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Variously known as cupstones, "anvil stones," "pitted cobbles" and "nutting stones," among other names, these roughly discoidal or amorphous groundstone artifacts are among the most common lithic remains of Native American culture, especially in the Midwest, in Early Archaic contexts.
Engineers studied animal carvings made on a pillar – known as the vulture stone – at the site.
There are several ethnographic accounts of the Native use of nutting stones in the historic times.
One account says "the Virginia Indians in 1587 tells us that each household had stones for cracking nuts and for grinding shell and other materials." It goes on to say that "This statement would doubtless be equally true if applied at that time to almost any tribe inhabiting the section east of the Mississippi." In Hawaii, cup and ring marks are associated with petroglyphs, and those occurring in the boundary regions of Apuki and Puna lands have been used as depositories for a child's navel cord, a custom also observed in other Polynesian peoples.
Similar objects can be found on all continents except Antarctica.
They are associated with Celtic Europe, prehistoric Australia, Borneo and the Middle East.
Examination under magnification suggests the impressions were at least in some cases formed by rotary grinding, particularly in softer rocks.
In most cases, archeological evidence of cupstones on hard rock surfaces and monoliths indicates that they were created by direct percussion with rock hammers.The carvings appear to have remained important to the people of Gobekli Tepe for millennia, suggesting that the event and cold climate that followed likely had a very serious impact.Researchers from the University of Edinburgh suggest the images were intended as a record of the cataclysmic event, and that a further carving showing a headless man may indicate human disaster and extensive loss of life.The event also wiped out many large animal species, and triggered a mini ice age.Analysis of symbols carved onto stone pillars at Gȍbekli Tepe in southern Turkey – one of the world’s most important archaeological sites – suggests that a swarm of comet fragments hit Earth around 11,000BC.By interpreting the animals as astronomical symbols, and using software to match their positions to patterns of stars, researchers dated the event to 10,950BC.