The Low Tablet is an engraved sandstone slab that is 4.8 inches long, 3.3 inches wide, and .35 inches thick. It is attributed to the Adena culture and dates to circa 200 B.C. The design, consisting of two human faces with stylized birds on each side, is divided into two sections with the lower section being the mirror image of the upper section. The backside of the tablet has a series of grooves that were likely created by a person sharpening bone tools on the slab.
Only 13 Adena tablets—used as stamps to imprint the clothing or body—have been found in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio. The Low Tablet is the best example depicting human faces.
A West Virginia boy, Edward Low, found the tablet in 1942 when he was playing in his neighborhood in north Parkersburg. He uncovered two stones while digging a hole in a sandy mound. One stone was the Low Tablet and the other was a plain tablet with grooves on one side. He kept the stones and took them to school occasionally. Years later, his children took the stones to school for “show and tell."
In May 1971, Low took the tablet to the Ohio Historical Society where he learned that the tablet was from the Adena era. Low agreed to allow the historical society to display the tablet. Since then, ownership of the tablet has been in conflict. In 2007 Low decided to give the tablet to the Blennerhassett Museum of Regional History in Parkersburg. When he went to retrieve the tablet, he was told that it belonged to the society. Low filed a lawsuit to retrieve the tablet, but he died before the trial. His wife carried on with the lawsuit and lost the case. The case is being appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.
This Article was written by Robert F. Maslowski
Last Revised on May 01, 2012
Otto, Martha P.. A New Engraved Adena Tablet. Ohio Archaeologist, 25, 2, 1975.
Low, Edward M.. How the Ohio Historical Society Took My Adena Tablet From Me…. Ohio Archaeologist, 60, 3, 2010.
Converse, Robert N.. The Low Tablet – In Remembrance of Ed Low.. Ohio Archaeologist, 60, 3, 2010.
Murphy, James L.. My Five Minutes in a Witness Protection Program. Ohio Archaeologist, 62, 1, 2012.
Steelhammer, Rick. Relic Sparks Legal Battle of Prehistoric Proportions. Charleston Gazette, March 17, 2012.
Cite This Article
Maslowski, Robert F. "Low Tablet." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 01 May 2012. Web. 29 March 2017.