By Richard Michael Gramly PhD,
American Society for Amateur Archaeology
North Andover, Massachusetts

Amateur Archaeologist JournalThe known distribution of zoomorphic effigy stone beads dating to the Middle and Late Archaic period has been confined to five Southeastern states, namely, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama with Mississippi having the highest number in private and public collections (Crawford 2003: 76). Here is reported the first discovery of one of these remarkable artifacts in Florida. Since a source of the bead’s raw material (red jasper) is not present in Florida and its style and execution are identical to specimens from Mississippi, evidently the bead was introduced from afar — likely by direct exchange or trade.

Location of the Discovery
Amateur Archaeologist JournalDuring the late 1980s Rex Brown, formerly of Belmont, New York, but now a resident of Trenton, Florida, was traveling southwest on Interstate 4 where it crosses the St. Johns River just downstream from Lake Monroe, Volutia County. From the bridge above the river Mr. Jones spotted a point of land on the right bank, which appeared to be a promising place for Indian artifacts (Figure 1). With permission of the property owners, who were seasonal residents from Vermont, Mr. Jones excavated on the point until permission finally was withdrawn.

Amateur Archaeologist JournalAccording to Rex Jones, his digging yielded numerous stemmed, flaked stone points, potsherds and “camp debris.” In his opinion the most noteworthy discoveries were a complete Middle Archaic projectile point of the Newnan type (restored from two fragments found 20-40 feet apart) and a figural bead made of red stone. He assumed that the raw material of the bead was catlinite — something he had encountered from time to time on historic Iroquoian archaeological sites in his native New York state.

Attributes of the Bead (Figs. 2 and 3)
Amateur Archaeologist JournalThe artifact is a detailed, small sculpture — a composite animal formed from a stylized four-footed mammal with an upturned tail and a winged creature. The wings are shown folded along both sides of its body in the manner of a locust or bird. The sculpture has been neatly drilled longitudinally from its “mouth” (diameter of hole = 2.4 mm) to “anus” (diameter = 1.75 mm). The bore of the drill-hole is highly polished — an indicator that the bit used for drilling was nearly the same hardness as the material being perforated. The ancient sculptor was careful to halt drilling as the bit broke through, leaving a slight ridge just inside the exit hole.

Amateur Archaeologist JournalThe legs of the composite animal and its head are modeled as tabs, which is a convention that is observed among some Archaic stone beads of the Southeast (Crawford ibid.: Figs. 7 and 11). These tabs are only slightly less thick than the animal’s body, which is 6.7 mm. The length of the body is 34.1 mm; while, its maximum height (measured from hind feet to tip of tail) is 18.6 mm.

Amateur Archaeologist JournalThe raw material of the bead is jasper, colored “moderate red, 5R 4/6” as referenced in the U.S.G.S. Rock-Color Chart (1975). The weight of the artifact is a scant 5.7 grams.

Other Examples
Effigy stone beads are regarded as hallmarks of the Archaic Poverty Point culture of the Mississippi River Lowland, which is known for its lapidary art and use of hard stones such as hematite, quartz crystal, and felsite porphyry (for example, Ford et al. 1955, Lehman 1981, Neuman and Hawkins 1982, Gibson 1983); however, as Crawford (Ibid.) has argued, the majority of effigy beads may pre-date occupation of the Poverty Point site itself. Plain and effigy stone beads were being made 2-3,000 years earlier during the Middle Archaic and late Middle Archaic and are likely associable with the Benton archaeological culture and its temporal equivalents. The effigy bead from Florida reported here likely is a product of one of these older cultural expressions.

Amateur Archaeologist JournalA good deal of what is known about the manufacture of beads, from preliminary stages to the finished product, is based upon discoveries of caches or groups buried together. The most informative group is the Keenan bead cache, which came to light during the 1870s in Lawrence Co., Mississippi (Connaway 1981). Like the Rex Brown find from Florida, specimens of the Keenan cache were made of red jasper. Likewise, the Fulton and Carpenter caches analyzed by Crawford (Ibid.) are dominated by this raw material. Among these caches beads sculpted as mammals with tab head and feet plus an upturned tail predominate. They are incredibly similar in shape and size to one another and to the specimen from Florida.

Amateur Archaeologist JournalAdditionally, the writer has observed isolated red jasper mammal effigy beads in the Kent Westbrook collection that are identical in most of their attributes to the bead from Florida. Even the diameters of the longitudinal perforation of the Rex Brown bead are close matches to specimens owned by Westbrook. These correspondences — despite the hundreds of miles separating eastern peninsular Florida and southern Mississippi — bespeak manufacture by ancient craftsmen who belonged to the same atelier.

Amateur Archaeologist JournalJessica Crawford has drawn our attention to a cluster of effigy bead occurrences along the Gulf of Mexico at the mouths of the Pascagoula and Pearl Rivers (Ibid.: Figs. 28 and 32). She has designated this grouping the “Pascagoula/Pearl Cluster” (Ibid.: 90). Perhaps within this part of Mississippi (Figure 4) was an embarkation point for coastal traders who were bound for Florida population centers? All in all, an ocean route between Mississippi and Florida may have been the easiest for traders to follow and — apart from storms on open seas — the safest one as well.


Amateur Archaeologist JournalI wish to thank author, Jessica Crawford, for providing me a copy on diskette of her thesis and collector, Dr. Kent Westbrook, who furnished a printed and bound copy of Jessica’s thesis.


References Cited


Connaway, John

Crawford, Jessica F.

1981Amateur Archaeologist Journal
The Keenan bead cache, Lawrence County, Mississippi. Pp. 57-71 in Jon L. Gibson (ed.) Louisiana Archaeology. Bulletin of the Louisiana Archaeological Society No. 8. Lafayette.
2003Amateur Archaeologist Journal
Archaic Effigy Beads: A New Look at Some Old Beads. Unpublished Masters dissertation. University of Mississippi.


Ford, James A., Philip Phillips, and William G. Haag
1955Amateur Archaeologist Journal
The Jaketown Site in West-Central Mississippi. Anthro-pological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 45(1). New York.


Gibson, Jon
1983Amateur Archaeologist Journal
Poverty Point. Anthropological Study, Louisana Archaeological Survey and Antiquities Commission No. 7. Baton Rouge.
Lehman, Geoffrey R.
1981Amateur Archaeologist Journal
The Slate site: A Poverty Point lapidary industry in the Southern Yazoo Basin, Mississippi. Pp. 37-56 in Jon L. Gibson (ed.) Louisiana Archaeology.Bulletin of the Louisiana Archaeological Society No. 8. Lafayette.


Neuman, Robert W. And Nancy W. Hawkins
1982Amateur Archaeologist Journal
Louisiana Prehistory. Anthropological Study, Louisiana Archaeological Survey and Antiquities Commission No. 6. Baton Rouge.


United States Geological Survey
1975Amateur Archaeologist Journal
Rock-Color Chart. Boulder, Colorado.


Captions and Figures (click images for a large view)

Amateur Archaeologist Journal


Figure 1. Map of where the St. Johns River emerges from Lake Monroe, Volutia Co., Florida showing site where Rex Brown unearthed the Archaic figural bead made of red jasper.

Figure 2. Photograph of the Rex Brown figural stone bead. Length = 34.1 mm.

Figure 3. Drawing by Steve Wallmann of the Rex Brown jasper bead from a site on the St. Johns River, Volutia Co. Length = 34.1 mm.

Figure 4. Effigy bead findspots in Mississippi of the Pascagoula/Pearl Cluster at the Gulf of Mexico (check-marks). After Crawford 2003: Figure 32.


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