Bonetool Archives 2019

December 2019

A peculiar utilisation of skeletal raw material is the use of ivory for sculptures illustrating human anatomical details. An item of this kind is a sculpture of a human molar, which can be opened into two halves displaying on its inside two scenes related to toothache. The original is made of ivory in late 17th century Italy, has a size of 50 x 43 x 110 mm and is part of the collection of the Bundeszahnärztekammer. The photo shows a cast replica held in the collection of the Deutsches Medizinhistorisches Museum Ingolstadt (inv. no. AB/0600). On the left, a so called „toothworm“ is illustrated, feeding on a human. For millennia toothworms have been believed to be the origin of toothache until the discovery of caries bacteria. On the right, toothache is compared with the agony of hell.

Photo: Michael Kowalski, Deutsches Medizinhistorisches Museum; from Wahl & Zink (2013, 27).
Wahl, Joachim & Zink, Albert (2013): Karies, Pest und Knochenbrüche. Was Skelette über Leben und Sterben in alter Zeit verraten, Stuttgart

November 2019

The gallery below shows a selection of antique bone plugs for lip piercings from South Sudan, which have been found 2014 by Elena Ezeani on a market in Nairobi, Kenya. No additional information about the objects is available, but they are most probably ornaments worn by women of the Elgume or Turkana people. Two comparable objects of stone and ivory collected before 1956 are on display in the collection of the Tropenmuseum Amsterdam ( TM-2505-2, TM-2505-3).

Photos: Frank Scheffka.

October 2019

A late Roman (3rd century AD) bone sword chape found in a cellar in Mainz, Germany (Mikler 2005; see below), inspired Andreas Reiter to a free reconstruction, which he now uses for Roman re-enactment activities. See some details of his reconstructed Roman sword below. All bone parts are carved from metatarsi of cattle.

Top: Sword chape from Mainz, Am Kästrich, 3rd century AD (from Mikler 1999, 163, fig. 1-2); bottom: reconstructed chape, hilt and strap holder made by Andreas Reiter (photos: Andreas Reiter).
Mikler, Hubertus (1999): Ein bichromes römisches Ortband aus Knochen. Bemerkungen zu einer materialbedingten Formengruppe. – Mainzer Archäologische Zeitschrift 5/6, 163-166

September 2019

This elaborately carved and beautifully decorated ivory item from the Aleutian Islands is the handle of a tattoo lancet, called Uxtusix. It has been collected 1879 by Lucien M. Turner possibly on the island of Atka. It is now part of the Turner Collection (inv. no. E35915) in the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, and is published in Black (2003, 96-97, fig. 104). Thanks to Caroline Funk for bringing this item to our attention.

Black, Lydia T. (2003): Aleut Art. Unangam Aguqaadangin, 2nd edition, Anchorage

August 2019

Summertime in the northern hemishpere and thus a good opportunity to present a sunny  type of European artefacts here. Early modern pocket sun dials have been found in high status archaeological contexts while others survived in historical collections throughout Europe. Pocket sundials consist out of a base plate with an hour ring and a device to throw a shadow, like a rod or a thread. To display the time the sundial had to be oriented North and parallel to the horizontal plane, therefore some pocket sundials contain a compass. The shadow will then show the hour, which has to be corrected according to the geographical location (Herrmann 2015b, 21-22; Salzer 2013a, 140).
The invention of pocket sundials with a horizontal plane has been ascribed to the astronomer Georg von Peuerbach (1423-1461) in Vienna, Austria, who also manufactured the oldest surviving specimen from 1451, now in the collection of the Museum Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck, Austria (Herrmann 2015b, 22; Salzer 2013b, 68, 73). Initially, pocket sundials were manufactured from metal (e.g. brass), but with the devices becoming more common from the late 15th century onwards also ivory, bone and wood were employed as raw material (Herrmann 2015b, 22). The oldest known historical evidence for pocket sundials stems from a manuscript of 1431 from Erfurt, Germany (Salzer 2013b, 68). Pocket sundials carried out in metal are illustrated on early 16th century portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543), on a pen drawing by the Swiss artist Urs Graf dated 1505-1508 and in the northern French illuminated manuscript „Horologium Sapientiae“ of ca. 1450 (Salzer 2013b, 68-69, fig. 5.3-4). A painting from 1631 in the Hausbuch der Mendelschen Zwölfbrüderstiftung II shows the compass manufacturer Hans Tucher III (1549-1632) in Nürnberg with three ivory pocket sundials on his table (see figure below). The latest examples are of 18th century origin (Herrmann 2015b, 22; Salzer 2013a, 72; 2013b). See Salzer (2013b) and Herrmann (2015b) for further details on the history of pocket sundials.

