Bonetool Archives 2016

December 2016

bta 2016 12 tallinn fork

This bone fork and handle have been found 2011 at the site 1 Tartu Road in the suburb of Tallinn, Estonia. The layer in which the artefacts were found is dated to the 17th–18th centuries. The fork is decorated with circle and dot motif and the handle with a net ornament inlaid with thin bronze wire.

Ulla Kadakas & Heidi Luik

November 2016

bta 2016 11 rosary portugal
Photo: Hans Christian Küchelmann

A rosary displayed in the Archaeological Crypt of the Castle Alcácer do Sal in Portugal (inv. no. 524).

Hans Christian Küchelmann

October 2016

bta 2016 10 carved skull
This months worked bone object is a carved skull of a water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) found in 2015 by Eva David used as a decorative item in the display window of a jewelry shop in Southern France.

September 2016

 bta 2016 09 comb castillejos

Bone comb from Los Castillejos (Peñas de los Gitanos, Montefrío, Granada, Spain). Early Copper Age (3300-3000 cal BC). Made of a split cattle rib. Abrasion for shaping and grooving to make the teeth.

Manuel Altamirano

August 2016

bta 2016 08 compass Iceland1
 bta 2016 08 compass Iceland2  bta 2016 08 compass Iceland3
Sun dial from Hallsstaðir, NW-Iceland; photo and courtesy: Þjóðminjasafni Íslands, inv.-no. 307/1866-4

This elaborate and beautiful book is in fact a combination of a sun dial and a compass. It has been found in Hallsstaðir, a remote settlement in the Northwestern part of Iceland. The inscription in the compass reads „SEPT(entro) MERI(dies) OCC(idens) ORIE(ns)“. The front cover shows Saint James. The object is probably made from ivory and has been dated to the 16th century. It is said to be of either German or Spanish origin and most likely made its way to Iceland with foreign sailors. The sun dial may well be connected to the presence of Hanseatic merchants that were active at the time in Iceland. German trading stations were in operation in the Western fjords of Iceland, where the sun dial was found. The object has a size of 130 x 89 x 65 mm and is today part of the collection of the Icelandic National Museum (Þjóðminjasafni Íslands, inventory-no. 307/1866-4).

Natascha Mehler

Þjóðminjasafni Íslands, inventory-no. 307/1866-4

July 2016

bta 2016 07 harpoon Sventoji
Harpoon head decorated with circles and dots.
The Šventoji sites are the best known Neolithic sites on the west coast of Lithuania. About 60 archaeological sites as well as many isolated finds and several hoards are known and dated to the period between 6000-500 cal BC. Some of these sites were excavated in 1966-1972 and 1982-1998, during these years an area of 10300 sqare meters was investigated. The results of these investigations have been published by the researcher of the sites Rimutė Rimantienė (2005).
Numerous bone artefacts and working debris were found at sites 1-4, 6, 23 and 26 at Šventoji and could be dated to the period between 3500-2500 cal BC. The harpoon head has been found at site 6, which was intensively used between 3000-2500 cal BC.
The harpoon head shown abovewas decorated with circle and dot ornaments, which is unusual in the Neolithic context of the eastern Baltic region. An elk metatarsus decorated with pentagonal and hexagonal motifs cut around the central dot, imitating a circle and dot decoration, has been also found from the same site. Probably the harpoon head with circle and dot decoration was not locally made and someone without the necessary tool, skills and know-how has tried to copy such decoration on elk metatarsal bone.

Heidi Luik & Giedrė Piličiauskienė

bta 2016 07 sventoji1
Harpoon head decorated with circles and dots and a bone with an imitation of such decoration.
Photos: Lithuanian National Museum (left) and Giedrė Piličiauskienė (right); finds in the Lithuanian National Museum.
bta 2016 07 sventoji2
Decoration on elk metatarsus. Photo: Giedrė Piličiauskienė. .
Rimantiene, R. (2005): Die Steinzeitfischer an der Ostseelagune in Litauen. Forschungen in Šventoji und Butingė, Vilnius

June 2016

 bta 2016 06 taba argentina1  bta 2016 06 taba argentina2
bta 2016 06 taba argentina3 bta 2016 06 taba argentina4
Fotos: Alice Choyke

The gaming piece above was bought 2010 at a flea market in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is used in the Taba game, a throwing game played traditionally by Argentinian Gauchos involving cattle astragali.

The rules are a bit reminiscent of tennis: opponents play on a plot of land divided into two halves by a line. Players throw the taba from around five meters away, one on each side of the line. The astragalus must pass onto the opposite side of the “court”, otherwise the shot is repeated. After playing both contestants check on which side the bone fell. The concave surface shaped S is called “flesh” or “luck”. The losing side is “ass” (culo, cf. rear rather than donkey) when the taba falls flat side up. The astragalus falling flat is a null shot. The bone is often fitted with metal plates or cut to balance the weight and prevent bone chipping when hitting the ground. What needs to be investigated is whether the luck is called lateral side. And I still do not have the faintest idea why the metal reinforcement on our specimen has a metal edge. I was told at the flea-market in Buenos Aires, that it helps fastening the bone in the ground. Like throwing knives?? The game itself looks remarkably different from what people do with sheep astragali between the Mediterranean and Central Asia.

