The million dollar question: what is a machacador?

December 16, 2009

During our 2009 survey season, a student approached us asking if it was ok to collect a strange object lying on a mound by his feet. Immediately, Natalia got closer to him and identified the artifact as a “machacador”, reported by Bertha Cuevas in her thesis on El Carrizal. Instantly, the artifact was collected, labeled ant stored in the Laboratory.

Throughout the analysis, we noticed that the only modification of the original form is a flake scar, located in the front end (assuming that the back end is the side that presents a round shape). Apart from that, we observed that the artifact was manufactured in travertine. In addition, it presents a conical perforation on one site, while the other shows the same perforation connected to the proximal end.

We decided to visit the Museo de Antropología de Xalapa in order to find some clues about the purpose and use of this rare object. Luckily, we located a complete display cabinet full of artifacts that morphologically look alike the one we collected. Surprisingly, Museum’s classification labels them as war hammers.

We’ve been asking scholars for their opinion about the artifact. Some of them think it had a deadly function, others reckon it was used for leather treatment or seed processing. Finally, some believe it was a tool to work on wood. However, no one is really sure about its function.

This update is aimed to invite you all to leave us some feedback on this intriguing question, so please feel free to send your opinions, experiences and ideas about the function or use that the machacador artifact might have had. So, the million-dollar question is: What do you think it is?

P1030223 P1030226

Pictures of the machacador recovered at PAC’s 2009 survey.

Comments (119)

  1. JET says:

    how about an arrow straightener?

  2. ben says:

    maybe a cinder catch or to hold the top end of your shaft and bow fire starter

  3. John Knight says:

    To me this looks like an implement to use in making a net. The tappered hole would facilitate feeding a course rough bit of twine throught the hole and the groove on the other side would be were the thread fitted. Not being long and slender I would assume that it would be to make a net type article with quite big holes. I can not see it as being a hammer of any sort.

  4. Daniel McGough says:

    Masons use a plum line to ensure the bricks being laid are straight. This object could be strung on the plum line to be used as a marker in the fresh plaster.

  5. Bryant Bergeron says:

    It appears to be part of a mortar and pestle set. The ‘hole’ may have been a strainer for the bigger pieces ?

  6. John Hicks says:

    The overall shape does suggest a weapon of sorts, and unfortunately the context of the find does not offer a clue (at least based on the article) however when I use my imagination, I see a counterweight of some sort. A large knot nestled in the conical depression, with the line thru the hole, the line resting in the grove on the reverse side of the conical depression. Why the “beak” shape creates uncertainty though….

  7. Howard Hyatt says:

    I think it is the tip of a bow. A similar and corresponding piece being used at the other end of the bow to hold the string.

  8. Brandon Reich says:

    Looks like a secondary tool used for fire starting, what’s missing is the wood and spindle that would be drilled in hole to create heat with a combustible material such as moss, dry leaves etc.

  9. Richard Virchow says:

    Looks like a loom shuttle.

  10. anthony herren says:

    I agree with the guy who thinks its a shuttle. I once worked in a cotton-mill weave shop and our shuttles had the same general shape although they were hollow. Could have been used in looms weaving heavy textiles like rugs.

  11. ken bohun says:

    The second I saw it I thought “nice arrow straightener” very similar to what I used by chance on an experiment slash bad idea camping trip starting with nothing and off you go to survive on half learned skills. Any way, I was making an arrow and used a rock I found on the beach (west coast bc) with a hole in it to pry the arrow strait over a smoldering fire because it would burn my bare hands applying pressure to the hot wood. I agree with JET arrow smiths’ tool.

  12. Amy says:

    I think it is a pipe, of sorts.

  13. Ray Vasquez says:

    It is a bean masher. It was used back in the earlier days.

  14. The stone appears to be of the size and shape to be held comfortably in the hand, like a handle. Tie a stone to one end of twine, and then thread the other end of the twine through the hole. Place your hand (or thumb) onto the circular shape to hold the end of the twine. Now swing the stone in a circle over your head.The twine will extend out from the handle along the linear depression in the handle. When ready to fling the stone at your enemy, simply release the pressure of your hand (or thumb) on the end of the twine! The machacador is a handle for a slingshot!

  15. It is habitat dependent. It could be several things.
    What was the habitat ? when they were used…

  16. Kyle says:

    Machacador means “crusher” in Spanish so it must be to a pedestal and mortar set,most likely for crushing beans and the hole was to filter the dirt from the beans, or it could have been used as a hammer like the museum believes.

  17. Frances L Stearns says:

    Seems there are many of these objects so ‘slingshot’ is plausible. Rabbit hunting?

  18. Sarah says:

    I was reading in “1491” (p 349) about old texts done in textile and cords, khipu strands or bundles. I was imagining hanging a cord, tie knots and fix them or display them, it is often handy to have a weight at the end of the cord. This could be a “writing tool” for cord tying khipu, the point has a purpose if the end of the cord (running through the channel, hole, coming out of the conical shaped side) ends in a loop. Thus at any time the weight can easily be removed from the cord, be worked, words added or corrected for example and rehung or stretched.

    The same goes for it’s use as a building tool for establishing vertical lines. A loop at the end could be slung over the point for easy removal of the weight.

  19. shelley brewer says:

    Thank you for all of your effort on this site.