Friday, September 28, 2012

Grooved Maul

This is the stone head of a hammer that was used by Plains Indian groups for processing bison carcasses.  Its called a grooved maul because of the pecked channel that was tapped out around its middle.   Its made on a glacially rounded and deposited quartzite cobble and you can see how one end has been flattened through use.  A maul like this would have been hafted to a handle made from a bent sapling that was wrapped through the notch and tied in place.   This one was found northwest of Vulcan, Alberta and would have been used to break open bones to extract marrow or pound dried meat to make pemmican.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Hello, when I saw this I immediately thought of european Bronze Age where there also are such artifacts, though used in metallurgy (for breaking up big ore I think). I'm not sure from the top of my head and can't cite anything, but I think analyses have proven there are copper marks on the work surface.

    Could these also have been used in metallurgy? Native American archaeology certainly benefits from the recentness that we in Europe lack for prehistoric ages, so you probably have ethnographic evidence as well.

    Your blog is fantastic by the way, thanks for sharing what you do.

    Best wishes from Slovakia!
    Roman Vávra

    1. That's an interesting observation. Grooved mauls show up in archaeological sites across North America, and while the specific one that I've shown here was most likely used by nomadic bison hunters on the plains there are mauls found elsewhere that would have been used differently. On the Northwest coast mauls like this are part of the woodworking tool kit. Metallurgy wasn't part of the culture on the northern plains until trade metals start showing up in the last few hundred years, while mauls like this are found at bison processing sites well before that time.

      Still, there was some copper working done in the Great Lakes and Mississippi part of the continent. I don't know enough about the tools used to work the copper to say whether or not grooved mauls would have been part of the metallurgy kit in that area. Maybe another reader knows?

  2. I saw one of these recently. How are the grooves made?
    Thanks for your blog and FB page!

    1. The grooves are made by pecking, which means repeatedly striking the maul with a hammer stone to slowly chip out small chips. It takes a while.


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