a B.C. private collection
Wilson Duff estimates that the basic design of the hand hammer (or maul) is at least two thousand years old in the region at the mouth of the Fraser River in B.C. He suggests that the “nipple top” design is the oldest, and that the flat-topped design, which resembles a typical pestle, came later (p. 90). While the basic design is utilitarian there is no denying the phallic symbolism of both the shape and the use of this tool. On the other hand, in this beautiful example the nipple top suggests a male-female duality. It’s a lovely, evocative object. Dare we call it striking?
References: for a discussion of stone hammers and mauls with several illustrations see Wilson Duff, Images Stone B.C. (Oxford U.P., 1975) pp. 88-99. For a brief discussion of the use of hand hammers in woodcarving see Hilary Stewart, Cedar (Douglas & McIntyre, 1984) p. 30.
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