The Excavation and Repair of Betatakin
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For working wood, the inhabitants of Betatakin had only flakes and chipped knives of flint; they used sandstone for rasping and smoothing.

Board (pl. 33, 1).—The specimen illustrated is an oak board, carefully finished but subsequently burned. Through one corner is a nearly vertical, drilled hole; on the same side and at approximately one-third the total length is a similar hole, bored at an angle of 55°. The two fragments which compose this specimen were found widely separated, the larger on the surface; the smaller, buried in the sand above room 55. Hence the difference in coloration seen on the original.

A small, charred fragment of a like board, of cottonwood, is also drilled through one corner; the flatter side is deeply scored by cutting tools (312346).

Billets (pl. 33, 2-4).—Three cottonwood billets, or lapboards, and fragments of two others (312343) are in the collection. Two of the five still possess the original convex curve of the tree trunk, although slightly modified; all exhibit on their flat sides and rounded edges the marks of cutting and scraping implements or the pricks of some sharp-pointed tool. The longest of the three illustrated was made from a cottonwood root; all the others are from sections of the stem.

Digging sticks (pl. 34, 4-7).—Nine reused fragments of oak digging implements are all we found. For fuller understanding of these essential tools of primitive agriculture, reference should be made to Kidder and Guernsey (1919, p. 119) and other authorities.

In addition there is the problematical specimen shown in Plate 34, 1. Doubt hangs upon this latter from the fact that its pointed end is rounded and blunted, not flattened and sharpened as is always the case with serviceable digging sticks. Conjecture might identify this as the oak staff or cane of some venerable villager.

Staves.—What seems unquestionably a walking stick is that illustrated in Plate 34, 2. Except for smoothing a few knots and trimming the two ends, no specialization is evident. The stick is cottonwood; its grip is worn and the lesser end rounded and abraded. Fragments of a like staff (312327) show a hole drilled transversely through the handle and, at the opposite extreme, the asymmetric wear such as one frequently notes on canes used by elders.

A third cottonwood staff (pl. 34, 3; fig. 8) differs from those just considered in that its lower end is circled by 14 incised grooves. Some of these were made before, others after, an 11-inch splinter was cut away and its place gouged out. Except that the incisures circle its smaller end, this particular specimen might be likened to the so-called "ceremonial staves" occasionally found in Pueblo ruins.


Bows and arrows.—In the collection are three fragments of two self bows, each made of red cedar (312331). The fragments are burned and blunted from use about a fireplace, but they show careful workmanship and a grip that measures 1-1/4 inches wide by 13/16 inch in thickness. Figure 9 shows the severed end of a third bow.


Four wooden foreshafts for reed arrows (312360) average 8-1/2 inches (0.215 m.) long; they are all shouldered and the two unbroken have plain, sharpened points, as does that from a shallow cave near Betatakin. (Fig. 10.)


Fire-making tools (pl. 35, 5, 9).—Three drills, two of them broken, and fragments of two cottonwood sticks with charred sockets identifying them as hearths, constitute all the fire-making apparatus we found in Betatakin.

Awls (pl. 36, 5-11).—The collection includes nine wooden awls measuring from 6-3/4 to 10-3/8 inches (0.171-0.263 m.) in length. Their butts are rounded or flattened and square cut; none is spatulate. While two or three appear to be of red cedar a harder, more durable wood was preferred. Two smaller examples (fig. 11) are probably to be classed in this group.


Toothed implements (pl. 37, 1-5.)—Our five examples are all of red cedar. Two of them (2-3) have spatulate or knifelike butts; 1, cut from a splinter, is less carefully finished. It will be noticed that the number of teeth varies. The split and reworked edge of 2 indicates at least a former fifth tine, while the two fragmentary specimens apparently had 10 or more teeth each, and these were closer together, longer, and more rounded than in the others illustrated.

