Bonetool Archives 2015

December 2015

This month we would like to show four bone and antler bracelets from around the world and from different time periods as examples of parallelism.
bta 2015 12 bracelet china2 bta 2015 12 bracelet china1
Bone bracelet
Excavated from Duzhong Site, Mianchi County, Henan Province, China; Neolithic, late Yangshao Culture along Yellow River, 5000-3000 BC.
Contributed and photographed by Hou Yanfeng.
bta 2015 12 bracelets canada
Bone bracelet
Two Iroquoian armbands. The one on top comes from a private collection and was probably found on a Neutral site; the one at the bottom is from the Draper site, a Late Pre-Contact Huron village site. The artifacts shown are from the collections of the Canadian Museum of History.
Contributed and photographed by Christian Gates St. Pierre.
bta 2015 12 bracelet swiss
Antler bracelet
Final Neolithic, Pfyner Culture lake-dwelling site of Arbon-Bleiche 3 (3284-3370 BC) in the Kanton Thurgau on Lake Constance in Switzerland.
Contributed by Sabine Deschler-Erb.
bta 2015 12 bracelet hu1 bta 2015 12 bracelet hu3
Antler bracelet
Late Roman cemetery of Gazdagrét in Budapest, Hungary, woman’s grave. The bracelet is held in the Aquincum Museum, Budapest
Contributed and photographed by Alice Choyke.

November 2015

bta 2015 11 covalta hairpin

Decorative bone pins from the Oppidum of Covalta (Albaida-Agres; Valencia-Alicante; Spain), Iberian Period (V – III centuries BC) now stored in the Museum of Prehistory of Valencia (Spain). These objects could be used as hair pins in the same way as the Roman acus crinalis.

Above: Bone pin with zoomorphic head, ornamented with incisions and moldings.
Below: Set of nineteen pins of different sizes and with a variety of heads and decorations.

Marta Blasco Martin

bta 2015 11 covalta pins

October 2015

Since the 18th meeting of the ICAZ Fish Remains Working Group (FRWG) is taking place this week in Lisboa, it might be a nice idea to present some worked fish bone as this months bonetool.

The object shown below is a 19th century wall decoration in form of a bouqut of flowers made out of fish bones and dried thistle blossoms. It is displayed in the exhibition of the Museum Eckernförde, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany (Heinrich 1994, 96). The fish species that are identifiable without closer examination are cod (Gadus morhua), carp-like fishes (Cyprinidae) and pike (Esox lucius).

The object has a taphonomic history itself: It fell off the wall and had to be restored. Obviously there are less fishbones integrated at present than before the accident (see below right).

Dirk Heinrich & Christian Küchelmann

 bta 2015 10 fish bone decoration1  bta 2015 10 fish bone decoration2
Museum Eckernförde, Inv.-Nr. AB 810, photos: Dirk Heinrich
Heinrich, Dirk (1994): Some Remarks on the Term „Thanatocoenosis“ especially „anthropogenic Thanatocoenosis“ with particular Reference to Fish Remains. – Archaeofauna 3, 93-97

September 2015

 bta 2015 09 Ephesos
Photo: Niki Gail, Austrian Archaeological Institute.
Small find made of bone
 from Ephesos
(ID-no. EVH15 3045/3237)Introduction:
The small object displayed above was excavated this year in the Late Antique residence south of the Church of Mary in Ephesos on the West Coast of Turkey. Excavations at Ephesos have been conducted since 1895 by the Austrian Archaeological Institute; the particular location is archaeologically investigated since 2011. The finds are of a great variety and among them are numerous bone artefacts. Decorative needles comprise a major part of these bone objects; other finds made of bone are discs, plates, tubes, sewing needles and gaming pieces.Description:
The object presented here is unique in this context. It consists of two separate pieces: a corpus and a lid. The state of preservation is excellent, the object is nearly complete (only parts of the rings are broken in small areas).
The corpus is a cone, lathe-turned out of the diaphysis of a large mammal long bone (most probably a metatarsus of cattle). The hollow cavity is smooth and consists of the nearly unworked inner surface of the marrow cavity. The main part of the corpus is defined by two turned rings. The lower one is simple, the upper one consists of multiple lines. The upper edge of the object is flat and polished and the central opening at the top is closed with a lid. The bottom is open and does not show any damage, supporting the assumption that the object is whole.
On the outer surface shallow decorative engravings are visible. The decorations consist of twelve triangles based at the upper ring and reaching nearly the lower one with their tips, giving the object the appearance of a flower blossom. The lid is lathe-turned as well and terminates in a conical top, resulting in a very harmonic appearance.
The function of the object remains uncertain so far. One idea is the use as a cover of a vessel, but there are no use-wear traces at the bottom of the object supporting this. The object might also have been a small container with the bottom closed once by a bone disc fixed into the marrow cavity, but also for this hypothesis no supporting evidence like e. g. manufacturing marks or glue traces exist. A third option would be that it may have been the top of a larger composite object. Any ideas, comments or information about comparative objects, etc. are welcome.
Elise Baudouin

