were found 
in the four lower strata by thousands. Even in the fifth city celts 
were found, but no axe-Jhammers. Schliemann describes a grooved 
hammer, not unlike Figure 2, found only six feet below the surface. 
This would place it only at the bottom of the seventh city. 

Celts were commonly polished, were always graceful in outline, 
and would naturally be preserved. The hammer is homely at best 
and is less sought for by collectors; but from an archaeological 
standpoint the hammer tells us more of ancient times than does the 
celt. It appears singular that archaeological authors, as a rule, have 
paid so little attention to this implement. 

The hammer here shown from the third city of Troy, the one 
from Arizona, as well as those from Switzerland and South Carolina, 
all evidence by their shape and battered edges that the use of the 
implement was similar wherever it was met with. It being shown, 
as in Figure 2, that the pitted appearance on stone implements can 
be produced by the use of the stone hammer and is not to be dis- 
tinguished from the work on celts, axes, etc., the only inference per- 
missible is that the methods of manufacture were in all cases the same. 

In works on archaeology the hammer has received many names, 
and as many different uses, other than that of a fashioning tool, 


have been attributed to it. The process of its manufacture has also 
been variously explained. Among some of the names given by 
writers to this implement are the following: Disc-hammer, hand 
hammer, chipping-hammer, nut-cracker, milling-stone, grain-bruiser, 
corn-crusher, mealing-stone, oval-tool stone. Others have included 
it among the discoidal stones. One says all hammers are bored. 
Another would call implements of this class hammers if they are not 
bored. Another thinks the hammer was intended for driving wedges 
or chisels. Some consider that the pits on the flat surface were 
made with a punch or chisel. One says the use of the tool is un- 
known. It is attributed also to the age of metal. Some authors do 
not apparently consider the stone hammer worth describing. Mans^ 
field Parkyus, in **Life in Abyssinia," says the natives smoothed a 
grinding stone by pecking with a pebble, which was long and 
tedious, but produced a tolerably smooth surface. 

Whether the author is right or wrong in the suggestion as to the 
use of this implement as a pecking stone, it must be admitted that 
the hand hammer is an implement the name, age, and uses of which 
are a subject which has caused a great diversity of opinion. Found 
alike in the caves of England and the continent, in the lake dwell- 
ings of Europe, in the dolmens, in the lowest strata of Troy, or on the 
village sites of recent savage races, it may be considered a universal 
tool, used by man through all ages — a cutting and probably a polish- 
ing tool as well. 

The celt or axe, as well as the pestle and the beautiful discoidal 
or hammer stones, may be pecked into shape by means of the hand 
hammer, and its use is apparent on more than one stone pipe ; the 
same pecking-marks are visible on the statuary and carvings of 
America and Greece and Egypt. When surfaces were to be cut the 
hammer sufficed for the work, even were the stone so hard that a 
steel tool would have been useless. A vast majority of the heavier 
stone objects present evidence of the peculiar work of the ham- 
mer — possess grooves and have few if any angles. The same imple- 
ment after being used to shape the stone would smooth and even 
polish its surface. Copper was employed by the American Indians 
as a stone. Being malleable, it was battered into shape, and all 
early travellers on this continent found it common among the 
Indians. It may even have been used on very soft stones as a cut- 
ting tool. 

The stone hammer of the middle Atlantic coast appears most 
commonly to have been made on a tough, compact and fine-grained 


quartzite. Though softer stones were used, doubtless, when soft ma- 
terial was to be worked, jasper, which will work any stone of which 
implements were made, was probably also employed. The wear 
on the hammer depends largely upon the material worked, and in 
selecting the hammer, it may naturally be supposed the workman 
would consider this. 

The writer began the study of this subject in an effort to demon- 
strate the manufacturing of a grooved-stone axe. It was then observed 
that the surface marks of the celt and the discoidal stones indicate 
a similar method. The ceremonial implements also, and even cer- 
tain of the bird pipes, presented a similar class of work. Finally an 
examination of the collection of the National Museum was made, 
and it was observed that the Mexican and Central American carv- 
ing presented the same surface indications, allowing for difference 
of material, as the celt and axe. There appeared to be but one in- 
ference, and that was that the process of manufacture was similar, 
and that the tool was the same in each instance. The hammer was 
the only tool known to the writer that would produce such results, 
and experiment has shown that the hammer could produce them. 

To return to the process employed by the ancient sculptor : In 
the National Museum there are but few statues, and they are from 
Central America. A careful examination of these objects reveals 
the same pecked surfaces observable on celts and other small imple- 
ments. All the work on these sculptures could readily be done with 
the stone hammer. The material of the sculpture is a volcanic tufa, 
and had an implement like the chisel been used it is submitted that 
lines would be visible indicating the employment. Such is not the 
case, for pecking only appears on them. 

Egyptian sculpture of the earlier dynasties also seems to show 
the same character of pecking that is visible on the sculptures of 
America. In both classes angles are quite unusual, while curved 
lines and grooves are frequent. The same may be said of ancient 
Greek sculpture. If man has gradually advanced from a very low 
stage, and the hammer can be shown to have been the fashioning 
tool of early man, would not it remain so until a superior material 
became available? The engraving of the tablets found at Mycenae, 
as illustrated in Schliemann's work, appear to indicate also the same 
general character of work as is seen on the Central American sculpt- 
ures. As appears from the pit-marks on the surfaces, the furrows are 
all curves — in fact, every detail of manufacture can be explained on 
the theory that they were made by the stone hammer, numbers of 


