In the 1930s, excavators at an archaeological site in eastern Oklahoma unearthed 900-year-old marine shells engraved with images of animals and men. One of the engravings depicts a man with an outstretched arm holding a distinctively-shaped object. Archaeologists identified it as a mace based on its similarity to a weapon wielded during the Middle Ages and later as a symbol of authority.
In the early 20th century, a farmer living near Pearl, Illinois, found this object in a cultivated field. About 7 inches tall, the outline of this object is comparable to that illustrated on a marine shell from Oklahoma. It was made from Mill Creek chert, a glass-like stone found in Union County, Illinois, and the same material used to make hoes and so-called dance swords, an object also portrayed in some of the shell engravings.
The appearance of mace-like artifacts coincides with the rise of Mississippian culture, a way of life in which leaders were considered semi-divine. Was this object once held by a Mississippian leader 800 years ago? It is noteworthy that there were no large Mississippian communities near the location where the mace was found. The rest of the story of this object remains shrouded in the passage of time.