August 2015

 bta 2015 08 york painted bone
Horse cervical vertebra painted as a blessing parson from the collection of the York Castle Museum (inventory no. YORCM: AA3987), produced between 1730 and 1840 AD.

Many worked objects are so heavily altered that it is often difficult to identify the species or the skeletal element used. In the case of this horse vertebra (see above) the original shape is entirely preserved but its features have been enhanced with paint to give it an entirely different identity. Another example, a whale’s ear bone painted with a face, can be found in the collections of the Hull Maritime Museum, UK. Two more painted tympanic bullae of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) have been displayed in a whale exhibition at the LWL-Museum für Naturkunde Münster, Germany, tagged as dolls heads from 20th century Norway (see below).

Whole, largely unmodified animal bones, have been given a multitude of functions by different cultures, such as the widespread use of knuckle bones as gaming pieces. The particular characteristic of these painted pieces, however, is that they are comical and humour is difficult to detect through the study of bone finds or archaeological material in general. All these are relatively recent, historical examples. Would we spot archaeological examples if the paint has deteriorated?
Sonia O’Connor

bta 2015 08 Muenster painted1  bta 2015 08 Muenster painted2
Painted tympanic bullae of sperm whales displayed 2012 in the exhibition „Wale – Riesen der Meere“ in the LWL-Museum für Naturkunde Münster. Photo: Küchelmann
York Museum Trust
Hull Museum Collections Inv. no. W5.238

July 2015

 bta 2015 07 starcevo spoon1  bta 2015 07 starcevo spoon2
Photos: Archives of the National Museum Belgrade, Serbia.

Bone spoon from Starčevo-Grad (Banat, northern Serbia) found during the excavations 1928-1932 (inv. 1991, National Museum, Belgrade). These spoons are made from large Bos sp. metatarsals and are an indicator artifact for the Early Neolithic of the region.

Selena Vitezovic

Vitezović, Selena (2011): Koštana industrija u starijem i srednjem neolitu centralnog Balkana [Bone industry in the Early and Middle Neolithic in central Balkans], PhD thesis University of Belgrade, Belgrade

June 2015

 bta 2015 06 Viljandi bag
Broken antler object from Viljandi, Estonia and a bag with similar detail from Laihia, Finland (from Sirelius 1919, fig. 298-301).
The antler plate from Viljandi was probably used for a long time since the plaited ornament on it is worn and visible only at one end. It was found in a castle held by the Viljandi Order. The finds from the castle mostly date to the 13th–16th centuries although some later finds are also known. Some similar bag details occur in Finland, e. g. Suomusjärvi, Laihia and Kurikka. A date of ‘1734’ is engraved on one of them.Ulla Kadakas and Heidi Luik
• Sirelius, U. T. (1919): Suomen kansanomaista kulttuuria, I. Esineellisen kansatieteen tuloksia, Helsinki

May 2015

 bta 2015 05 belt buckle

This unusual and highly polished bone plate still carries the unfinished remnants of a probable strap fitting. The plate was cut from cattle long bone, split in half and then worked from both sides to produce a rectangular plate; the last remnants of cancellous bone are visible as a vertical channel at the back. At one end the plate has been sawn almost through from the back, and then snapped off. At the other end, the plate has been worked into a short recessed bar above a triangular perforation. On the front side is a carved symmetrical foliate design of tendrils with curled or lobed ends. The longer tendrils form the corners of the motif, with the two uppermost framing the cross-bar. Between the lower pair of corner tendrils is a further, unfinished, triangular aperture with a small circular perforation at the base. A faintly incised cross-bar below the lower opening suggests the unfinished end of a symmetrical object. At the centre of the motif is a shallow drilled circular depression; this may be purely decorative or may represent another unfinished element of this object. The motif is reminiscent of the so-called Ringerike style, a Scandinavian animal-art style of the late 10th and early 11th centuries. A direct parallel to the unfinished object from Westminster Abbey, however, can be seen in two copper-alloy strap junctions reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme (LIN-DD4333 and WILT-266B84). These have very similar symmetrical designs with recessed bars above triangular apertures, although are slightly larger in size. The strap junctions feature a central motif in the form of a zoomorphic head, in one case this is in the form of a separate mount; it is possible that the central hole on the Westminster Abbey fitting was intended as the position for a similar mount. A similar copper-alloy strap junction was recovered from excavations at Bishopstone  in East Sussex, also attributed to the 10th to 11th centuries (Thomas 2010, fig. 6.9: 11).

