Zoomorphic Stone Club – “Slave-Killer”

Zoomorphic Stone Club – “Slave-Killer”


Region:  Northwestern California / Gunther Island, Eureka, California

Circa:  Pre-Contact

Materials:  Gray slate 

Dimensions:  L. 7” x H. 3.5”

Condition:  Excellent, rich original surface. No Restoration.              

Collection History:  Dr. H. H. Stuart collection. Dr. Stuart, an amateur archeologist, was active in the Oregon area in the mid 20th Century and was a member of the Oregon Archeological Society,

Research:  Robert Heizer, Berkeley, California, field notes and a drawing. Vintage photo of this piece with other associated artifacts.


–Coe, R., Sacred Circles, p. 70(for elk antler example) and p.239 (for stone example).

–Eve Auction, Paris, 12/20/13, lot #93, sold for $48,000 US.

–Heizer, Robert & Elsasser, A.B., “Archeology of HUM-^&, The Gunther       Island Site in Humboldt Bay, California”

–Miles, C., Indian and Eskimo Artifacts of North America, p.146 and p.148.

–Smithsonian, Handbook of North American Indians: California, vol. 8, p.46

Comments:  This is a highly refined diminutive ceremonial zoomorphic club or “slave-killer.” This rare prehistoric form is known from Northwestern California through the Columbia River drainage to the area around Southern Vancouver Island. These slate or basalt effigy clubs are found in a wide range of sizes from 2.5 inches to 12 -16 inches. The current example is in the middle of this range at 7 inches. The zoomorphic form appears to depict a wolf like creature with cocked ears and a long tail. The stone material, although not suited to warfare was suitable for shamanic use. Actual war clubs of this form were made of heavy dense elk antler, a far better material for a war club than slate.

Two Northwestern California effigy stone clubs in the Miles’ book, Indian and Eskimo Artifacts of North America depict the wide range of size and careful adherence to scale.  The creature depicted on these clubs, likely a predator, is clearly intended as a shamanic protective effigy. 

The diminutive form is considered particularly rare. The current example is in original condition with richly mottled gray coloration. This sculptural form, minimalist and dynamic, is an exceptional example of pre-contact stone sculpture from North America. 

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