By Adam Savat and Sam Kimball

We’re Adam Savat and Sam Kimball, and we have partnered with the Tomaquag Museum, which is dedicated to showcasing Narragansett culture, to curate a new stone tools (lithics) display at the museum. Our goal is to develop an exhibit that explores not only these Belongings, but also the ways in which they are deeply interwoven with the lives of the humans who created and used them. We will also be assisting the museum by cataloging a portion of their vast collection of Belongings.

The current stone tool display case.

We have been working with the experts at the Tomaquag Museum to better understand the ways in which these lithics are embedded within the lifeways of the Narragansett and other Eastern Woodlands Indigenous peoples. They have given us the opportunity to work with the Belongings in person, and to observe how visitors to the museum interact with them. This has been critical in understanding how to best understand these Belongings, and how we can communicate that information with the public.

For the display, we have selected a handful of Belongings that we feel best showcase the dynamic nature of stone tools. It will foreground the processes of creation and reuse by showing a flint knapper’s “tool chest”: a sheet of leather for protection, a hammer stone for taking off large flakes, and an antler for finer details, like serration and notching. These tools were used to create stone tools, and to give broken tools a second life by turning them into new, different tools; a knife with a broken tip could turn into a scraper, for example.

A small selection of the stone tool collection, including an ax with an intact handle.

In addition, we will be incorporating Belongings that are intact and relatively modern, including a stone ax with an intact handle. This will help visitors more clearly envision how these tools may have been used. It will also make clear that although the stone parts survive more often in the archaeological record, they were often just one part of a larger tool. We will also be including a non-lithic item into the display: a bronze-tipped arrow. We hope that this demonstrates that even with the adoption of new materials, there was a continuity of form and function; we bring attention to the wide, flat shape of the bronze arrowhead, which mimics earlier stone arrowheads.