Marit Gaimster

Thomas, G. (2001): Vikings in the City: A Ringerike-style buckle and related artefacts from the London. – London Archaeologist 9(8), 228-230
• Thomas, G. (2010): The later Anglo-Saxon settlement at Bishopstone: a downland manor in the making, CBA Research Report 163, Eynsham
• Wilson, D. M.(1997): Anglo-Saxon Ornamental Metalwork 700–1100 in the British Museum, Catalogue of Antiquities of the Later Saxon period, I, London

April 2015

 bta 2015 04 arrowheads bta 2015 04 arrow in situ
Fotos: Integrative Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie (IPNA), Universität Basel

A series of blunt arrow heads made of red deer antler tine sections assumed to be used for hunting birds. They were found at the neolithic lake dwelling site Arbon Bleiche 3, canton of Thurgau, Lake of Constance, Switzerland. Dating: 3384 – 3370 BC.

Jörg Schibler

March 2015

 bta 2015 03 mystery weser2  bta 2015 03 mystery weser1

This strange bone artefact has been found 2007 by Gesine Springfeld as stray find on the banks of the river Weser north of Bremen in Northern Germany. Neither function nor dating is clear presently, although the serrated edge on the right may allow the suggestion that it was some kind of comb. Suggestions or comparative items are welcome.

Christian Küchelmann

February 2015

The object below may look unspectacular but is inded the gate to a sphere of its own very much related to bonetools. It is a thumb ring used for archery. Thumb rings were and are employed mainly by Asian archers using composite bows. The rings were manufactured from various kinds of materials, but the ones made from bone are described in ancient sources as being the most practical and convenient to use. The rings shown below are of the cylindrical type used by Manchu archers in China from the 17th century onwards (see Dekker 2011). Other thumb rings (e.g. Turkish types) have a teardrop shape and are used in a slightly different way (see e.g.

The rings below have been built by Ralph Leitloff from Halle, Germany. One (top and bottom left) was made out of a cattle (Bos taurus) metatarsus. The foto bottom right shows the cattle thumb ring on the right next to one made from elk (Alces alces) antler on the left.

 bta 2015 02 thumb ring1  bta 2015 02 thumb ring2
bta 2015 02 thumb ring3 bta 2015 02 thumb ring4
Fotos: Ralph Leitloff.
Dekker, Peter (2011): Using the Manchu Thumb Ring. – Society for the Promotion of Traditional Archery Newsletter Autumn 2011

January 2015

 bta 2015 01 skates turku1 bta 2015 01 skates turku2
Åbo Landskapsmuseet, inv. no. 15053:3; photo: Christian Küchelmann

This pair of bone skates was donated to the Turku Provincial Museum (Åbo Landskapsmuseet), Finland, by an inhabitant of an island of the Archipelago Sea. The skates were manufactured from horse metatarsi around 1850 and the donator described them as „downhill skates“, implying that they were used not (only) on frozen water bodies. This special type of skates with the plantar side of the bone removed until the middle of the medullary cavity is known to me only from Finland (Katajisto 2002; Vilppula 1940), Sweden (Berg 1943), Estonia (Luik 2000) and Latvia (Tilko 2005). Most of these skates are of 18th-19th century origin with a few high medieval finds discovered so far.

Christian Küchelmann

Berg, Gösta (1943): Isläggar och Skridskor. – Fataburen 1943, 79-90
Katajisto, Jenny (2002): Turun kaupunkialueen luuluistimet – Tarkasteltuna osteologiselta ja historialliselta kannalta, unpublished exam University of Turku, Turku
Luik, Heidi (2000): Luust uisud Eesti arheoloogilises leiumaterjalis [Bone skates in Estonian archaeological material]. – Eesti Arheoloogia Ajakiri 4(2), 129-150
Tilko, Silvija (2005): Kaula slidas Rígas arheologiskajá materiálá. – Sená Ríga 5, 135-152
Vilppula, Hilkka (1940): Luuluistimista. – Suomen Museo 17, 51-58
Bone Skates Database

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