Plummets

A well made Hematite plummet

p4A ItemID E8982510
A hardstone plummet with grooved top, collected in Mercer County, Ohio

p4A ItemID E8982166
A hematite plummet with grooved body, collected in Madison County, Tennessee

p4A ItemID E8982008
A Mississippian Period Banded Slate Plummet

p4A ItemID F7960186

Plummets

The artifact that we call a plummet, named for the resemblance of its tear-drop shape to the carpenter’s plumb-bob, first appeared in the Late Archaic period, about 1000 B.C. They are found all over the U.S., and the world as well, made from various materials available in the local area either naturally or by trade, including hematite, hardstone, copper, antler and marine shell. They may be well crafted, ornamented and polished or crude in fabrication and plain in decoration. Some have a perforation or drilled hole at the small pointed end, others do not. Some have grooves encircling this end, many do not.

One type of plummet with grooves and a pointed base is called a “Snyders Grooved Plummet”and was made during the Middle and Late Woodlands Period, dating from about 100 B.C. to 450 A.D. They take their name from having been found in several burials on the Snyders site in Calhoun County, Illinois. Another variety of grooved plummet is called the Gilcrease and typically has a flattened end above its grooves. This variety of plummet dates to the Archaic Period, approximately 4000 to 1000 B.C. in America.

Another type of plummet found primarily in the mid-west is the Godar; it features a drilled hole near its small end and dates to the Middle to Late Archaic Period.

Plummets retain a strong sense of mystery about them as there is no scientifically provable use definition for them. Some have speculated that they may have been used as weights for bolas or fishing nets. This theory is supported by the fact that plummets are most often found near water -the east coast and Florida, the California coast and the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. Other commentators, pointing to highly polished examples and those with drilled holes ideal for a neck cord, posit plummets were articles of personal ornament. Similarly the relics may have served a religious function as an amulet or talisman. Some of this feeling may be behind the California tradition of calling these artifacts ‘charmstones’.

Whatever their purpose, the inclusion of plummets in period burial sites demonstrate that they were prized possessions of their owners, and they continue to be so today.

Reference note by p4A editorial staff, November 2011.


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