Chickasaw Indian Cutting Tools

The Chickasaw nation once inhabited much of the southeastern United States, particularly areas in northern Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama. A seminomadic hunting people, the Chickasaw traveled throughout their range in search of resources, sometimes raiding tribes to the north. Removed to Oklahoma in the 1800s, the tribe brought much of its cutting tool technology with them. Lightweight and skillfully crafted, Chickasaw cutting tools were created primarily with flint knapping until the Europeans introduced metalworking.

  1. Knives

    • Knives were an important commodity for the Chickasaw. Made from stone or naturally occurring metal, knives were carried daily for eating, hunting or woodworking. Flint and chert were the most common blade materials, shaped using highly developed knapping, or stone-working, techniques. Once shaped, the blades were lashed to antler or bone handles using sinew wrappings and pine pitch glue. Rarely, metal knives have been found in Chickasaw archaeological sites. It is not clear whether these were created by the tribe or acquired via trade. Made from unalloyed copper, the blades are typically not sharpened, leading archaeologists to hypothesize that they were for ceremonial purposes only.

    Axes

    • Axes held both practical and symbolic importance to the Chickasaw. Early types were created from soapstone, carved with symbols and sacred imagery. Weighing about 2 pounds on average, axe heads were affixed to handles made of hickory or maple wood. They were used for practical tasks like chopping wood and warfare, but were also important in diplomatic and ceremonial venues. Throwing axes, or tomahawks, were of similar construction to chopping axes but with a small counterweight on the opposite end of the cutting edge. This produced a tumbling effect when thrown, allowing the thrower greater accuracy and force.

    Celts

    • Celts are woodworking tools resembling axe heads used for cutting and splitting logs. Made of hard igneous rock, they were painstakingly formed by knapping the stone and then abrading the uneven edge. Unlike other axe heads, celts lacked a groove for affixing them to handles and were instead passed through a hole in a finished handle and secured in place with animal hoof glue. Commonly found in Chickasaw archaeological sites, celts are one of the oldest known cutting tools.

    Arrow and Spear Tips

    • Arrow and spear points are the most commonly discovered Chickasaw artifacts. Several styles were used, from tiny bird-hunting points to large, full-length spearheads. Both were created using flint knapping techniques and a variety of rock types. The preferred rock for all types of arrow and spearheads was Dover chert from Tennessee, a fine-grained sedimentary rock that is easily worked, strong and abundant. All Chickasaw arrowheads were triangular in shape with subtle notching at the base for attaching to shafts. Spearheads were narrow and symmetrical without any notching, instead relying on a split-ended shaft and animal-hide glue for attachment.

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References

  • "Tools of Native Americans"; Kim Kavin; 2006
  • "Chickasaw Society and Religion"; John R. Swanton; 2001
  • "Archaeology of the Southeastern United States: Paleoindian to World War I"; Judith Ann Bense; 2009
  • Photo Credit indian arrowhead image by Jim Mills from Fotolia.com

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