25 May 2011

Indian shell tools from Florida - Part 2

After we looked at the Darwin & Dinosaurs exhibit in the Southwest Florida Museum of History in Fort Myers back in April, we went thru the rest of the museum. Expectedly, all of the exhibits were related to Florida history.

Various artifacts said to be Indian tools made from seashells especially attracted my attention. As I noted in this post written after visiting another Florida museum, I sometimes get skeptical when I read about the purported uses of various shell fragments. For example, these hammer-like tools made by securing snail shells to sticks were on exhibit at the SFMH.

Did the tools of the local Indians really look like these or are these the figments of archaeologists' or museum exhibitors' imaginations? Here is another example. This shell fragment was to supposed to have been a hammer. Would it not be more practical simply to use a piece of rock?

It was also stated that snail shell fragments like the one below were used as drinking bowls, especially during the ritualistic "black drink" ceremonies of the southeastern Indian tribes. This is certainly a more reasonable use for a shell.

Finally, there were these objects that were said to be columellas of snail shells. The columella is the central axis of a snail shell around which the whorls of the shell rotate. They were apparently worn as pendants. Perhaps, there are surviving authentic examples on strings.


Zombie said...

Those look like they would hurt!! :p

Vasha said...

Would it not be more practical simply to use a piece of rock?

I don't know about this area of Florida, but some landscapes truly don't have any rocks available. For instance, if they are flat silty lands that deeply cover all bedrock. I remember one anthropological report from New Guinea mentioning that in coastal areas, rocks were valuable items of trade.

thepowmill said...

Perhaps excavations revealed such 'hammers' , although 'club' seems a better term - such as for clubbing fish or a trespasser . It probably could do serious damage to a human skull in an altercation.

Bob Bender said...

Sir, I see you approve comments and could find no other way to contact you. I am an amateur naturalist and curator of the Lowcountry Estuarium in Port Royal, SC. I have been searching for some time and can find nothing in the literature or online regarding snail shell construction beyond the basics calcium carbonate secretion through the mantle. Nothing on how the modest shell exterior projections of the knobbed whelk to the spectacular spines of the murex are formed. Could you please enlighten me or direct me to a source of that information. Thank you, Bob Bender - estuarium@islc.net