Custer County mano

Manos and Mullers

Manos and mullers refer to the handstones used in conjunction with milling basins and metates for grinding seeds or grains into flour. They are common artifacts on many archaeological sites throughout Oklahoma. They were utilized over several thousand years, earlier for grinding wild plant products and later for grinding maize (corn).

The term "mano" is commonly used for these artifacts but it should properly be used for the handstone associated with the metate. Some archaeologists have suggested that the term "mano" be reserved for the hands tones that are used on the metate in a back and forth or washboard motion, and that the term "muller" be used for hands tones that are used on milling basins or milling slabs with a rotary grinding motion. While this distinction seems satisfactory, it is not always clear in looking at the handstone for what style of grinding it was utilized. Although both the milling basin and handstone were common artifacts, rather few studies of them have been done, and there is little current agreement on terminology.

These artifacts are made of hard stone, commonly a fine grained sandstone, and they vary considerably in size, shape, and workmanship. In general, they are oval, roughly rectangular, or circular in outline with one or two grinding surfaces (Figure 18). They range in workmanship from conveniently shaped stones which have been used as a grinding stone on one surface only, to carefully shaped ovate or rectangular specimens which are carefully formed and used on both faces. The size range varies from small


specimens about 70 mm in length to large specimens measuring over 180 mm in length. The typical specimen usually falls between 120 mm and 150 mm in length. The long grinding stones are most similar to the manos found in the Southwest and were held in both hands while grinding in a metate. The medium to small sized specimens are single-handed grinding stones and were probably used in grinding basins.

There is one type, however, that is fairly common in Oklahoma and appears to be associated with the Archaic period. It is more loaf-shaped, often almost square in cross section with all four surfaces having been used for grinding (Figure 18d).

Many specimens will have shallow cups or pits pecked in the center of the grinding face and the entire grinding surface will commonly show roughening from peck marks. This was done to facilitate the grinding process as the surface must be frequently roughened in order to grind properly. When the grinding stone surface becomes too smooth, it will not grind the meal but slips on the basin which must also be roughened. As the stones become smoothed from use, the crushed stone becomes mixed into the flour providing grit which can produce extensive tooth wear, as is observed on many Indian burials. The handstone, of course, although primarily for use with the milling basin, was also used frequently as a hammerstone or anvil. With continued re-roughening and utilization, the stone would become thinner in cross section and when it became inconvenient to hold, it was discarded.

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