Ground Stone

by Colleen Boyle – Archaeological Technician

“Ground stone” is a broad term used to describe a prehistoric stone tool that has been shaped through the process of grinding, polishing, pounding, drilling, chipping or other methods of breaking down rock with another stone. These ground stones are usually made of courser igneous rock types because their textured surface makes them ideal for grinding against other materials. The process of making any stone tool can be time consuming and labor intensive, but the final product is a sturdy tool well worth the effort. Native Americans made a variety of ground stone tools like axes, mortars, pestles, and grinding slabs using these methods. The first known axes in Virginia date to around 5000 B.C.E. during the Middle Archaic (Egloff 1992).

Recently, a broken ground stone tool was discovered at an archaeological site in Fairfax County (pictured above). A tool like this would have been made out of a single stone, ground into the desired shape with a harder stone that would be able to chip away at the axe until it was the desired shape. This process makes it possible to create a notch where the tool could be bound to a wooden handle. Even though this ground stone tool is damaged, it was still a rare and exciting find for archaeologists in the field.


Egloff, Keith and Debrah Woodward. First People: The Early Indians of Virginia. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Richmond, VA. 1992

The University of Iowa. Ground Stone Artifacts Series in Ancient Technologies. The Office of the State Archaeologist. accessed March 30, 2018

Wright, K. 1992. A Classification System for Ground Stone Tools from the Prehistoric Levant. Paléorient, Volume 18-2. accessed March 30, 2018


About cartarchaeology

We are the County Archaeological Research Team, part of the Archaeology and Collections Branch, Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority. We are tasked with understanding and managing the cultural resources on Park land throughout Fairfax County.
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