Paint Stones

Pieces of natural hematite and limonite were picked up by the Indians for use as paint. The stone was scraped, rubbed, or abraded to reduce the material to a powder which could be used as a pigment. This pigment made an ocher or red colored paint, depending upon the material used, which could be applied directly or it could be mixed with fat or grease for storage and later utilization. The piece of raw material which supplied the powdered pigment will show evidence of scraped, rubbed, or abraded surfaces to distinguish it from other pieces of similar material that have not been used. Since these were used for making paint, they are commonly termed "paint stones."

The hematite paint stones are somewhat heavier than other stones of the same size; they are usually reddish or reddish-brown in color and will make a red colored mark when drawn across a streak plate or piece of light colored flint.

The paint stones are all different in so far as their size and shape are concerned. The raw material was collected as various shaped natural pieces which can be gathered in many places in Oklahoma. Some


specimens have very little evidence of usage, perhaps only a scratched surface where some powdered material was removed; other specimens have been rubbed and ground over the entire surface. Consequently, the size and shape of the paint stone recovered from an Indian site is dependant upon the initial size and shape of the raw material and the amount of abrasion and grinding that has taken place. Examples of paint stone are shown in Figure 20. Figure 20a is a broken section of a flat tabular piece of hematite that has been scraped and scratched on both surfaces without altering the sides. Figure 20b has been ground on all surfaces but one, the grinding having produced several faceted surfaces. Figure 20c has been rubbed or scraped on all surfaces producing this rather pear-shaped paint stone. Figure 20d is a fragment from a loaf-shaped nodule of hematite which has been scraped around the sides and ground on the end.

Paint stones are found on sites from all time periods from Paleo-Indian to historic times. They are a common artifact and are not diagnostic for any particular locality or time period.

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