Artifact of the Week: Stone Bowl-Mortar

Stone bowl mortars were the perfect tool for processing acorns, which had to be pounded into a meal and rinsed to remove bitter tannin. Mortars were also carved into bedrock near oak trees. Bowl mortars were more portable and could be used at the village site.

Acorn mush was the principal staple of the Late Prehistoric diet. People collected and dried acorns, smashed the shell and pulverized the meat of the nut into flour, rinsed the meal to remove bitter tannins, added water, and cooked it. They supplemented the mush with seeds, berries, pine nuts, fish, rabbit, and other small animals. When the acorns started to fall, almost all of the several hundred inhabitants of a village would trek to the mountains to collect the acorns and hunt small game to fill their larders.

Date: Late Prehistoric Tradition (3,000 ya – 300 ya)
Material Class: Lithics – Ground Stone

Want to learn more? Visit the exhibit By Land and By Sea currently on view at the Center.