I was talking the other day about how under-represented organic technology is in archaeology generally, and especially on the Northwest Coast, where the old adage is that 95% of the technology was made out of plants (trees, wood, bark, roots, grasses, seaweeds). A classic example of this phenomenon are anchor stones and sinker stones. While some of these stones had grooves or perforated holes (and are thereby very visible and durable in the archaeological record), many may have been made by the more simple, subtle and expedient method of simply wrapping line or basketry around an unmodified rock. When the organic component rots away, as it will most of the time, then the archaeologist has, well, an unmodified rock.
Anyway, it was a lucky stroke for my current interest that I came across the above photo from the University of Washington Digital Archives.
The makers of this anchor stone appear to have come to a similar solution to, or been inspired by, an Admiralty pattern anchor. Anchors achieve a great deal of their holding pattern from the chain rode, which lies on the bottom and acts as a shock absorber. It would be interesting to see how this one works, though if it was intended for a canoe with low windage it might be very effective.
Equally, I wondered about Reef Netting, which requires a lot of heavy anchor stones to be put down, to tighten the canoe position against in this high-precision fishing technique. The operating assumption has been this requires that a large number of sacrificial rocks (i.e., multiple rocks are sent down a single anchor line, making a composite too heavy to pull back up), but it seems to me this Duwamish design might “dig in” and not just be a heavy weight. Admittedly, Norm Easton found a large number of anchor stones underwater at reef netting sites near Victoria and in the Gulf Islands – so there was net loss. (You can get his excellent UVIC thesis here, via here which has a lot of other Eastonian output). But in any case, the above is the most elaborate composite anchor from the NW Coast I’ve seen, I think.
Anyway, more ancient anchor stones and net weights are known from some archaeological sites, notably Hoko River. Once again I recommend the remarkable online photo archives put together by Dale Croes and his team for that site – home page here. I’m reproducing a couple of images here of ca. 2,500 year old wrapped, unmodified rocks – you can view more here. These artifacts at least have a stone component – browse around on the Hoko River photo site and see just how few of the artifacts would leave any trace at all: most of them. Kind of sobering, and that bugs me, because sober is my least favourite word!