Monday, November 7, 2011

Hohokam piercing gauge?

Pueblo Grande Museum recently received the collection from the Valley Metro Light Rail construction for curation in our archaeological repository. The construction of the light rail impacted multiple sites, including our own Pueblo Grande. We’re still in the middle of processing the collection and there are some very interesting artifacts.

One of the most unique is this small stone ring which is similar in shape to a modern pulley. It’s made from a fine-grained stone, and has flared ends with a small waist, while the center of the ring is perforated with a large hole.
Stone Ring
With dime for scale

Flat stone disks are common in the Hohokam region, but flared stone rings like this one are quite unusual. We aren’t positive of their use, but a similar object found in the 1930s excavations at Snaketown was identified as a “cheek plug” based upon the usage of flared stone rings in Mesoamerica. 

We know that people in the Hohokam region practiced body piercing. In the collections at PGM we have “nasal septum plugs” which were used to ornament the nose by perforating the lower septum and emerging through the nostrils. 

It’s possible that this stone ring was used as a plug in someone’s cheek, ear or lip. It’s also possible that the ring had another function; other similarly shaped ceramic objects are often identified as spindle whorls, though their purpose is also debated. While we aren’t certain, the shape of this ring calls to mind the gauges, plugs and spacers that people use today in modern body piercing.  

Posted By Lindsey Vogel, Collections Aide

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