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THE AMATEUR ARCHAEOLOGIST ONLINE

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Bird Engravings and Maces After 1600 AD
By Dennis Vesper, ASAA Lifetime Member, Covington, Kentucky

Abstract
Amateur Archaeologist JournalI believe, but will not try to prove, that the mace is the physical symbol of the succession of leadership within the Mississippian archaeological culture — much like the scepter is for Mayan royal succession. I will attempt to show that the mace symbol ties together widely separated peoples of the 1600s. Here we concentrate upon cross-cultural similarities, such as a "Walls Engraved" water bottle from Arkansas as compared to engravings from Missouri's Oneota and Kentucky's Fort Ancient.

Evidence of Copper Maces from Kentucky
Amateur Archaeologist JournalOn July 28, 2004, archaeologist Don Miller uncovered a copper, mace effigy with an adult male skeleton at a site near Petersburg, Kentucky (Figure 1). Petersburg is a small town perched above the Ohio River whose heyday was during the 1800s but whose time of greatest population may have been in the 1600s. An Indian burial from the 1600s produced this copper mace fashioned from metal that may have been supplied via trade with Europeans (Figures 2). Yet another Kentucky burial from the Fox Field site near Mays lick in Mason County produced a similar copper mace (Figure 3).

Evidence of Missouri Maces and in the Greater Mississippian Sphere
Amateur Archaeologist Journal

Amateur Archaeologist Journal The mace symbol appears during the time of the Mississippian culture in a variety of media and a variety of shapes while retaining the generalized form (Figures 4 and 5).
Amateur Archaeologist JournalTwo-dimensional representations of the mace symbol are engraved upon catlinite tablets from the Utz site, Saline County, Missouri. (Figures 6-7) The reader should note throughout this article the repetition of the mace shape, the bird, and the three crest feathers on the head of the bird.

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A Kentucky Tablet and Its Wider Connections
Amateur Archaeologist JournalPrior to 1977, Wayne Griffith found a slate tablet upon the surface of a plowed field in Petersburg, Kentucky. By combining the images engraved into both sides of this tablet, a stylized representation of a bird emerges (Figure 8 and 9). The beak is on one side, and everything rearward of the eye lies on the other side. This bird shows an uncanny similarity to an image upon a tablet from the Utz site shown previously in Figure 7.
Amateur Archaeologist JournalThe mace symbol beginning at the throat of the bird and pointing rearward toward the stomach is somewhat "camouflaged" among the stylized feathers of the bird.

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Comparison to Birds and Maces upon an Arkansas Water Bottle
Amateur Archaeologist JournalShould the reader believe this 'camouflaged' mace on the Kentucky tablet is just a random or accidental series of lines, direct your attention to the image of a hook-beaked, raptor-like bird engraved upon a "Walls Engraved" water bottle from Mississippi County, Arkansas (Figure 10).
Amateur Archaeologist JournalThe style and location of the camouflaged mace on the bird is identical to the Kentucky depiction — right down to the single-bar 'hilt' of the mace. Other hook-beaked birds engraved upon the same water bottle (Figures 11 and 12) should erase any doubt that the mace, beginning at the throat of the bird and pointing toward the stomach, is an accidental accumulation of lines. The depiction of maces upon birds is repeated for a total of nine maces upon nine birds on this one water bottle from Arkansas.

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The "Bird Totem"
Amateur Archaeologist Journal When taking into account all bird engravings known from the Mississippian culture, regardless of media, the closest similarity to the Kentucky long-beaked bird is the long-beaked bird from the Utz site. We may never know whether a crane, egret, ibis, or perhaps a stylized raven is depicted upon artifacts from these two widely separated locations.
Amateur Archaeologist JournalWorthy of mention is the fact that Burial 23 at Petersburg, Kentucky contained both a raven wing bone and a raptor beak as well as the aforementioned copper mace. Elsewhere at Petersburg within trash pits of the Fort Ancient aspect were found a Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperi) beak and a drilled raptor "claw core." It may be argued that in life Burial 23 may have belonged to a generalized or specific "bird clan."
Amateur Archaeologist JournalPossibly the best early (circa 1300 AD) example of the importance of the raptor in Oneota ritual is the evidence from an Oneota cemetery called Norris Farm #36, which is located within the Illinois River Valley. There a child burial was cloaked with what was likely a skin of a raptor. The legs of this raptor lay next to the child's right leg and the beak was on top of the child's skull (Dr. Michael Wiant, personal communication).
Amateur Archaeologist JournalIn order to extend the raptor theme to all sites under consideration in this article, the reader should note a separate and distinct tablet beside the long-beaked bird tablet from Missouri. Both tablets are from the Utz site, however the so called Irvine tablet (Figure 13) depicts a hook-beaked raptor with a mace depicted at the throat. Therefore, both the long-beaked and the hook-beaked birds are depicted with maces on parts of their body on separate catlinite tablets from the Utz site.
Amateur Archaeologist JournalIn summary, mace-on-bird engravings are presented from three states — Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas involving three media — slate, catlinite, and ceramics. Engraved upon these three media are a dozen birds depicted with maces upon or as part of themselves with 11 out of 12 birds having maces at their throats.

