Central States Archaeological Societies
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My Pike County Trio

Korhan B. Raif M.D.

Central States Archaeological Societies 2014 July Journal

Barry, Illinois


I would like to share with you three of my favorite small hard stone pieces from Pike County, Illinois.

The small Mississippian discoidal has special meaning and symbolism for me as it was found and gifted to me by Marvin Likes shortly before his passing. Marvin was a true gentleman known by many and liked by everyone that met him. Marvin was a land surveyor and found the discoidal on a sandy ridge along the Mississippi river. What makes it special today and to the original owner, is that is has a cross marked on both sides of the central cup in a mirror image. The cross is a common symbol among Native American cultures including the Inca cross, the Zuni cross and the Mississippian cross. The Mississippian cross is a crucifix within a circle, very much like the cross in the discoidal. The Cross has special meaning in the Mississippian Art and Ceremonial Complex.1 It indicated the four cardinal points when viewed in the horizontal plane like the points of the compass. The circle surrounding the cross indicates the sun and the cosmos.1 When viewed in the vertical, it represents the present world, the under world, and the sky world. Unlike our understanding of the world, Native Americans believed we came from the underworld, lived in the present world; and then ascended to the sky world. The discoidal measures 1.9 inches in diameter and is 1 inch in height.

The second piece is a black and white speckled granite boatstone. The concave underside has a shallow cup and along the top, there is a slight groove that runs along the convex edge of the stone, indicating that it was probably hafted onto another object. The boat stone was found in Pleasant Hill, Pike County, Illinois. The boat stone measures 2.1 inches in length, 1.3 inches in diameter and is 0.8 inches in depth. The third artifact is a tan and gray granite saddle-face bannerstone found by A. Pence south of the Pike County line in Calhoun County, Illinois. The bannerstone measures 2.2 inches in length, 2 inches in diameter and 1 inch in depth.

1 Hero, Hawk and Open Hand, The Art Institute of Chicago, Pg 126
2 Sun Circles and Human Hands, The University of Alabama Press, Pg 58

At top: The three artifacts found in Pike County, Illinois. L- Discoidal C - Saddle-face bannerstone R - Granite boatstone
Photograph by Bob Humphries, Quickshot Photography