I knew when I saw the rounded hand-sized rock that it was more than “just a rock”. It was a stone tool, & probably several thousand years old.
There is something special about holding a stone I know once was held in another woman’s hand, possibly as long ago as 6000 B.C. (I’ve since found other references that date tools like this one to only about 1500 years ago. so I don’t really know when it was last used, but “a long time ago” seems to suffice, lol.) It’s exciting to find arrowheads and spear points as well, but they don’t carry the same metaphysical connection the women’s tools do.
The shape insisted that it be held with the fatter side against the skin of my palm. I know this because my fingers only felt “right” in certain spots. There are barely perceptible indentations in the stone, just perfect for my fingers. The weight and balance makes the holding of it uncomfortable in any other position and it just feels *right* in the one instinctive grip.
My fingers curled over toward the rounded edges of the more narrow side. I knew, with no reservations at all, this was exactly where another woman’s fingers gripped this very same rock thousands of years before. Thousands of years. Consider the enormity of that statement. I know you’ve run your hands over antiques before, perhaps those your grandparents left behind when they passed from this world. I love how that feels, to make that physical contact with something we know a loved one also touched at some point.
This rock wasn’t held by one of my ancestors in blood, but she knew intimately this land I now call home. We are connected also by right of genetics in that we are both women and both know the desire to make food or medicine. My desire to do this is manifest in other ways, usually, like going to the grocery store or by growing vegetables in my garden or harvesting the medicinal plants that grow here. The urge and drive to provide food for loved ones or self is the same. I wrote a post about this a few years ago and have reposted it here, if you’d like to read it. It’s called Hunt Food, Gather Firewood.
It’s a pestle rock that likely originally had a matching bowl used as mortar, but the bowl was nowhere to be seen. This was a tool used day after day to crack soft nuts or acorns and grind meal. Most likely it was also used to grind herbs and roots for medicines. It could also have been used to sand and smooth the shafts of arrows or limbs of a bow. If this one had been used often in this way, though, there would be deep grooves from passing the rock over the same shaped item over and over. The rock is made of sandstone. I’m not sure whether it was originally made of clay and sandstone and then fired, or if it was shaped in some other way to become the pleasing offset-rounded shape that it is now.
Here’s a link to a text on the Ozark Bluff Dwellers. It’s fascinating to read about the people who lived in this same area so long ago: https://archive.org/stream/ozarkbluffdwel00harr/ozarkbluffdwel00harr_djvu.txt.
One of the side effects of using sandstone tools like this was grit in the food. This likely caused havoc on the teeth, as suggested by this study: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/2985353/posts.
I’ll bring it with me when I set up my booth this year during the market so other people can hold and feel this connection to a bygone era of many years past. It’s a connection, a very strong connection, to our human nature and to a time when people lived with no separation at all between themselves and Nature.
Here’s another stone tool I found in almost the same place on the driveway. This one also has one way to hold it. There’s a dimple in the top where my thumb desires to press. I think this one was used also for cracking nuts but perhaps it was used as well to break the bonds in hides so it would become soft and pliable during tanning. This rock is not made of the same material. It’s very smooth on the surface.
Some websites for more information:
Predator and Prey, or the hunter and the hunted is a common theme throughout my fiction writing. No Qualms, one of my short stories (free at most retailers) is about about a predator/prey relationship. Symbiosis, my first finished novel, not published yet, deals with predator/prey relationships and the balance of energy among life on earth, sometimes symbolic and often outright. Many of my flash fiction stories (I have twitterfiction and 100-word flash stories) are also dealing with this same dynamic. This is a strong theme that runs through most of my fiction and is strongly influenced by life in the wild Ozarks where we live. My first published novel, First Hunt, also has a predator and prey theme to it. I guess it's just part of my nature.
Wild Ozark is 160 acres of beautiful wild Ozark mountains. I call what I do "nature farming" because the land produces, all by itself, the shagbark hickory trees, ferns, moss, ground-fall botanicals, and the perfect habitats for growing and stewarding American ginseng. I'm co-creating with Nature - all of the things I use to make the Fairy Gardens and Forest Folk, the bark we harvest for Burnt Kettle's shagbark hickory syrup, are produced by nature without my input. This land is my muse for inspiration when it comes to my writing, drawing, and photography. It's truly a Nature Farm.
About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods
I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.