Studying the "evolution" of stone palettes - they basically began and ended as naturally shaped, undecorated flat stones used for mixing or pulverizing soft paint pigments. It is likely that stone bowls, dishes, or mortars were used to pulverize hard mineral pigments, reducing them to a powder or adding liquid to make a cake form. Once reduced to a powder or cake form, a small amount could then be mixed with a liquid on a palette. During their "hayday" in the Colonial Period, many palettes were quite well shaped, exquisitely carved, and may have not been used to mix paint at all. Many palettes may have been used to grind hallucinogenic plants (Lowell 1990, White 2004). Stone palettes became a unique artifact during the Colonial Period that were primarily made by the Hohokam. Trade with the Hohokam may have influenced Mimbres stone carvers to make palettes also, but not as many or as elaborate as the Hohokam. Most palettes easily fit in ones hand being rectangular in shape. Some were round, diamond, effigy shaped, and a few had handles. Most measure between four to eight inches in length, however they were made in a wide range of sizes. Miniatures have been found as well as comparatively huge "altar" pieces. Palettes are usually made of slate or slate-like schist, earlier and later undecorated ones were usually made of harder stone. Many have a slight basin in or near the center caused by grinding. Some have been found containing traces of red, white, and yellow paints, although palettes may have been used to grind organic material as well. Many have been found with patches of lead slag encrustations on the surfaces, some of these have small vitreous green glaze patches also. Most palettes were offerings used in cremation ceremonies, but many were not. The lead was likely lead carbonate and when burned glowed a strong red color (Hawly in Gladwin & others, 1965;282-289) Perhaps adding other ores produced other colors when burned. A copper ore was likely added to the ones that produced the green glaze. Palettes may have been used for a variety of things, they have been called receptacles, trays, snuff trays, tablets, plaques, lapstones, paint slabs, and even game boards.
Haury stated that palettes date all the way back to the beginning of the Pioneer Period (Gladwin and others, 1965;121-126), but may even date earlier to Archaic times (see palette #1Y below).
(A.D. 550 and earlier)
1Y Hohokam Stone Palette and tiny "mano" found on an archaic site near Tucson, Arizona.
Both appear to have traces of red paint on them, and are natural unshaped hard stones. The bottom or underside of the palette has a high polish likely derived from much use of being held in the hand. The palette measures approximately 3 7/8" long by 7/8" thick, the"mano" 1 1/4" long by 1".
PIONEER THRU SEDENTARY PERIOD
(A.D. 550 - 1125)
2Y Hohokam Stone Palette. Smoothed and abraded on all sides
with a small oval basin in the center. This style of palette has been found from beginning of the
Pioneer Period to the end of the Sedentary. A.D. 550 - 1125. Found west of Tucson, Arizona.
Approximate Dimensions: 2 7/8" long by 1 3/4" wide by 3/8" thick
3Y Hohokam Stone Palette. Smoothed and abraded on all sides
with slightly raised borders that gradually slope down to the basin. A similar
type found at Snaketown has raised borders on the sides only and
was found to date in the Santa Cruz Phase. There are traces of red paint on the bottom exterior.
Approximate Dimensions: 2 7/8" long by 2 1/8" wide by 3/8" thick
4Y Hohokam Stone Palette. Smoothed and abraded with high borders.
This style has also been found from the beginning of the Pioneer Period thru the
Sedentary Period. A.D. 550 - 1125.
Approximate Dimensions: 3 7/8" long by 2" wide by 1/2" thick
5Y Hohokam Stone Palette. Smoothed and abraded without borders it has
a very slight basin and a medial groove on all sides. The medial groove was practiced
most in the Santa Cruz Phase. A.D. 850-950.
Approximate Dimensions: 3" long by 2" wide by 5/16" thick
(A.D. 750 - 950)
6N Hohokam Stone Palette with a grooved and notched border, and notches
above and below the medial groove as well.
Approximate Dimensions: 5" long by 2 1/2" wide by 1/4" thick
7N Hohokam Stone Palette with Rattlesnakes. Santa Cruz Phase.
Approximate Dimensions: 13 1/2" by 5 5/8" by 3/8"
8Y Hohokam Palette with a carved "flying bird" near each corner.
This palette has a low raised border with light notches along the top
of it and no medial groove. Late Santa Cruz Phase.
Approximate Dimensions: 8" by 4" by 5/16"
9Y Hohokam Palette (Santa Cruz Phase)
with a single groove in the border and a deep medial groove.
Approximate Dimensions: 6 1/8" by 3 5/8"
10N Hohokam Palette with all the characteristics of a Santa Cruz Phase Palette.
The border however is not very high possibly suggesting this
palette may date late in the Santa Cruz Phase.
Approximate Dimensions: 7" by 3 1/4" by 3/8"
(A.D. 950 - 1125)
11N Hohokam Palette Deer or Dog. Early Sacaton Phase.
This palette may have had traces of paint used for decoration.
12N Stone Palette with a decorated border
Approximate Dimensions: 6" by 3 1/2" by 3/16"
(A.D. 1125 - 1450)
13Y Hohokam Classic Period palette of natural unshaped hard stone and traces
of red paint on both sides. Found on the floor of a Tanque Verde phase house near Tucson, Arizona.
Approximate Dimensions: 10 1/4" by 5" by 1"
14Y Stone Palette/"Agave Knife" with traces of red pigment on one face.
The high points on the chipped sides are worn smooth perhaps from being held in the hand.
It has a blade at one end as typical "Agave Knives" do.
Approximate Dimensions: 6 3/4" by 3 1/4" by 3/8"
15Y Stone Palette/"Agave Knife" with red pigment on one face.
Approximate Dimensions: 4 5/8" by 2 3/4" by 3/8"
16Y Stone Palette with traces of red pigment on one face. The face with
red pigment has two small shallow mxing basins while the opposite face has one
large shallow mixing basin. Approximate Dimensions: 10" by 7" by 1 1/2"
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