Shell Hoes

Mussel shell hoe

Shell Hoe

Shell hoes are found on many Oklahoma archaeological sites.

They were apparently simple and useful tools which were used by many groups and throughout a long period of time. Examples are found in sites ranging from the Archaic to late Caddoan times.

The shell hoes are perforated mussel shells which were used as digging or grubbing tools, possibly also as scrapers. They are made from mussel shells, which were apparently about as large as one could find; these were perforated in the center towards the thicker hinge end with a large hole. This perforation was punched through the shell from the inner side, apparently with a pointed stone, as the outside surface is scaled and irregular from this perforating process. The perforation is irregular in outline and not symmetrical as it would be from a drilling method. The diameter of the perforation is generally around 20 mm in maximum width although there is some variation depending upon the size of the shell. Apparently this hole served to mount the shell on a stick which


became the handle for using the tool as a hoe or digging tool. The end of the shell served as the cutting edge, and this edge commonly shows indications of breakage and sharpening by grinding (Figure 41).

Specimens which show grinding along the cutting edge frequently display use polish on the ground edge as well as on the outer face of the shell close to the cutting edge. Whether this wears has been produced from digging in the soil or using the tool, as a scraper for hides or some soft material has not been determined. Some specimens have been found in burial pit fills as though they had been used as digging tools for excavation of the grave pit and then was discarded when the pit was refilled.

It seems likely that the shell hoe may have been used for several tasks as it was easy to make wherever the mussel shells were available. Most archaeological specimens, however, are badly weathered and the shell tends to flake off so that areas which would have shown previous wear from utilization are damaged.













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