Transporting and Caching Lithic Material in Biface Form

Tony Baker       January 25, 2001

The transporting and caching of lithic material in biface form are common topics in the current archaeological literature. This is especially so in writings about paleoindians and the imported material (exotics) they used. So when I came across the following account, I had to share it with the reader. It is from The Stone Age in North America by Warren K. Moorehead, published in 1910 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. The image is from page 51 and the account from pages 216-220 of vol. 1.

In many portions of the United States deposits of flint implements have been found. These were called caches from the obvious fact that they were buried temporarily, and that in time the owners would seek them again. Numbers of finds of caches reported during the past thirty years are cited in the Bibliography, under "Caches" and also "Discs." Although many caches have been reported, there must have been an unknown number discovered by farmers and laborers of which no record was ever kept. One of the most important was a report by Dr. J. F. Snyder, of Virginia, Illinois, and described at length in the Archaeologist (October, 1893). The largest deposit was in mound number 22 of the Hopewell group, and from this we took out 7532 flint discs about six inches in diameter and a half inch thick, when we explored the group, in 1891-2. These are now on exhibit in the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. (See Fig. 42.) Squier and Davis had taken out about six hundred in 1845, and prior to our official count, we gave to Mr. Hopewell and others about fifty, so that the grand total was nearly eighty-five hundred. In the case of the Hopewell deposit these discs represented a storage of raw material. The discs were not placed in that mound as an offering. There were no burials and no altars.

Many years later I (Moorehead) discovered the quarries on Little River, Tennessee (Kentucky), eighteen miles south of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, whence, I am persuaded, this flint was obtained. It was of the nodular variety, gray-blue in character, and could be easily worked. The quarry showed signs of extensive working.

After a thorough investigation I concluded that the ancient people had quarried this flint, worked it down to convenient disc form for distribution, and taking it in canoes down the Little River to the Cumberland, down the Cumberland to the Ohio, up the Ohio to the Scioto, and thence to North Fork of Paint Creek, landed it one half mile from the Hopewell village. The distance by water would be seven or eight hundred miles, as near as I can judge. If the material was not brought in this manner, it must have been obtained by trade, and one can scarcely conceive of over eight thousand discs weighing from one fourth to two thirds of a pound each, being carried overland on the back of Indians from northwest Tennessee to central Ohio.

In spite of the great quantity of material stored in the Hopewell mound referred to, yet most of the chipped objects on the village-sites of the Hopewell group and in the mounds were made of Flint Ridge material, instead of the nodular flint of the cache. My theory is that the deposit was made in the last years of the occupancy of the Hopewell group, and for that reason the Indians did not make general use of it.

More information about the Little River quarries can be found at The Clovis/Folsom Transition

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