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TWO HOLE GORGETS
OHIO AND MISSOURI
LATE ARCHAIC TO LATE MIDDLE WOODLAND

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COPYRIGHT MAY 31, 2007 PETER A. BOSTROM
Two-hole green slate bowtie gorget from Missouri.
TWO HOLE BOWTIE GORGET
MISSOURI
PRIVATE COLLECTION

    This "bowtie" style gorget was found in McGuire County, Missouri. It's made of green slate and it was conically drilled from one side only. There is also a starter hole that was apparently abandoned for a better location. This gorget measures 4 1/2 inches (11.4 cm) long.

      Gorgets were made from many different materials, but most of them were made of slate. Some of the other materials used were soapstone, schist, clay-stone, chert, limestone, canal coal, shell and bone. Only a very small percentage of them were made from hard stone such as granite or quartz. The people who were making gorgets chose mostly softer materials that fractured in sheets along natural lamination lines.

Two-hole green slate gorget from Morrow Co., Ohio.
CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGER IMAGE

TWO HOLE GORGET
MORROW COUNTY, OHIO
PRIVATE COLLECTION

    This "shuttle" style gorget is made of slate and was found in Morrow County, Ohio. The two holes are conically drilled from one side but one of the holes was countersunk slightly from the opposite side. One of the long edges also has several "tally marks" engraved with short parallel lines. This gorget measures 4 3/4 inches (12.1 cm) long.

      Gorgets are not very difficult to make. First, an outline of the form is scratched on the surface of the material. Then it is ground and polished into shape. A small number of gorgets have no holes but the usual two or more holes were drilled with a flint drill. Most examples were drilled from both sides with the cone shaped holes meeting in the center. Some gorgets were drilled from one side only.

Two-hole green slate gorget from Logan Co., Ohio.
TWO HOLE GORGET
LOGAN COUNTY, OHIO
PRIVATE COLLECTION

   This "shuttle" style gorget is made of dark green slate. Both of the sides and ends are slightly convex. The two holes are conically drilled from both sides and meet in the center. This gorget measures 4 11/16 inches (11.9 cm) long.

      Gorgets have been found in a wide range of sizes. Moorehead (1917) suggests a size range of from just under 2 inches (5 cm) for the smallest examples to just above 9 inches (23 cm) in length for the longest. It's interesting that he gives an average length of 4 1/2 inches for gorgets found in New York state, the area where he lived. This is the exact average length for the six "normal size" gorgets illustrated in this article. But the other example, a constricted center gorget that represents a highly developed design, is uncommonly large. It's made of cannel coal and measures approximately 11 inches (28 cm) long. So the size range for gorgets is probably closer to 12 inches (30.5 cm) for the largest examples.

Tally marks on edge of two-hole slate gorget.
TWO HOLE GORGET
TALLY MARK ENGRAVING
MORROW COUNTY, OHIO
PRIVATE COLLECTION

    This picture shows a magnified image of the tally marks on a two hole "shuttle" style gorget.

    There are many different types of gorgets. They have been found in as many different shapes as can be imagined. Moorehead (1910) illustrated almost fifty different shapes of gorgets drilled with two holes. The most common form of gorget is rectangular in outline with slightly excurvate sides and ends. They are flat on both faces and drilled with two holes. Some of the more uncommon types are boat-shaped, expanded-center, clipped-corner, concave-ended, expanded-center, quadri-concave, reel, humped and semi-keeled.

Closeup view of holes on slate gorget from Ohio.
TWO HOLE GORGET
FAIRFIELD COUNTY, OHIO
PRIVATE COLLECTION

    This picture shows a magnified image the conically drilled holes on this "shuttle" style gorget from Fairfield County, Ohio.

    Most gorgets are plain and do not have any engraved lines. But there are exceptions. One of the more common engravings is in the form of short parallel lines along the edges that are often referred to as tally marks. Other gorgets may have a series of seemingly random lines or a simple pictograph.

Green slate gorget from Fairfield Co., Ohio.
TWO HOLE GORGET
FAIRFIELD COUNTY, OHIO
PRIVATE COLLECTION

    This dark green slate gorget was found in Fairfield County, Ohio. The two holes are conically drilled from both sides and meet in the center. One "tally mark" was engraved about mid way on one of the long edges. This gorget measures 4 7/16 inches (11.3 cm) long.

    Gorgets do not exhibit any heavy use wear, like the patterns seen on chopping, digging or food processing tools. In fact, most gorgets show very little wear. Even the drilled holes, in most cases, were apparently not under a very high amount of stress or abrasion. So there remains a mystery of how they were used. The answer, as many authors have suggested, is that they were probably used, displayed or worn in several different ways. So, the issue remains a little mysterious but that's not unusual. Without a living culture to communicate with or evidence in the form of pictures or text it's sometime all but impossible to have the final answer. But theories abound.

"REFERENCES"

1892, Moorehead, Warren K., "Primitive Man In Ohio," p. 157.
1896
, Wilson, Thomas, "Gorgets And Pendants," Prehistoric Art; Or, The Origin Of Art As Manifested In The Works Of Prehistoric Man, from the "Report Of The National Museum," pp.452-453.
1896
, Mc Guire, J. D., "Drill Points," A Study Of The Primitive Methods Of Drilling, pp. 679-693.
1910
, Moorehead, Warren K., "The Gorget And Ornaments As Seen By Early Explorers," chapter 18, "The Gorgets," chapter 19, The Stone Age In North America, pp.329-375.
1912
, Hodge, Frederick Webb, "Gorgets," Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, p. 496.
1917
, Moorehead, Warren K., "Gorgets," Stone Ornaments Of The American Indian, pp. 204-214.
1990
, Hothem, Lar, "Gorgets," North American Indian Ornamental & Ceremonial Artifacts,  p. 33-35.
1945
, Webb, WM. S. & Snow, Charles E., "Ground Stone Traits," The Adena People, p. 85.
1946
, Vietzen, Raymond C., "Gorgets And Pendants," The Ancient Ohioans And Their Neighbors, pp. 347-349.
Personal Communication with Dennis Vesper.

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