3D Mauls and Segmented Stones “In-Situ”

Posted on Oct 17, 2013 in Prince Rupert Update, What's New

Our latest 3D modelling task has involved starting to place some of the more significant artifacts into our GIS as 3D models, as close as possible to how they were oriented when they were discovered.  So far, we have 3D models of a segmented stone, a zoomorphic concretion, and three mauls now in our GIS (Geographic Information System), as shown in our two videos below.  Since our last videos, we have also added some landmarks as 3D objects: these include a big rock, the double lines of several canoe runs, the railway tracks, a pit feature and a standing stone feature near the stacked hearths.  See below for discussion of how the artifacts and these other features were created in 3D for the GIS.

Segmented stones are found in middle to late period sites in the Coast Tsimshian and Tlingit territories.  These enigmatic objects are carefully shaped from stone; George MacDonald considers them to be symbolic of the axial skeleton of fish and mammals, and to have developed from early versions that were more realistic and often etched on soft concretions, such as the zoomorphic concretion highlighted in the video below.

Handmauls are hand-held hammers.  Two of the artifacts featured in today’s entry are “T-shaped Mauls”.  These were used to pound slightly softer things such as wooden stakes, chisel handles, or wood, antler, or sea-mammal wedges.  They were hard to make and were highly curated; in other words, they were really carefully looked after and expected to last a lifetime, or even be passed to a descendant.  Consequently, they are extremely rare.  A single T-shaped maul was found (out of 18,000 artifacts!) by the North Coast Prehistory Project.  Ken Ames’ 2005 artifact descriptions and table show that this artifact was found at the Boardwalk site, and either in a Middle Period (Period 2) context, or in an undated one.  Mauls described by Drucker in 1943 and possibly the one by Ames are noted as having end flanges that are reworked broken remnants of “stirrup maul” style.  Stirrup mauls have handle ends that arch up and meet in the middle, over the back of the user’s hand.  Both the T-shaped mauls in today’s post have one end broken which has been roughly repaired; but the other end is completely shaped, and clearly not part of a ‘stirrup’.  The third maul is a different style, but was found ‘bundled’ with one of the T-mauls.  All three seem to be phallic; perhaps these tools represented the power of their male owners, and this power literally transformed wood into useful or beautiful objects?

(See bottom of this post to view two of these mauls in a 3D viewer).


More on the technical aspects of the 3D modelling:

The artifact 3D models were created using our 3D scanner.  They were then manipulated in MeshLab into the correct orientation as found in the field, where known, using photographs and total station (TS) data points as guides.  The models were then imported into ArcScene and shifted until they were in the correct geographic location (again, using the TS data points as reference).  While we have shown the mauls and segmented stone in the videos above photo-realistically coloured, we chose to show the zoomorphic concretion in grey-scale, in order to highlight the shallow incisions creating the skeletal lines.  As for the other landmark 3D features: the canoe runs are simple 3D lines digitized based on the orthophoto and an underlying DEM (digital elevation model) of the surface, symbolized with a “tube” symbol.  The railway tracks are similar, but the line was generated from control points placed along the railway, and was symbolized as a rail line. The big rock is a simple mesh created in MeshLab from the convex hull of a set of TS points taken of the feature; the standing stone feature was created in the same way.  The hearths creation has been described in an earlier post, and the pit feature (located just to the north of the stacked hearths) was done the same way.

For those of you that wish to see the 3D models a bit closer, we have made two of the mauls available online; click on the links below (note: unfortunately they won’t work in Internet Explorer, and may not work on mobile devices).

(Click to view in 3D)

Click to view in 3D


(Click to view in 3D)

Click to view in 3D



  1. The top maul is distinctive in several ways. The flattened area on one surface (sort of like a glacial shoe) is particular interesting, especially since it seems to lack evidence of wear or use, especially impact scars. Unless the rendering softwear smooths the surfaces, the rest of it seems to lack impact scars. My experience with mauls leads me to expect wear on the “tip” and the two protuberances on the sides in addition to the bottom. The other maul similarly lacks impact damage. It is not a broken stirrup maul, given the formline design on the end of the unbroken flange. That design is a nice north coast motif given its ambiguity – from one angle it looks like an eye, from another something else. This is cool; I could rotate those images for awhile. I am Northwest Archaeology in the winter and use these and the hearth rendering. I look for more of these.



  2. Thanks Ken for the comment. Sorry, what is a glacial shoe? Is it a facet worn on the protruding part of an embedded rock in a glacier? I wondered if that facet was flattened to aid in hafting, but there are no hafting grooves that would match. There is a little smoothing of the model (especially these produced for web use;, but not enough to obscure wear, which is quite evident on the scanned versions of some other artifacts.

    Glad you agree these are NOT reworked stirrup mauls, but are fashioned from the start as T-mauls. These three mauls certainly lead one to think that Wilson Duff may have been on to something in his “Stone Images” book from decades ago!

    We’ll post a 3-D version of #3 (because you’ve asked) in the near future. We’ve been very busy with other commitments and haven’t had a lot of time to devote to the blog in recent weeks.

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