Stone digging stick weights. Date unknown. South Africa. African Archaeology, Gladwin Collection. UMMAA 5551.

Foragers in South Africa used the pierced and ground stone tools shown here as weights for digging sticks. Slid on to the end of a long stick, their weight provides extra force to aid women as they dig into hard ground for wild tubers. Similar stones, or kwe, have been found in archaeological contexts and depicted in rock art. Ethnographers have documented their use throughout Southern Africa. Ground stone implements such as these can be difficult to date, and we cannot determine the age of these artifacts with any certainty. We do know that in the late 1920s, Mrs. Clement Gladwin donated them to the Museum with an assortment of prehistoric and contemporary South African artifacts. In seeking a home for her collection, Mrs. Gladwin had learned from the director of the Albany Museum in Grahamstown, South Africa, that the recently founded Museum of Anthropology at U-M was interested in building an archaeological collection from Africa.

Back to Day 37 or continue to Day 39.

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.