The initial idea for this blog was to assemble as many examples for bone and ivory pocket sundials as possible, but this turned out to be an impossible task since the amount of surviving specimens is considerable. So, what we present here is just a random collection of 18 specimens from Austria, Germany, Hungary, Iceland and Sweden, for which at least some context data are available. A webcheck gives an impression about the amount of existing examples.

• A very small circular bone specimen of 15 mm diameter has been found in the Herrengasse in Vienna. It has supposedly been made between 1550 and 1600 in Nürnberg (Salzer 2013a, 141).
• The base of a bone pocket sundial with the engraved year 1570 has been found in castle Wildenstein near Bad Ischl (size 22 x 25 x 27 mm, see photo below left; Kaltenberger 2003; Salzer 2013a, 141, fig. 5).
• A grave on the Domplatz in St. Pölten yielded a foldable bone specimen engraved with the year 1598 (Salzer 2013a, 141).
• A rectangular, foldable bone pocket sundial was recovered from a 16th century grave in the church of St. Martin in Attersee (size 24 x 16 x 8 mm; Salzer 2013a, 140-141).
• The octagonal bone lid of a 16th-18th century pocket sundial (length 21 mm) was found in the latrine of the Schatz-Haus in Salzburg (Salzer 2013a, 141).

•  The lid of a bone pocket sun dial (size 31 x 34 x 3 mm) with the engraved year 1527 was dug up at the Kitzenmarkt in Augsburg at the site of a former Benedictinian monastery (Hermann 2015a; 2015b).
• The collection of the German National Museum Nürnberg holds an ivory pocket sundial  made in 1557 by Paul Reinmann (photo below right).
• A 25 x 24 mm small hour ring with an engraved year of 1573 was found in Ulm (Herrmann 2015b, 22).
• 1592 is engraved on a base plate from Mainz (Herrmann 2015b, 22).
• A very elaborate foldable ivory pocket sundial made 1642 by Leonhart Miller in Nürnberg (size of 104 x 66 x 13 mm) is part of the collection of the Deutsches Elfenbeinmuseum Erbach (Dinger 1994, 4).
• Herrmann (2015b, 22) mentions an 18th century find from Göttingen.
• Another find from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has been published by Bleile (2005).

Top left: archaeological find from Augsburg, bone, 1527 (from Herrmann 2015b, 21); top right: compass manufacturer Hans Tucher (1549-1632) with three ivory pocket sundials in the Hausbuch der Mendelschen Zwölfbrüderstiftung II, 1631 (Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg, Amb. 317b.2°, f. 108v); bottom left: archaeological find from Wildenstein, bone, 1570 (from Salzer 2103a, 141, fig. 5); bottom right: ivory pocket sundial from Nürnberg, made by Paul Reinmann 1557 (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, photo: Wolfgang Sauber).