László Bartosiewicz & Alice Choyke

May 2016

This month the 11th meeting of the WBRG will take place in Iasi, Romania, and as it has become a tradition to display a bone artefact from the hosting country in the meeting month, this months bonetools are two modified cattle (Bos taurus) astragali, which are part of an unusual deposit of 25 astragali of different ungulate species (cattle, red deer, sheep/goat) discovered in the Cucuteni A1 level (Chalcolithic, 4662-4465 cal BC) of the site Poduri-Dealul Ghindaru (Bacau County, Romania). The deposit of astragali was clustered in clay layers of a house foundation built on tree trunks. The bones were calcined, probably in the fire that destroyed the dwelling. 17 specimen show abraded and polished facets on the anterior surface and on all of them traces of ochre remain. They are interpreted either as gaming pieces or as tools to work hide.

Luminita Bejenaru

bta 2016 05 poduri astragal
Bejenaru, Luminita / Monah, Dan / Bodi, George (2010): A deposit of astragali at the Copper Age tell of Poduri-Dealul Ghindaru, Romania. – Antiquity • Project Gallery

April 2016

bta 2016 04 ashdod ivory
Foto: Museum of Philistine Culture Ashdod, Israel Antiquities Authority, from Litani (2013, 23).
This elaborate ivory carving of an ibex has been found in 8th century BC contexts of the Philistine city of Ashdod, Israel. It is interpreted as a stopper of a perfume vessel or as a part of furniture decoration.
Galit Litani & Etan Ayalon
Litani, Galit (2013): The World of the Philistines, Ashdod

March 2016

bta 2016 03 gazella hook1  bta 2016 03 gazella hook2  bta 2016 03 gazella hook3
bta 2016 03 olturot hut
Fotos: Attila D. Sándor
These antelope / gazelle limbs are used as hooks inside huts among the Samburu and Turkana people of North Kenya. The examples were used in 2012 and 2014 in the Village of Olturot.
Attila D. Sándor

February 2016

 bta 2016 02 wismar1  bta 2016 02 wismar3
bta 2016 02 wismar4
Fotos: Landesarchäologie Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

These gaming pieces and dice were found during underwater excavations at two sites in the bay of Wismar, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. The tokens are made of red deer antler (Cervus elaphus), the dice are made of bone. The diameter of the the tokens is 54-58 mm, their height 5-9 mm. They were elaborately manufactured and decorated with ring motifs using a lathe and show traces of intensive use (Lehmkuhl & Schäfer 2005, 363, Abb. 6).

The tokens and dice in the upper row were found 1998 inside a wreck (Wismarbucht, Fundplatz 6). The ship was discovered heavily fragmented in shallow water  at ca. 1,5 m depth, it was apparently broken up with most of the content and building material removed already in historical times. The ship’s wood was cut in the area of Riga, Latvia, in the year 1476 (dated by dendrochronology). The vessel was an approximately 18 m long freight ship of the type Kollerup-Bremen and has probably been a Hanseatic trader. The gaming pieces were found in the wreck, but the exact position within the ship is not recorded.
The token in the lower row was rocovered 1996 during an archaeological survey in the Wismar harbour area at a roadstead site (Wismarbucht, Fundplatz 2). It was probably an item that has been fallen or thrown over board together with other ships waste found at the site.

Mike Belasus & Christian Küchelmann

Lehmkuhl, Ursula (2005): Die Rohstoffe Knochen, Geweih und Horn und ihre Nutzung. in: Jöns, Hauke / Lüth, Friedrich / Schäfer, Heiko (eds.): Archäologie unter dem Straßenpflaster – 15 Jahre Stadtkernarchäologie in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 273-278, Schwerin
Lehmkuhl, Ursula & Schäfer, Heiko (2005): Spiele für Jung und Alt. in: Jöns, Hauke / Lüth, Friedrich / Schäfer, Heiko (eds.): Archäologie unter dem Straßenpflaster – 15 Jahre Stadtkernarchäologie in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 361-364, Schwerin

January 2016

bta 2016 01 azuer

Pointed caprine tibia from Motilla del Azuer (Daimiel, Ciudad Real, Spain). Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1800-1600 BC). The tibial tuberosity was obliterated using fracturing and then the edges were abraded to regularize them, preserving half of the distal epiphysis. It is a very characteristic tool for the Bronze Age of La Mancha and Levantine regions in the Iberian Peninsula.

Manuel Altamirano

Bonetool of the Month Archives