Indian Use of Hematite

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Indian Use of Hematite – An iron ore much used by the native tribes for implements, ornaments, and small objects of problematical use. It is found in many parts of the country and in great abundance in the Iron Mountain district of Missouri and in the Marquette region of Michigan. It occurs as a massive ore, as nodules, and in other forms, distributed through rocks of various classes, and is usually dark in color, showing various shades of gray, brown, and red. The specular varieties are generally rather gray, and have a metallic luster. The red earthy varieties, when compact, are known as red chalk, and when much disintegrated and pulverulent, as red ocher. They were, and are, much used as paint by the aborigines, and small quantities, either in lumps or as powder, are commonly found in ancient graves, placed there for personal embellishment in the future existence. The highly siliceous varieties are often very hard, heavy, and tough, and make excel lent implements. They were used especially in the manufacture of celts, axes, scrapers, etc., and for the rudely shaped hammers and sledges that served in mining work, as in the iron mines at Leslie, Mo. (Holmes). Many of the celts and celt-like implements are quite small, and in some cases probably served as amulets. Grooved axes of this material are of some what rare occurrence, but objects of problematical use, such as cones, hemispheres, and plummets, are common, and on ac count of their high finish, richness of color, and luster, are much prized by collectors. Hematite objects are found in mounds and on dwelling sites in the middle Mississippi valley region, in the Ohio valley, and extending into E. Kentucky and Tennessee to v w. North Carolina, and to a limited extent in the S., in the Pueblo country, and on the Pacific coast. A small, well-shaped figure of this material, representing a bird, and neatly inlaid with turquoise and white shell, is among the collections obtained by Pepper from the Pueblo Bonito ruin, New Mexico. Hematite is not always readily distinguishable from limonite (which is generally yellowish or brownish in tint), and from some other forms of iron ore. See Mmes and Quarries.

References to hematite objects are widely distributed throughout the literature of American archeology. Among others the following authors may be consulted: Douglass in Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., viii, 1896; Fewkes (1) in 17th Rep. B. A. E., 730, 1898, (2) in 21st Rep. B. A. E., 77, 1903; Fowke in 13th Rep. B. A. E., 1896; Holmes in Smithson. Rep. 1903, 1904; Moorehead, Prehist. Impls, 1900; Pepper in Am. Anthrop., vii, 195, 1905. (W. H. H.)

MLA Source Citation:

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906. Web. 1 February 2015. - Last updated on Jul 18th, 2012


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