STONE DISC PALETTE
"THE RATTLESNAKE DISC"
HALE COUNTY, ALABAMA
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OCTOBER 31, 2011 PETER A. BOSTROM
This palette is known as the "rattlesnake disc." It's the most
famous stone disc palette that was ever found at Moundville. It was
originally discovered by a farmer plowing his field in Moundville
and later given as a gift to Alabama state archaeologist Professor
E. A. Smith sometime before 1883. It was then lent to the
Smithsonian National Museum where Holmes described it in 1883. After
that, sometime before 1905 it was transferred to the University of
Alabama Museum and now in the Jones Archaeological Museum at the
Moundville Archaeological Park. Holmes originally described the disc
with a cautious and skeptical view.
Holmes described the "rattlesnake disc" in 1883 as; "I have
seen in the National Museum a curious specimen of stone disk,
although there is not sufficient assurance of its genuineness to
allow it undisputed claim to a place among antiquities. It is a
perfectly circular, neatly-dressed sandstone disk, twelve inches in
diameter and one-half an inch in thickness. Upon one face we see
three marginal incised lines while on the other there is a
well-engraved design which represents two entwined or rather knotted
rattlesnakes. Within the circular space enclosed by the bodies of
the serpents is a well drawn hand in the palm of which is placed an
open eye; this would probably have been omitted by the artist had he
fully appreciated the skeptical tendencies of the modern
archaeologist. The margin of the plate is divided into seventeen
sections by small semicircular indentations. This object is said to
have been obtained from a mound near Carthage, Alabama." Clarence B.
Moore wrote in 1905 that Holmes was by then satisfied that the disc
"may be accepted without suspicion."
The entwined serpents, open hand and central ogee symbol
represents iconography that some archaeologist believe may represent
an opening or pathway to the inter-dimensional world of the
ancestors. This stone disc palette is made of sandstone and measures
12 9/16 inches (31.9 cm) in diameter.