Ancient ‘Donut-Shaped’ Rock Found in Rural Northern California. What the Heck is it?

An interesting rock was discovered in the rural town of Termo, California, bringing many questions about how it was created and how it was used. The stone has a beautiful circular shape and a hole in the middle of it, making it look like some sort of petrified donut. One thing is clear – this rock was not created by nature, but rather by human. So what the heck is this ancient artifact?

Photos of the lava rock were submitted to the Modoc Historical Society, which was posted to social media to get the public involved in the conversation:

Based on the discussion from the post, most people believe it is either a Native American arrow sharpener or fishing net weight. More photos were shared when the stone was being analyzed:

“The Item is 3 1/2 inches across and about 1 1/2 thick, the hole in the middle is 3/8 inch wide,” wrote the Modoc County Historical Society. “The item appears to have been semi smooth at some time (some portions are still smooth) and crafted well but has been weathered.”

Termo is a small, unincorporated community in Lassen County, giving the rock multiple possibilities in terms of its origins. The area was populated by the Atsugewi, Achomawi and Northern Paiute tribes. It was also close the territory of the Modoc tribe to the north.

Similar rocks were discovered near Santa Barbara in the early 2000’s, which had bigger holes in the middle and researchers concluded were probably used as digging weights:

But the rock found in Termo had such a small hole in the middle, it’s difficult to imagine it was used as a digging tool. With its craftsmanship so meticulous, it could have been a tool with multiple purposes. It could be used to shape and sharpen arrows, while also being the perfect weight for a fishing net (Termo would have been a marshy land like Tulelake during this time, allowing for plenty of fishing opportunities).

The age of the rock has not been determined, so it’s exact origin and purpose is difficult to determine. The Modoc tribe has a history of over 6,000 years in Far Northern California, so there are many periods of time this artifact could have been created.

We will probably never know the exact purpose of the donut-shaped rock found in Termo, but it gives us just a little bit more insight into how Native Americans lived in NorCal for the thousands of years before us. What do you think it was used for?

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Michael Tellinger talks about these donut shape rocks, used with rods and cone shape rocks for levitation and sound healing,

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