Bonetool Archives 2011

December 2011

The pocket knife handle depicting Eros riding a dolphin is one of the most beautiful Roman bone carvings from the province of Dacia. It is dated to the 2nd to 3rd century AD and was found in the big auxiliary fort of Porolissum.

Lorant Vas

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November 2011

Stamp for the decoration of pottery made out of the tip of a red deer antler tine found in an early medieval context at Peins, province Friesland, Netherlands. Stamps of this type (C 2ci) are common in East Anglia and Lincolnshire, England, but are usually made from metal.

Wietske Prummel

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October 2011

Retoucher made of a long and narrow splinter of red deer antler beam from the site „Sutz – Lattrigen – Hauptstation – innen, Canton of Berne“, Lake of Bienne. Dating: 36th century BC.

Jörg Schibler

Photo: IPNA Basel

September 2011

 Photos: Archaeological collections of the Institute of History, Tallinn University
The birdhead-shaped object was found from the excavations of Lohavere hillfort, South Estonia. It is made from elk antler and it is dated to the 12th–13th centuries AD. Birdhead-shaped artefacts are quite numerous among archaeological finds from Novgorod. They have been made also from wood, bronze and walrus ivory, but specimens of antler occur more frequently. The birdhead-shaped artefacts from Novgorod have been regarded as whip handles. In Novgorod they were popular from the end of the 11th century to the beginning of the 13th century.
The birdhead-shaped antler artefact also bears traces of use: one of its sides is quite worn. Evidently it was rubbed against something in the course of exploitation. In this respect the interpretation of the Novgorod objects as whip handles also fits the Lohavere find: the whip probably hang from a belt or a saddle and thus wore off one of its sides. Most likely the birdhead was not the whole handle of a whip, it was probably attached to a longer, presumably wooden, handle.
This beautiful whip handle undoubtedly belonged to a person of a high social status. This is suggested by the findspot and the purpose of the object as well as the careful finishing of the product. The object was found from a hill-fort, which in its time was an abode of the local elite. Lohavere was a small fortified nobleman’s hillfort, a fortified manor. The high rank of the owner is also suggested by the purpose of the object – whip belonged to a horseman’s outfit and horseman undoubtedly belonged to the elite. Deciding by the craftsmanship and methods of manufacturing the object is evidently of foreign origin, manufactured by a professional boneworker. Most likely only the social elite could afford to acquire such objects.Heidi Luik

Luik, Heidi (2010): Birdhead-shaped antler handle from Lohavere hillfort. – Muinasaja teadus 21, 127-138

August 2011

bta_8_2011_inkpot.jpg One of four inkpots made of horn, probably from an orphanage, second half of 16th century.

Esser, Kinie / Beerenhout, B. / Kuijper, W. J. / Rijkelijkhuizen, Marloes J. (2005): Dierlijke resten uit de stad Middelburg. – Ossicle 100, 36-46
Esser, Kinie / Beerenhout, B. / Kuijper, W. J. / Rijkelijkhuizen, Marloes J. (2006): Dierlijke Resten uit de stad. in: Dijkstra, A. Jacob / Ostkamp, S. / Williams, Gerald (eds.): Middelburg-Berghuijskazerne, ArcheoProjecten Rapport 595, 177-228, Amersfort

July 2011


‚Turned‘ sheep metatarsus from a Roman until early medieval site at Cottam, East Yorkshire, England. Suggestions, comparative items, remarks are still welcome.

Please contact Steve Ashby.

Photo: Steve Ashby
object courtesy of Julian D Richards (site director).

June 2011

Multi-component fish harpoon tips made of caribou antler.
Koniag Tradition (ca. 1200 – 1600 A.D.).
Found at Karluk One and Settlement Point Sites, Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska, USA.Amy Margaris

May 2011

Displayed below is an Early Bronze Age – Middle Bell-Beaker Culture object found on the settlement site of Albertfalva-Öskor on the outskirts of Budapest in Hungary. It is radio-carbon-dated 2500 BC. The object is a marker tool for this group of the Bell-Beaker-Csepel group. These tools are made from cattle or horse radii. Only the distal end is preserved. There is a hole drilled medio-laterally above the distal epiphysis and there is a longitudinal facet running up the dorsal surface. The tools are sometimes described as a ‘skate’ in the literature, but although the wear on this facet looks much like the wear on bone skates it seems unlikely that this is how these objects were actually used. They are certainly something else, but I have no idea what. Maybe something for burnishing and compression of leather?

Alice Choyke


April 2011

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 Photos: Archaeological collections of the Institute of History, Tallinn University Use wear on the teeth of pendant from Pada

Comb-shaped antler pendants are spread mainly in southeastern and eastern Estonia. The openwork upper part of the pendants depict either long-necked birds or snakes. Most of such pendants come from Rouge hill-fort (left picture) and settlement site. These pendants are dated to the last quarter of the first millennium AD. Comb-shaped pendants are found also from Northwest Russia, where they are dated to the 9th-11th centuries. They often have upper parts depicting waterfowl, but other zoomorphic images are also represented. The eastern Finno-Ugrians decorated their comb-shaped pendants mostly with horse figurines. Comb pendants could have been used for combing, which is indicated by use wear on the teeth of some pendants (right picture), but probably they have also some symbolic meaning related to combing and hair, to which magic meaning has often been attributed. From Russian folklore it is known that ritual combing of the bride’s hair before wedding was connected with fertility magic, where the comb teeth imitated rain. The custom of dipping comb in honey or wine before combing was also related to watering and fecundity. The ritual combing of the bride’s hair has been also mentioned in Karelian, Vepsian and Estonian folklore; for example Setu folk songs contain instances where combing of bride’s hair was meant to make her livestock and grains crops fertile.

Heidi Luik

March 2011

This month a beautiful fan made of tortoise shell and ivory found in a 17th century context in Amsterdam.  bta_3-2011_tortoise_fan.jpg
Rijkelijkhuizen, Marloes J. (2010): Tortoiseshell in the 17th and 18th Century Dutch Republic. in: Legrand-Pineau, Alexandra / Sidéra, Isabelle / Buc, Natacha / David, Eva / Scheinsohn, Vivian (eds.): Ancient and Modern Bone Artefacts from America to Russia. Cultural, technological and functional signature, British Archaeological Reports International Series 2136, 97-106, Oxford
Photo: Anneke Dekker
collection Municipal Archaeological Department

February 2011

An anvil of a type used for producing the serrated edge of scythes. Known from Hellenistic times until the present in parts of rural Spain. This object comes from the 16th century (Turkish Period)  Hungarian fort of Baj in Hungary.

Alice Choyke

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January 2011


Arrowheads made of animal bone
Sites: Twann and Sutz – Lattrigen – Hauptstation – innen, Lake of Bienne, canton of Berne.
Dating: 38th – 36th century BC

Jörg Schibler

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