Kingfisher-Effigy Bone Hairpin

Image of kingfisher effigy bone hairpin.
Animal bones carved into tools, artwork

For people of the late Woodland Period living about 1,000 years ago, animals provided more than just meat for their diets. In the Lower Illinois River Valley and American Bottoms (where Mississippian culture and the City of Cahokia would eventually rise to prominence), archaeologists have discovered significant collections of bone tools and ornaments. This artifact appears to be a hairpin. It was discovered in 1938 in a burial mound not far from the site of present-day Pere Marquette State Park, just north of the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.

The likeness is thought to represent the Belted Kingfisher, a bird that does not appear in artwork of the Mississippian people who came later. Woodpeckers were regular subjects of Mississippian artisans, but Kingfishers were absent, leading scientists to conclude the work is from the late Woodland Period. The Kingfisher pin and other similar artifacts are probably made from deer bone.

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