• Excavations in the palace of Buda yielded a small specimen (25 x 24 mm) engraved with the year 1533 (Herrmann 2015b, 22).
• Three 16th-17th century pocket sundials are known from Hungary, all of which belong to the Otoman period and have most probably been manufactured in Nürnberg (see photos below). The two rectangular ones (inv. nos. 68.10.3F and 68.10.36) were found during excavations between 1960 and 1968 in the lower castle of the Sirok fortress, the oval one is from the Eger fortress. They were examined by Sonia O’Connor, who contributed the following details:
„Although the colours and features of the faces of these pieces all look very different they are, in fact, all elephant ivory cut from the outer edge of the tusk. The top and bottom edges all show the very flattened and distorted Schreger pattern found at this position, in transverse section. The arc of the cementum-dentine junction is clear in the two rectangular plaques. The faces of all three pieces are, therefore, longitudinal, transverse sections and they vary so much in appearance because of the differing proportions of dentine and cementum and depending on whether they face towards the centre or exterior of the tusk.“

Top left, top right, bottom left: archaeolgical finds from Sirok and Eger fortress, Hungary, ivory, 16th-17th century; bottom right: Stockholm, ivory, 17th century (photos: Alice Choyke).

Iceland and Sweden
• A large (130 x 89 x 65 mm) and elaborate example of a combined sundial and compass has been found in Hallsstaðir, Iceland, and is now part of the collection of the Icelandic National Museum (Þjóðminjasafni Íslands, inventory-no. 307/1866-4). It has been presented here already as bonetool of the month in August 2016.
• Finally, the 17th century specimen shown above is part of the exhibition of the new Stockholm City Museum.

Hans Christian Küchelmann, Alice Choyke & Sonia O’Connor
We are grateful to Orsolya Havasy, who granted permission to display the Hungarian finds.

Bleile, Ralf (2005): Von Sätteln, Trippen und Taschensonnenuhren. in: Jöns, Hauke / Lüth, Friedrich / Schäfer, Heiko (eds.): Archäologie unter dem Straßenpflaster – 15 Jahre Stadtkernarchäologie in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 147-152, Schwerin
Dinger, Brigitte (1994): Elfenbein – Kreativer mystischer Werkstoff. Einführung in die Geschichte der Elfenbeinkunst, Erbach
Hermann, Michaela (2015a): Mobile Zeitmessung im Jahr 1527. – Archäologie in Deutschland 5/2015, 41
Hermann, Michaela (2015b): Mobile Zeitmessung im Jahr 1527. Eine Klappsonnenuhr, gefunden in Augsburg. – Denkmalpflege Informationen 161, 20-23
Kaltenberger, Alice (2003): Eine datierte Taschensonnenuhr von der Ruine Wildenstein bei Bad Ischl, Oberösterreich. – Beiträge zur Mittelalterarchäologie in Österreich Beiheft 6, 29-43
Salzer, Ronald Kurt (2013a): Vermessen? Metrik des Mittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit im Spiegel der archäologischen Funde aus Österreich. – Beiträge zur Mittelalterarchäologie in Österreich 29, 137-144
• Salzer, Ronald Kurt (2013b): Mobility Ahead of Its Time: A Fifteenth- Century Austrian Pocket Sundial as a Trailblazing Instrument for Time Measurement on Travels. in: Beaudry, Mary C. & Parno, Travis G. (eds.): Archaeologies of Mobility and Movement, Contributions to Global Historical Archaeology, 65-79, Heidelberg

Juli 2019

They objects below have all been found in the London area, UK, but none of them come from dated contexts. There are now five of these artefacts that we know of, one from Mitcham Grove (left), one from Kingston (right) and three unlocated finds in the Museum of London (MoL) collection (bottom).

All are very similar, four prongs and ring & dot decorations. Three have cut outs on the long side, two are plain. It is assumed that they all performed a similar function. But what was that?

There doesn’t even seem to be agreement over the date – anything from Iron Age to post-medieval suggested. Clive Orton referred to the Mitcham example in his book Maths and Archaeology as Iron Age. There is an opinion that the Kingston one ought to be late Saxon to early medieval, but John Clark at MoL thinks they are post medieval. General opinion seems that at least they are not Roman! There is one comparable but larger H-shaped object from the Meare Lake Village East, of late Iron Age date, but otherwise we haven’t seen anything like them.

