Question for the Curator: Possible hammerstone?

June 8, 2009

We recently recieved a question through our blog from Savannah, who was wondering if a rock she had found might have once been used as a knapper’s hammer. It seemed to fit perfectly in the hand and had a great place for the thumb to grip it. We passed her question along to Dirk to see what he thought.

“I found a stone in my subdevelopment. On examination, is seems like it is very well fitted to my grandfather’s right hand, with smooth places where the fingers, thumb and heal of hand fit. It seems much like a knapper’s hammer. I was wondering if it looks like hammers you have seen before.”

– Savannah


Good question. My first reaction was that there would need to be some evidence of this stone being used as a hammer. I would expect to see flake scars, places where the hammer stone suffered damage from the hammering and where pieces split off. Something like this:


Here you can see where the hammer hit the other surface and suffered damage as a result.

However, I also came across the following image where there did not appear to be any damage, or where it was much harder to prove that there was man-made damage:


The stone we see in Savannah’s photo may have been used as a hammer stone. However, the argument that it had nice polished surfaces in the right place for people to hold it is not one that I would use in favor of this identification, though. That reflects our thinking where our tools have that kind of feature.

Bottom line is: it could be, but we would need a microscope analysis of the surface to see if there is any evidence of use wear.


Authored By Dirk Van Tuerenhout

As curator of anthropology, Dirk is responsible for the museum’s artifact collection and is involved in its temporary and permanent anthropology exhibits. Dirk is an expert in human cultures; he curates the Museum’s Hall of the Americas and specializes in native American cultures like the Aztec and Maya.

One response to “Question for the Curator: Possible hammerstone?”

  1. john Pattillo says:

    Hi there I have also found a stone like the one in the first photo mine also fits in the Pam of hand very well and when you wrapp your fingers round it there are two marks where the fingers are I think this could be neolithic

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