The Right Tool for the Job

Having the right tool available to accomplish a task is fundamentally important to getting the job done right.  Frequently while working on a project at the Painted Pony Resort the right tool turns out to be either back in the garage or a tool not on the estate.  In the case of the former, this means a drive back to the garage to locate the right tool.  But in the case of the latter, it means either creating the required tool or spending a day (or week) trying to locate one.  For the indigenous former inhabitants this always meant creating a tool ones self and when the technology is based on rock, fire, clay, and plant material it means creating a specialty tool from what is available on the landscape.

Below is a photograph of a modified oval mano that has secondary modifications for specialty use.  The oval mano measures about 3.25" in width x 2.75" in length x 1.5" thick, is pecked around the edges and is smooth on both faces from use.  By examining the interface between pecking around the outside of the mano and the flat smooth grinding surfaces, 2 different periods of pecking are distinguishable.  At each end of the mano the flat smooth grinding surface grades off smoothly from the surface area into the pecked edge.  This is consistent with pecking the edge first to shape the tool then subsequent use as a grinding stone.  In contrast, the pecked indentations on each side of the mano impinge upon the smooth grinding surface suggesting the notches were created after the tool was completed and used for grinding for a period of time.  The purpose of the notches may be for hafting or fine control in grinding small amounts of material.  If the mano were modified, adding notches for hafting for use as a hammer, chipping from use would be expected on each end.  Instead of damage resulting from use as a hammer, one end shows smoothing as if used as a grinder for small amounts of material.  This observation leads to the suggestion that this modified mano was used as a pigment grinder in the production of small amounts of pigment for pottery.  The modified mano fits nicely in one hand and can be easily manipulated with a rocking motion, such as that required to break up small amounts of natural stone pigment.  This was tested with a small amount of turquoise procured locally and indeed it is a simple matter, using a rocking motion, to grind the turquoise into a fine powder suitable for painting on pottery using the modified mano.

Just another example how those who lived on this landscape in the past created and built a life for themselves.

mogollon pigment grinder
Face of modified mano

mano modified for pigment grinding
Edge of modified mano

pigment grinding
Experiment - grinding turquoise with modified mano
Addendum:  For additional information on multiple uses of stone tools see this link.


  1. This is the mano you showed me and I see you have been using it to grind turquoise now we all know this works!

  2. Yes it is the same one, I had not tested the idea until today and thought I would post the results. The estate is collecting quite a selection of stone tools in addition to all the 20th century equivalents.

  3. Wow! I've found a mano or 2, but never a modified one. I'll be on the lookout. Our former neighbor found a LOT of broken mettates and we guess that was the early man's dump!

  4. PPR has about 25 whole or broken metates in the artifact garden and I'm always on the lookout for unusual tools. A hand held digging tool was a surface find on the southern end of property. It fits nicely in the left hand and works well to either dig up material or for planting. . Also 2 large hand held modified flakes for digging clay were found in the clay pits next to the hamlet.