Birdstone made of banded slate. 3000 BC–AD 400), Oakland County, Michigan. Great Lakes Archaeology, Townsend Collection. UMMAA 1919.

This banded slate birdstone is an example of the beautifully crafted sculpted stone objects made by Native peoples throughout the Great Lakes region from the Late Archaic through Early Woodland periods (c. 3000 BC to AD 400). There is some debate about their use, but most archaeologists believe birdstones were used as weights attached to the shafts of atlatls, or spear-throwers. Birdstone makers particularly favored banded slate, such as was used for this object. They often incorporated band patterns into their design. This object was discovered on Mr. John C. Townsend’s farm in Oakland County, Michigan, and donated to the museum in 1927. 

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In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.