Rocks & Minerals of the Native Americans
Would you guess that on the first Thanksgiving, the American Indians made use of Rocks and Minerals to set the scene for the feast? Without tools to till the field, grind the flour, and light the fire, the feast of Native Americans and pilgrims may not have commenced!
We at Rockology are grateful today for the Rocks and Minerals that made the first Thanksgiving possible.
Without modern day plastics and advanced tool-making technologies, the tribes of Native American Indians had thought up a wide range of ways to make use of Rocks and Minerals that naturally occur on Earth. The lack of materials present created a resourceful people who turned to the rocks, minerals, plants and animals to fashion each thing needed.
Native American Rocks & Minerals Use:
- Fine Jewelry
- Colored Paints
- Building Materials
Sulfur was burned by the medicine man, flints were used as fire starters and arrowheads, and halite (salt) to tan animal hide and preserve foods. Some served decorative purposes such as hematite—that when grinded down—mixed in animal fat to form vibrant colors to be used in cave wall paintings. What made rocks and minerals so useful to American Indians was the natural hardness of rocks and special chemical properties of minerals.
1. Red Jasper
Red Jasper was a common stone used by the American Indians for various ceremonial purposes. It was once used as an offering during rain-making rituals and was thought to offer the wearer guidance when dowsing for water. Some Native American tribes thought Red Jasper increased one’s sensitivity to the Earth.
Various types of Quartz were used by the American Indian tribes. Rose Quartz was held in high value for its healing powers, and clear quartz was worn by some for good luck. Two derivatives of quartz, chert and flint stones are both microcrystalline quartz used in the tools and weapons (arrowheads, spear points) of the Native Americans.
To some American Indian tribes, Turquoise was a legendary gift. As the Indians rejoiced with the arrival of the rain, tears of joy mixed with this rain and fell to Mother Earth to create Turquoise—“the fallen skystone”. For this reason, Turquoise was highly prized by various tribes and used to craft fine jewelry or talismans of beauty, spirituality and life-giving power for over 7,000 years.
Rocks that formed large flat slabs were often used by the American Indians to make the mortar and pestle. These “grinding stones”—the mortar and pestle could be used for various reasons, such as grinding ingredients for cooking or mixing materials for building purposes. Wild grains were crushed with this tool into flour, or long slabs of Granite were also used to roll dough to be cooked over the fire.
Various types of igneous rock were used by the Native Americans, and Pumice is one such rock that was ground down and used in the clay to mix pottery. Pumice is a type of volcanic glass. White Pumice is a particular type of the stone that can be found commonly used in the pottery of various tribes.
In addition to Granite, Sandstone was also a popular rock used by tribes in the mortar and pestle design. Some American Indians also created molds from Sandstone for silver-casting. Another handy use for this particular stone was its ability to sharpen and sand tools, which provided a way to craft fine weapons from other materials.
The stone Azurite has always held mysterious sacred qualities, and was once used by some Native American tribes as an amulet to help the wearer contact a spirit guide. It was said that when worn or carried, Azurite allows you to feel the presence of a guide and understand the meaning of the message spoken. It was also used alongside Alabaster in the Zuni tribe sculptures.
The softer stone Alabaster was a common material of the Zuni fetishes or small statuary carvings by the peoples of the Zuni tribe. These highly prized sculptures were made for ceremonial purposes from the easy-to-carve Alabaster and used as power objects or mediators by the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.
9. Catlinite (Pipestone)
Many know that various types of Mudstone were used to mix the clays of the American Indians, but this particular type held an even higher purpose. That is, Calinite or Pipestone was a material used to carve the peace pipes of many American Indian tribes. This material takes on a reddish-brown color. One particular mine of Catlinite at Pipestone forms the second softest rock in the world often found in a layer just underneath the Sioux quartzite sediment—the second hardest rock in the world!
Thus, it’s quite hard to reach—and can only be quarried by enrolled Native Americans.
Last is the black beauty, Obsidian. This particular glass formed igneous rock was used by American Indians to create stunning jewelry with Apache Tears and was carved into sharpened tips on hunting weapons that were made to pierce.
If you would like to know more about the Rocks and Minerals, Rock and Mineral uses or about other must-have rocks for collectors, be sure to download our free Rocks 101 eBook.
cc: Hans Splinter
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