Nutting Stone

Project details

This sandstone block was found in the first well dug by the colonists in James Fort in 1608 and filled in 1610. The shallow depression located on both sides of this nutting stone (called a taccahooc) suggests it was used repeatedly as an anvil stone for processing food or to produce arrow points for hunting game.

It is ironic that the richest site of Virginia Indian artifacts in the Chesapeake region is an English site. Algonquian structures were not secured deep in the ground, so evidence of their society remained at the topsoil level, and centuries of mechanized agriculture have disturbed almost all of the footprint the Powhatan villages left in the ground. Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists have uncovered numerous artifact-rich cellars, pits, and wells at James Fort and hundreds of thousands of native artifacts that give a physical reality to the written accounts the English left of their interaction with the Virginia Indians.

European accounts suggest nutting stones were used to make mast (harvested nuts) by placing the nut on the stone and cracking it using a wooden or stone hammer. Nuts such as hiquara (hickory), pakan (pecan), ahsmenuns (walnut), and anaskimmins (acorn) played an important role in the Virginia Indian diet. Hickory nuts, for example, were used to make a sweet, milk-like liquid they called pocohiquara.

The stone may have also been used to make small triangular arrow points. Because most of the stone material in the Chesapeake tidal zone consists of small cobbles, archaeologists have speculated that pebbles of flint, quartz, chert, and chalcedony were subjected to a hammer and anvil technique to produce flakes that were then transformed into arrow points. At James Fort, archaeologists have found points in a wide variety of shapes and materials, hinting that there were points for different purposes across the cultural interaction—some were for trade, some for hunting and some for warfare.