Friday, February 19, 2010

? ? ? WHAT IS IT ? ? ? ?

This week’s blog features a new topic ? ? ? WHAT IS IT ? ? ? ?

The idea is to post an unusually unique artifact that fits the “problematic” category of artifact typology. For each WHAT IS IT topic we encourage the readers of TWIPA to comment on the object along with comparable information (i.e. photographs, drawings etc.) that will contribute to the identification of the featured object.

This week’s submission is the artifact category “ceremonial pick”. Although this artifact type is rarely encountered in collections, we have seen examples from private and institutional (museum) collections. In fact, there is a similar example of one in the “Problematic” case on exhibit in the Hall of Anthropology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. However, this particular specimen displays a bit edge fashioned on one end.

All of the specimens that we have seen are complete, quite symmetrical and made from an olive brown to dark brown fine grained stone. Dimensions range from 8.25 inches to 9.5 inches in length with a maximum cross-sectional diameter of .75 inch to 1.00 inch. Weights range from 5.1 to 6.4 oz.

In next week’s blog we will unveil the mystery of the “ceremonial pick” and provide additional information on this unique artifact type.

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .


  1. This " pick " is not an Indian artifact. Many collectors, and ebayers are selling these things as ceremonial picks. They are antiques. What they are? They're scythe sharpening stones made from compressed graphite.A scythe is an implement which was used to cut wheat and other crops. They have a long steel blade attached to a long curved handle. The stone should have a small hole in one end. This is to attach a metal ring in order to hang the stone in a shed or on a wall. The Amish people still use them today to sharpen their steel cutting implements. I GUARANTEE, these are not Indian related. Paul

  2. While some of these artifacts may be historic scythe-sharpeners, many are definitively ancient having been found in prehistoric graves. See
    Halsey, John R. 1984 The Ceremonial Pick: A Consideration of Its Place in Eastern Woodlands Prehistory. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 9(1):43-62.