Mottled red and gray granite discoidal, also called a chunky stone, is a small, round disk with rounded edges. Both faces are concave. Participants rolled the discoidal on its rim over a specially-prepared area, then threw spears or shot arrows at it, with the winner being the person whose projectile came closest to the discoidal when it stopped. Item was found at the Anderson Village Site in Washington Township, Warren County, Ohio.
Discoidals (game stones) come from the Late Prehistoric Mississippian Culture. The discoidal, also called a chunky stone, was the centerpiece in the competitive game of Chungke. The stone disc is circular in shape with variation in size and color. Engravings on game pieces were common, often including circles, dots and linear patterns. Game stones were carefully shaped and polished and sometimes passed down through generations.
There are varying historic accounts of how the game was played, which indicates that the rules were different from group to group and region to region. The rules likely changed over time as well. In general, however, the game usually followed the same basic pattern. Teams could be formed, but only two players participated in the game at a time. One player rolled the disc on its rim down a specially prepared field, usually a smooth dirt surface. Two people ran after the stone. The opposing player tried to strike the moving disc with a long, thin spear. The player that rolled the stone attempted to block his opponent’s pole with his own spear. If he failed and the second player was able to hit the stone, then the opponent received a point and the right to throw the disc. If the first player was able to block the pole, he retained the stone and gained one point. Should both players miss, no points were granted and the throw was repeated. One variation to the rules had two points being granted to the player whose pole landed closest to the disc after both players missed their target.
This game of skill and chance served an important social role in the community. Sometimes the athletes gained a status similar to that of modern celebrities. This attention was given mostly to young warriors, those who were often just as successful in battle. Gambling on the game was common for men and women. They would bet a range of items on the outcome of the game, such as rings, bracelets, and sometimes even the clothes off their back.
The discoidals in the collections of the Ohio Historical Society range in size from about 6.0 cm to 15.0 cm in diameter. Examples include discoidals made from dark gray sandstone, brown sandstone and red and gray granite. The object is always circular in shape; however, there is variation in thickness, decoration, and color of the stone. Three of the discoidals have a drilled hole through the center. The remaining disks are solid. One example portrays a decorative rim pattern. The disc on display in “Windows To Our Collection, Ohio’s Ancient Past” is about 15.0 cm in diameter and made of quartzite with large circular indentations on both sides. The mottled yellow-brown disc was found in Ottawa County.
- Culin, Steward. Games of the North American Indians. Dover, New York, 1975.
- Martha Otto on Discoidals http://126.96.36.199/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=1171
- Ohio Historical Society, First Americans: Discoidal. http://188.8.131.52/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=748
- Ohio Historical Society, OhioPix: Discoidal. http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/ohiopix
- Reichelt, David C. (curator) The Chunkge Stone and It's Game. Pecos Rio Grande Museum of Early Man. http://www.pecosrio.com
- Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre: Chungke'. http://www.manataka.org/page103.html.
- Woodward, Grace Steele. The Cherokees. University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.