How Do You Crack a Nut?

Before modern appliances and kitchen tools made our lives easier, our ancestors had to make and use tools found in their natural environment.

Pictured here are a nutting and hammer stone found at an ongoing excavation in Adams County, OH. Dating to the Late Archaic Period (ca. 8000-1000 B.C.), these stones were used to crack open nuts. The whole nut was held in place in the small divots and then cracked open with the larger hammer stone. Then the nut could have been removed, or the entire mix could have been tossed into boiling water to separate shell from nut or as a way of collecting the nut oil. Because this nutting stone has a shallow basin in the center of the stone, it is likely one nut type was being ground into meal, after being cracked open.

Once these artifacts are bought back to Gray & Pape’s lab, they will not be washed. Though thousands of years old, it’s still possible that once starch grain or residue analysis is performed, we can determine what type of nuts were being manipulated.