Northeastern Section - 42nd Annual Meeting (12–14 March 2007)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


WALL, Suzanne E., Andover Geologic Consulting, Inc, 65 Durso Ave, Lawrence, MA 01843,

There are many prehistoric quarries, worked stones, and ledges located throughout New England, and specifically, Essex and Plymouth Co., MA, Hillsborough Co., NH and Lamoille Co., VT. Native American people had a well developed lithic mining tradition, and several “steatite” quarries are reported in archeological literature for the region south and west of Worcester, MA. Although it has been presumed that more northerly New England areas do not have sufficient occurrences of ultamafic rocks to support the conventional archaeological model for “steatite” quarrying, recent research in Native American use of talc-schists, altered igneous and other altered metamorphic rocks has changed this paradigm.

The convention among archaeologists is to assign the lithologies used in the production of stone bowls as “steatite”. The use of the term is not aligned with geologic usage. The geologic classification of many of these lithic objects falls broadly in the categories of altered igneous and metamorphic rocks. Petrologic studies indicate stone utilized for bowl production during the archaic period (3-5kya) are altered by metasomatic processes and had meta-sedimentary and/or meta-volcanic protoliths. These include among others, amphibolites, calc-silicates, and schists. Highly altered granitoid, dioritic, and gabbroic rocks were also used. The principal focus of Prehistoric bowl production was malleability, and thermal resilience.

Prehistoric quarries frequently used the same talc-schists that were exploited in Historic soapstone production. These Prehistoric quarries, worked stones, and ledges generally cover many acres. The associated suite of tool marks include: pecked grooves along cracks and foliations; deeply pecked notches; and pecked xenoliths and vugs. The in-situ talc-schist bowl preform found in Hillsborough Co., NH in October 2004 associates the grove and notch techniques used in quarrying ledge and boulders with prehistoric bowl production. This same suite of tool marks has recently been found in association with leucocratic altered igneous rocks. These new sites have dozens of pecked circles. These discoveries indicate that the variety of materials and the geographic extent of Native American utilization of lithic resources are greater than previously assumed.