which were there found. Going further than this, however, it can be 
shown that the early Egyptian sculpture, probably as recent as the 
2oth dynasty, was more likely produced by means of the hand 
hammer than with any other implement, notwithstanding the theory 
Df Mr. Emil Soldi, president of the section of the history of art of 
the Numismatic and Archaeological Society, in his work '* La Sculpt- 
ure Egyptienne/' Paris, 1876, who claims that iron and steel were 
the implements of ancient Egyptian sculpture. He says we are re- 
duced to hypothesis concerning processes employed by artists of the 
Nile, and causes which have impressed on its sculpture its general 
character, that savants have attributed fabulous methods far from 
the real facts ; that the explanation of the Egyptians working the 
hardest materials — granite, basalt, and diorite — was due to youthful 
determination in them as a nation ; it was principally these ma- 
terials, he says, which accounted for their sculptures being so im- 
pressive a-nd remaining of an architectural character. Material and 
process had immense influence on art. Egyptologists have imagined 
peculiar processes of sculpture, but he imagines methods similar to 
those of the present time, and suggests the pointing tool as the im- 
plement used not only to cut and reduce the block, but to fashion 
the hair and produce the broken and irregular lines apparent on the 
sculptures of the Louvre. He further suggests the marteline or 
double-edged pick or hatchet as of frequent use in Egypt, and re- 
marks that there are no evidences of the use of the chisel at an early 
date, and calls attention to the rose granite sphinx of the Louvre, 
and says the polish has not worn away nor the fractures of the point 
which did the modeliiig. He says Mr. Wilkinson claimed the 
Egyptians did their work with a bronze chisel— one of which was 
found in a quarry of soft Theban stone. Mr. Soldi claims that the 
work was done with iron or tempered steel. Iron, he says, was known 
to the Egyptians, and he accounts for its disappearance by the pres- 
ence of nitre in the soil. He shows that elegance and grace first 
appeared in the statuary of the 26th dynasty, and that a peculi- 
arity of the ancient design which represented the four fingers of the 
hand of equal length, divided longitudinally by striae. In Mr. Soldi's 
work are presented two engravings of Theban painting, the one 
representing a sphinx, the other the statue of a man, in each of 
which are individuals polishing the sculptures with discs; there 
also appear figures with objects in their hands, with which they 
seem to be hammering the figures. These illustrations are referred 
to as having peculiar significance in considering the question 


of the use of the hand hammer in carving. There is nothing 
in Mr. Soldi's argument that will not apply with equal force to the 
small Mexican statue illustrated here. Upon it may be seen similar 
pit-marks, and the work is of the character he describes. The head 
has been broken off the neck of this figure, which is unfinished ; the 
pecking is as plain as on Figures 3, 5, and 7. The pose and design 
of this statue may be rude, but it is certainly equal, if not su- 
perior, to a vast majority of the ancient statues of Egypt. Every 
expression used in describing the pitted surface of Egyptian statuary 
has been employed by one author or another in describing celts or 

Ancient man in America was not possessed of iron or steel, nor of 
other hard metal, yet he fashioned discoidal stones, ceremonial 
weapons, animal pipes and figures with stone hammers, any of 
which required more delicate manipulation than did the Egyptian 
statuary of antiquity. Can it be claimed that the Egyptian was the 
inferior of the Indian in producing statuary, both being possessed 
of the same working tool? The bottom of the Homeric city of 
Troy was but thirty-three feet below the surface of the hill of His- 
sarlik. In this city bronze was found. Ten feet above was the 
surface of the burned city. Thus we may safely say that one thou- 
sand years before the Christian era man fashioned tools of bronze 3 
that there were found also stone celts of beautiful shape and pestles 
pf stone, both probably fashioned with the stone hammer. Twenty- 
nine feet deeper than the surface of this destroyed city, nearly on 
bed-rock, Schliemann found gold, lead, and copper that had been 
worked. Here also he found stone hammers by the thousand, celts, 
pestles, discoidal stones, and the Danish bored axe. All these arti- 
cles required skill to manufacture, and in other countries in a like 
stage of development were contemporaneous with rude carving. 
Who can at present suggest the number of centuries that were re- 
quired for the accretion at Hissarlik of twenty-nine feet of detritus? 
Who with our present knowledge would attempt to venture a sug- 
gestion as to the period of time that had elapsed prior to the found- 
ing of this lower city, since man first fashioned implements with a 
pecking hammer and rubbed them smooth, partly at least, with the 
same implement. 

The contention in favor of the use of iron and steel or bronze in 
fashioning celts or statuary of diorite cannot be maintained. The 
stone hammer, in a part of the world at least, was used in shaping 
tools and figures of stone. Is it not a permissible inference that 



[Vol. IV. 

this was the carving tool, not only of the age of stone, but through 
it to that of bronze, and even to a later period, until iron came into 
comparatively common use? Then and then only would stone 
begin to be supplanted by the iron carving tool and sculpture show 
signs of advance; even then, however, first in the softer stones. 

We may well imagine that the hammer first used for chipping 
would soon be employed for pecking the rudest implements. The 
latter in turn would be fashioned with more care, until in time it 
would become possible to shape the rude outlines of man and beast. 
The oft-advanced theories of softening the stones intended to be 
worked, of diamond drills, of hardened copper, of tempered steel, 
in the possession of the Peruvians or Egyptians, are not supported by 
facts, and must give way in favor of the tool all early races possessed, 
the hammer stone, which can readily be shown to do any work on 
stone implement or carving and to do it well and rapidly. 

The views here set forth are supported by the experience of many 
years in the collection and study of implements, as well as by ex- 
periment. Whether or not they are accepted as sound, it is believed 
that an intelligent discussion of the subject by archaeologists will 
advance our knowledge of man in the age of stone. The method 
of the manufacture of pecked implements has been declared to be 
one of the mysteries of archaeology. It is hoped that the mystery 
is here at least partially solved. 

Fig. I — The pitted stone hammer.