Knives.—Red cedar, of course, will not take an edge capable of cutting hides or equally resistant substances. But the two spatulate objects shown in Figure 12 have knifelike edges, and these are stained with what may be blood. Kidder and Guernsey (1919, p. 120) have called such instruments "skinning knives" under the quite logical assumption that they might have served in flaying animals.


The unfinished specimen represented by Figure 13 is included here only because its two ends are ground to near-cutting edges. Both sides are scored by the coarse sandstone rasp employed in the final shaping process.


Paho (pl. 35, 1).—This cottonwood cylinder bears such a close resemblance to similar objects associated with certain Hopi rituals as seemingly to justify the designation. Its upper end is twice grooved, but displays no evidence of wear owing to cord attachments. A slight depression at this extremity is quite fortuitous, but in the base is a central, drilled concavity five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter by three-sixteenths inch deep.

Flute (?).—Large wooden flutes were employed by prehistoric as by historic Pueblos. But all modern flutes examined by the writer have been made in two parts, each gouged out in perfect agreement with the other and the two fitted together with exactness. The fragmentary specimen in hand (pl. 35, 3; fig. 14) must have been produced by like means, for its inner surface is finished with such nicety; is polished and blackened so uniformly as to preclude use of any method of drilling known from the Southwest. Both edges are split. There remains no evidence of drilled holes; no trace of wrappings. Yet the fragment is almost certainly part of a large flute. The 14 external grooves were incised with flint flakes or knives.


Scrapers (fig. 15, a-b).—The usual number of pine and cedar splinters employed in smoothing and scraping operations is in the collection.


Mask attachment (?)—A stopper-like object of cottonwood (fig. 16) is one of several specimens whose original function may only be surmised. Two cotton strings, projecting from a hole drilled through its lesser diameter, appear to have crossed the larger in the groove indicated.


Painted stick.—A cylindrical piece of wood, probably willow, 7/16-inch (0.011 m.) in diameter by 1-3/4 inches (0.044 m.) long, covered with thick, dark green paint (312299).

Drill.—It is incredible that the crude drill shown in Plate 36, 1 and Figure 17, b was the tool of a skilled artisan. Its rudely chipped, chert point is set in the split end of a greasewood shaft and loosely bound with a shred of yucca leaf. A second drill, comparable in crudeness but less worn, is mounted in a reed shaft. (Fig. 17, a.)


Spindle shafts and whorls (pl. 36, 2-4; 12-16).—Spindle shafts are invariably made of some hardwood that takes and holds a smooth, even finish. Our longest (312363), a fragment, measures 1/4-inch in diameter by 23-3/8 inches (0.006 by 0.59 m.). Such slender, pointed shafts as 2 seem altogether too fragile for spindles.

Six whorls, mostly cottonwood, vary in diameter from 1-1/2 (0.038 m.) to 2 inches (0.050 m.); in thickness, from 5/8 (0.015 m.) to 1-5/16 inches (0.033 m.). The finest (13) is convex on one side; flat and centrally cupped on the other. One fragmentary specimen (312287) is convex on both sides. Two (15-16) are of mountain-sheep horn, as is the squared block, a doubtful whorl, shown in Plate 36, 17.

Miscellaneous wooden objects.—We have the usual proportion of peeled and unpeeled sticks with cut ends; fragments severed from finished implements; slender, smoothed twigs with one pointed end; worked objects of unknown use (pl. 35, 6-8); splinters and twigs with sinew or cord wrappings (pls. 35, 2; 37, 6-9).

The oak stick pictured in Plate 35, 4 has been split to permit insertion of a scrap of cotton cloth; a wrapping of some sort formerly circled the stick and covered this fragment. The willow rings shown in Plate 34, 8-9 may be regarded as hastily improvised potrests. A charred oak stem (312328) with four branches, the two unbroken having rounded tips, could have served as a vertical support for hanging various articles.

Figure 18 shows a not uncommon type of loom anchor—an oak branch, knotted and tied with yucca, and buried so that the loop lay just below the floor level.


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Last Updated: 26-Jun-2008