Before metalworking was taught to the Native Americans by the Europeans, native peoples had to be innovative and create tools with the materials available. According to the article, “Making a Primitive War Club” in Backwoodsman Magazine, many Native American tools would be made from bone, stone, wood, ceramic, or clay. One of the most useful tools that Native Americans could have was the stone hammer. The Timucua Indian Nation of Florida had a practical design that used the mahogany, mangrove, and pine trees that are naturally found in the Florida Peninsula.
The design calls for several materials to complete the tool. The first thing needed is an oval shaped flat stone about 8 inches long. Next, a fork shaped stick about 15 to 20 inches long is needed as the hammer’s handle. Finally, a piece of ¼ inch thick by 2 foot long piece of rawhide cord is needed.
The first step in constructing the hammer is to snugly fit the flat oval stone into the Y of the fork shaped stick where there is about 3 ½ inches sticking out from either side of the stick. This will form the two striking heads of the stone hammer.
The second step for constructing the hammer is to fold the two sticks coming off of the Y of the fork shaped stick over one another. This is needed in order to secure the oval shaped stone into the handle of the hammer.
The final step is to use the 2 foot long rawhide cord to lash together the two sticks folded over one another in the previous step. Army Survival Manual 21-76 in the section “Primitive Hammer Construction” advises that you need to make sure that you wrap the rawhide several times tightly around the two folded sticks in order to hold the hammer’s head in position. When you are to the end of the cord, tie the rawhide cord into a solid square knot to keep the lashing in place. This will finish the hammer.
According to Oscar Aucilla, National Tribal Historian of the Native American Tribal Republic of Timucua, the Timucua Tribe used this hammer design for hundreds of years prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the Florida Peninsula. They used sticks from the pine trees in the northern part of the peninsula. In the Central Florida flat lands, they used the sticks from the mahogany trees that were found there. In the southern swamps of the peninsula, they used the sticks from the red and white mangrove trees to create the handles for their stone hammers. The interesting thing about this design is that it has been field tested in modern uses and has been found to perform at about the same level as a top notch modern iron or steel hammer when used to drive nails.
Author’s Interview with Oscar Aucilla, National Tribal Historian of the Native American Tribal Republic of Timucua Dec. 2010
Backwoodsman Magazine, “Make a Primitive War Club” Dec. 2010
Army Survival Manual 21-76, “Primitive Hammer Construction”