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Conclusions
Amateur Archaeologist JournalIn 1943, James Bennett Griffin wrote: "...the Oneota and Fort Ancient sites appear to have been occupied and flourished at approximately the same chronological period and to have had cultural exchanges, as is shown by the presence of definite Fisher and Oneota pottery in Fort Ancient sites...."
Amateur Archaeologist JournalI maintain that at least one individual of the 1600s walked both the grounds of Petersburg, Kentucky and the Utz site, Missouri. One could speculate that this individual became Burial 23 and was exposed on July 28 and 29, 2004, during excavations at Petersburg.
Amateur Archaeologist JournalThe single-bar, copper mace uncovered by Don Miller on the left shoulder of Burial 23 is one of the "patterns that connect" Petersburg and Utz. The iconography represented by this metal artifact is repeated as an engraving upon a slate tablet from Petersburg showing a bird and mace. The iconography is seen again upon the Utz site tablets made of catlinite showing birds and maces.
Amateur Archaeologist JournalThe evidence common to both sites, namely, 1) the mace itself, 2) the location of the engraving of a mace, 3) the engraving of a bird, and 4) the presence of traded copper, leads one to conclude that there was contact between Petersburg Fort Ancient and Missouri Oneota at some point. An iconographical connection is suggested between Missouri Oneota and Walls Engraved pottery from Arkansas and Petersburg Fort Ancient through direct or indirect influence of ideas.
Amateur Archaeologist JournalIn 1997, Penelope Drooker wrote: "The single-barred pendants, particularly those with a pendulous, diamond-shaped base, strongly resemble tail sections of Oneota and Mississippian bird/hawk-shaped symbol badges." The tail sections (Figure 14) of the copper bird-effigies (Figure 15) from Arkansas illustrates the origin of the single-barred pendant or mace as a symbol within the Mississippian cultural sphere at some time during Proto-history.


Bibliography

Bray, Robert T.
1963Amateur Archaeologist Journal
The Utz site. The Missouri Archaeologist 25. Columbia.

Drooker, Penelope
1997Amateur Archaeologist Journal
The View from Madisonville: Prehistoric Fort Ancient Interaction Patterns. University of Michigan. Ann Arbor.

Griffin, James Bennett
1943Amateur Archaeologist Journal
The Fort Ancient Aspect: Its Cultural and Chronological Position in Mississippi Valley Archaeology. University of Michigan. Ann Arbor.

Henderson, A. Gywnn
2006Amateur Archaeologist Journal
The Prehistoric Farmers of Boone County, Kentucky. Kentucky Archaeological Survey, Education Series 8: 32, 37. Lexington.

Jolly, Fletcher III.
1983Amateur Archaeologist Journal
Late prehistoric designs from engraved Mississippian vessels. Central States Archaeological Journal 30 (1): 7-16.

Merriam, Larry and Christopher
2004Amateur Archaeologist Journal
The Spiro Mound: A Photo Essay. Merriam Station Books. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Schuster, Carl and Edmund Carpenter
1996Amateur Archaeologist Journal
Patterns That Connect. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York.

Vesper, Dennis
1979Amateur Archaeologist Journal
Engraved bird on slate. Ohio Archaeologist 29(4): 13.

Wiant, Michael
2007Amateur Archaeologist Journal
Personal communication

Captions and Figures
Click image for full view.

Amateur Archaeologist Journal

Figure 1. Copper mace effigy (pendant) excavated by Don Miller in Burial 23, Petersburg site, Kentucky. Photo from Henderson (2006).

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Figure 2. Burial 23 from Petersburg, Kentucky with copper mace upon left shoulder. Drawing from Henderson (2006).

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Figure 3. Copper mace discovered by Son Atkinson at the Fox Field site, Mason County, Kentucky.

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Figure 4. Four stone maces from Spiro Mound made from Mill Creek and Kaolin cherts (see Merriam 2004).

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Figure 5. Depictions of the mace symbol on a variety of media — slate, catlinite, pottery, and cannel coal.

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Figure 6. This engraved mace symbol was found at the Utz site in Missouri. A similar mace, which is depicted together with a bird, was engraved upon a stone tablet from Kentucky.

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Figure 7. Design elements of the long-beaked bird from the Missouri tablet after Bray (1963).

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Figure 8. Artist Steve Vesper's rendering of a bird with mace with the original photos above the rendering after Vesper (1979).

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Figure 9. Image of mace "dissected" from bird body engraved upon tablet from Petersburg site.

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Figure 10. Image of a bird with camouflaged mace engraved at the beginning of the throat upon a water bottle from Arkansas.

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Figure 11. Another bird engraved upon the same water bottle from Arkansas as shown in Figure 10.

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Figure 12. A third bird engraved upon the same water bottle as Figures 10 and 11. A total of 9 birds are engraved upon this bottle.

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Figure 13. Location of a mace [inside rectangle] on a raptor-type bird engraved upon a tablet — known as the Irvine Tablet — from the Utz site, Missouri. Design after Bray (1963).

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Figure 14. Close-up of the squared portion of a raptor tail, which became the squared hilt of the mace symbol. This squared portion with further stylizations is the origin of the mace symbol.

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Figure 15. Full figures in copper of raptors from Arkansas. The double-claws of the raptor became the squared hilt of a mace. Reprinted with permission Central States Archaeological Journal (October 1972 issue).

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