Flint Spades or Hoes

Small chipped flint hoes or spades are fairly well represented in Oklahoma, especially in the eastern part of the state. These are usually oval or ovate in outline and exhibit percussion chipping resulting in a biface type of tool. They share many features with unfinished tools or preforms but can be distinguished from these by the presence of a polished surface or corn gloss at the bit. This surface polish arises from extensive use in digging in the soil, and provides evidence for tool use either as a hoe or digging tool. The amount of corn gloss or use polish varies from specimen to specimen, but it reflects the amount of actual usage in working the soil. The cutting edge is frequently damaged from striking objects in the soil, and evidence for reworking or sharpening of the edge is commonly present. This resharpening or trimming usually removes parts of the polished surface resulting from usage, but small areas may still remain from the earlier flake scars.

These artifacts resemble the larger spades or flint cultivating tools so characteristic of the Mississippian


culture of Missouri and Illinois. The examples found in Oklahoma are smaller in size, however, and most examples will fall between 80 mm and 140 mm in length.

It is not entirely clear how these artifacts were used. It is likely that the tool was mounted onto an L-shaped wooden handle and was used as a modern garden hoe. The spade or hoe is sometimes used as indirect evidence for the presence of agriculture at sites where they are found. It should be remembered, however, that the digging of cache pits, storage pits, graves, or grubbing for roots would also produce a similar wear pattern and that the tool could have been used for many purposes other than gardening.

The specimens recovered in Oklahoma appear to be associated with either Woodland or early Caddoan occupations. They appear more frequently in the northeastern section of the state than elsewhere. Four examples are illustrated in Figure 11.


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