Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 13, No. 4
December, 1935

By H. R. Antle

Page 470

The finding of a single or of several metates anywhere in the prehistoric agricultural section of North America is no remarkable occurrence; when, however, a goodly number of them are discovered thrown together in a very restricted area, it is somewhat unusual. In the first part of this year 1935, the writer found thirty-two of these implements occupying an area one hundred and sixty-five feet long and one hundred feet wide.

A metate, as most know, is an aboriginal grinding-mill. Grain, seeds, acorns, etc., are reduced to a more or less finer form for various culinary purposes. They range in design from mere depressions in an exposed bed-rock to elaborate carved affairs, symbolic in nature. It is generally assumed that the more simple the construction the more primitive the culture of the people using the article. Too, simplicity is theorized as indicative of antiquity.

The thirty-two metates herein reported were located on a wooded slope in the extreme eastern part of Pontotoc County, twelve miles north of Tupelo. The site was two hundred feet west of a temporary stream and in elevation, thirty-five feet above the creek bed. The implements consisted of shallow excavations made into massive fragments of limestone broken from a higher exposed outcropping of rock. Each fragment appeared to be a natural breakage caused by erosion of the hillside, the subsequent undermining of the ledge breaking the rock which, when broken, started a downhill migration. The excavations were relatively small in comparison to the size of the fragments they were in, some pieces weighing as high as three hundred pounds and with depressions only eight to ten inches in diameter and four to five inches deep.

A clear indication of antiquity was shown by the complete overturning of some of the fragments by the action of growing trees.

Page 471

At the initial examination of the area, only eight of the metates were exposed. By removing the underbrush, rotting stumps, and scraping away the top soil, the remaining twenty-four were brought to light. Two of these latter were overturned, as mentioned before, by the action of growing trees. Roots of other trees ensnared four more of the group.

During removal of the surface soil, a number of so-called 'bird points' and one spearhead were found. The latter was four inches long and two inches wide near the shaft. The former were less than an inch length, one being only one-half an inch long. The fineness of their workmanship was in sharp contrast to the crudeness of the metates.

A thorough examination of the locality failed to reveal any additional archaeological material.


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