When photographing bannerstones it is important to recognize that each one is uniquely carved, as well as a unique kind of rock. To begin with, the sculptors chose rocks either from their immediate surroundings or rocks that were traded from across Eastern North America. They chose their rocks carefully and worked their surfaces into intentional and specific aesthetic compositions. Unlike points or axes, bannerstones were not used to pierce or pound. Their purpose, in great part, was for visual experimentation and expression, making it possible for sculptors to choose from the full spectrum of hard igneous to soft sedimentary rock, a range that would not be possible for making tools that needed to be razor sharp or resistant to breakage for forceful percussive use. This extensive range of lithics that could be chosen for bannerstone construction makes it especially important to represent the raw material as a way to reveal the conscious choices of the sculptor in shaping these materials. The geological identity of the rocks chosen can provide information to determine where the rocks originally came from. Provenience of where the bannerstone was found when combined with information of where the raw material originated could reveal trade routes or the actual movement of people within the Archaic period. Photographs that reveal the natural contours and geologic composition will contribute information meaningful to our visual record and understanding of bannerstones.
Identifying rocks by sight is a complicated practice that can lead to multiple conclusions. As the result of minerals and various elements transforming into a hardened form, rocks are igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary or somewhere on the transformational spectrum between these states, such as meta-igneous or meta-sedimentary. In addition to the class of the rock, there are common and anomalous trace elements and inclusions that further define the identity or visual appearance of a rock and distinguish them from one another. Some rocks are rich in inorganic trace materials like iron or mica, while others have trace fossils that inflect and alter their appearance. These distinctive qualities of rock were extremely important to Archaic sculptors who then meticulously carved them into various bannerstone shapes. Recommendation: take at least one detail image that reveals and records information about the raw material of the bannerstone. Images should provide visual information about the class of rock as well as distinctive elements of the rock such as inclusions or unique banding or mica flecks that would have drawn the Archaic sculptor to them.