Bird-Shaped Tools

Whether or not these were ever actually used as tools, these bird-form stones were fashioned to provide at least potential utility.

Note the image on both sides, and the contouring for a right-handed grasp.


An assortment of bird-form picks and gouges from 33GU218.

Aside from the overall morphology, a distinct eye in the anatomically correct location is often present, either pecked or in raised relief.


Artifact from Day's Knob Archaeological Site

50,000 Years Old? - Pre-Clovis Artifact from Topper Archaeological Site
Above left, a simple bird-form implement from Day's Knob.  Right, the same form and size from the Topper site in South Carolina, tentatively dated to about 50,000 years BP.

For comparison, a bird-form tool from Hamburg-Wittenberg, Germany, putatively from 200,000 BP.  These images are quite common in European Paleolithic artifacts.         (Photo by Prof. Walther Matthes)

Also from Germany, this beautiful flint piece is from the collection of Ursel Benekendorff.



From England, the collection of Richard Wilson.


Larger bird figures from Day's Knob, likely not tools other than the one lower right (this one probably only potentially; it seems that both utility and symbology were just routinely incorporated into a carved stone).


Hand Axes from Day's Knob - Length 24 cm (9.5") - (inverted with bit edge on top)




Sharp-edged celt/chopper - Length 30 cm (11.8")

The fact that readily identifiable bird-form tools appear in many parts of the world does little in itself to indicate where North America's first inhabitants came from.  It does suggest, however, that aside from the long-standing significance of bird forms everywhere, focusing exclusively on styles of flint points and blades is missing a large part of the picture.  (Incidentally, it seems to be a notion peculiar to American archaeologists that earlier humans used only flint or similar rock in their lithic tool making.  When available in quantity, flint certainly was the material of choice for heavy-duty cutting tools and scrapers, and projectile points.  But it clearly was not the only material used for tools, and vast numbers of these and simple symbolic/decorative objects of other rock have gone unnoticed because of this bias built into classical archaeological training.)

The finely crafted symbolic/decorative birdstones of the Archaic and Woodland Periods in North America are well known.  Likely these are refined forms of the earlier bird forms shown above.  Below:  Two common forms of this birdstone - "saddleback" left -15 cm (6"),  and "popeyed" right - 7.5 cm (3").


Below:  Bird-form edged and pointed tools of chert and other hard rock, of unusual manufacture, found by Rick Doninger at a location in central Tennessee, the longest being about 10 cm (4").  Some of these are distinctly in the "saddleback" form, suggesting that they might represent a stage in the transition of the birdstone from a utilitarian to a purely symbolic object.  Their style seems more or less characteristic of the Late Archaic Period.


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