What is in this article?:
- Mississippi Delta farmland has produced some of the finest examples of Native American stonework and pottery yet found in the United States. Terry Smith has spent the last 20 years amassing an astounding, museum-quality collection of Delta Indian artifacts.
Terry Smith, Smith & Weiland, Clarksdale, Miss., holds a fine example of an Indian celt made from green stone. He often surveys and does engineering work for Delta farmers, and has spent the last 20 years amassing a museum-quality collection of Delta Indian artifacts.
Celts and arrowheads
Celts were used as hatchets or utility tools and are difficult to find. They are Smith’s item of choice and he has boxes of them — a remarkable assortment of stones and styles. Celts were often not made in the traditional flaking style of arrowheads, but shaped with a pecking process instead. With a hard hammer stone, Indians sometimes crafted celts by patiently pecking away — a drawn-out and laborious task. With a smooth surface and distinct coloration, celts are ideal for a fast-moving Smith to spot.
(For photos of Smith's collection, see Delta farmland reveals secrets of Indian history)
But regardless of the stone — big or small — Smith marvels at the technological prowess possessed by the Native Americans. Shaping even the simplest form of an arrowhead (He has boxes and jars overflowing with arrowheads.) involved complicated technique and artisanship. “There was a very distinct process of heat-treating the rock. They changed the structure and nature of the rock using controlled heat, and stoked a fire to a certain level with deep coals and then threw sand on the coals. That sand then gets extremely hot and acts like a filter, letting the heat through in a controlled fashion. If a raw rock was just thrown on coals, it would heat up too much on one side and fracture. The raw rocks were put on the sand, covered with a second layer of sand, and then allowed to bake. When the heat and time were right, the rocks were removed and struck. When done right, it put a sheer fracture on the rocks — engineering to some degree. You can’t second-guess that the Indians didn’t have a deep understanding and know-how of the mechanics of stone.”