Thursday, July 17, 2008

Amateur Archaeology

The pick struck something hard. I was digging near an area with a layer of caliche and assumed that was what I had struck. Caliche is hardened soil in which the soil particles are cemented together by calcium carbonate. It's like a layer of cement a few inches thick. I took another blow with more force, broke through and a piece of sandstone came out of the ground with the pick.

I stopped digging immediately.

I live in a volcanic area and the closest sandstone is a few miles away. I had discovered something unusual that must to have been carried to this location by a person. It was over a foot deep beneath some small roots from a Juniper growing several feet away so it had been placed here many years ago.

Uncovering the stone.
Uncovering the stone. (Larger version)

I brushed the soil away and began uncovering the edges of the stone and searching for other stones. In the end I found one piece that was oval and about 20 inches in length.

In seminary I had a professor who excavated a site in the Biblical city of Ai. He explained that he paid workers to scrub pottery shards to clean them. Another archaeologist on another dig paid workers to dip pottery shards repeatedly in buckets of water to clean them. The professor laughed when he said "My friend found writing on his shards. I never found writing. The workers had scrubbed it away."

With that small education in archeology I pieced he broken stone together and examined it. No decorations or painting. No soot from a fire. The edges were not the result of natures work but had been shaped by some person.

What have I found?

One person thought it might have been used to cook bread but there are no signs of it having been in an oven.

A second person was confident it was a stone used as a shrine.

I asked a co-worker who is Hopi and she quickly nixed these explanations. She thought it looked like similar to a piki stone but commented that it hadn't been seasoned so that didn't explain it.

The stone in 3 pieces.
The stone in 3 pieces. (Larger version)

What is a piki stone? I asked and she explained that it is a stone used to make piki bread which is a traditional Hopi bread. Piki is made using blue corn meal, water and Juniper ashes. According to Wikipedia the batter is "smeared by hand over a large flat baking stone that has been heated over a fire and coated with oil made from pounded squash, watermelon, or sunflower seeds." (

If this is a piki stone it wasn't used because it shows no signs of being coated with oil and used in a fire.

I don't know what I've found but I going to continue searching for an explanation.

The reassembled stone.
The reassembled stone. (Larger version)

My co-worker said she would make some Piki bread and bring it to work. I'm looking forward to trying the bread!


Blogger Buffalo said...

How cool is this? I hope you are able to find out more. Is it possible you are sitting on top of a treasure trove of artifacts?

7/17/2008 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I think you're getting awfully Piki.

Re post below: you're too &^%$ smart.

7/17/2008 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

It's a two-dimensional sculpture of an egg!

7/17/2008 08:46:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home