If anybody else might have come across anything comparable, we would be glad to know.

Lorraine Mepham,
Ian Riddler and Steven Nelson

June 2019

During the excavation of the northern Roman cemetery in Emona (Ljubljana, Slovenia) a knife with an ivory handle was discovered in a grave. Apparently, two individuals (one adult, one child) were cremated and buried in a grave pit. Alongside the human remains a knife, an oil lamp, bronze belt fittings, a coin of Hadrian, a whetstone and numerous small iron rivets were excavated. Based on these items the grave can be dated to the period between the second quarter and the late 2nd century AD.

The iron knife (approx. 25 cm of length) was kept in a scabbard with bronze fittings. A handle was made of ivory and ornamented with carved lines along the edges. No similar items are known from this cemetery or neighbouring territories, so any suggestions of its origin and similar items would be highly appreciated.

Špela Karo

May 2019

The artefacts above have been recovered at the Iron Age site of Indor Khera on the Upper Ganga Plain in India. The tools were found in layers dated from 100 BC to 300 AD. Their most apparent features are their interesting tips, which have mainly been formed by use-wear. If anyone knows of similar kinds of artefacts or has an idea about their function, please get in touch.

Vinayak Vinayak

April 2019

The object shown below was recovered from a sub-floor fill near the Porta Stabia at Pompeii, Italy, that dates to the first few decades of the first century AD. I’ve found comparanda for one portion of the artifact (the right side in the photograph) in Davidson’s publication of the minor objects from Corinth (Donaldson 1952, cat. 1425). The artifact identified at Corinth is called a handle, but our object is more complete and I am stumped as to what it might have been used for. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Leigh Lieberman

Davidson, G. R. (1952): Corinth XII. The Minor Objects, Princeton

March 2019

Moving northward again this months bonetool is an extraordinary large decorated comb from the Faroe Islands. The 25 cm long comb was found during excavations carried out as a Faroese-Danish-Norwegian co-project at the Medieval bishopric of the Faroes in the village of Kirkjubøur on the island of Streymoy from 1953-1955. The site where the comb was found, by the locals called á Dunga meaning „on the Heap“ (see black and white photo), is just to the west (right) of the white parish church – the 13th century bishops church. In this area remains of the western part of the bishops residence as well as earlier settlement remains, e.g. wooden buildings, were unearthed. The archaeological record is indicating an early Medieval, probably even a Viking settlement.

Símun V. Arge

Arge, Símun V. (2018): Ancient Monuments in Kirkjubøur – Bishopric of the Faroe Islands in the Middle Ages, Tjóðsavnið. The Faroe Islands National Museum – Nature and Culture, Tórshavn

February 2019

An object with an unknown function has been excavated at the Iberian (Iron Age) site of La Seña (Villar del Arzobispo, Valencia, Spain) in a context from the 5th – 4th century BC. The artefact has been made of an ulna of a vulture. Both articular ends have been cut away and the object is polished. In one end of the bone a little iron rivet is inserted through two holes. At the other end a fine incision is cut round the circumference. The artefact is part of the collection of the Museo de Prehistòria de València and is published in Mata Parreño et al. (2014, 116-117, fig. 200).

In the Iberian record I only know two artefacts like this and I am not sure about its function. Does anyone have any suggestions about its use or knows any parallels?

Marta Blasco Martín

Mata Parreño, Consuelo / Bonet Rosado, Helena / Collado Mataix, Eva / Fuentes Albero, Mercedes / Izquierdo Peraile, Isabel / Marlasca Martín, Ricard / Moreno Martín, Andrea / Pascual Benito, Josep Lluis / Quesada Sanz, Fernando / Quixal Santos, David / Ripollès Alegre, Pere Pau / Sanchis Serra, Alfred / Soria Combadiera, Lucía / Tormo Cuñat, Carmen (2014): Fauna Ibérica. De lo real a lo imaginario (II), Servicio de investigación prehistórica Serie de trabajos varios 117, Valencia

January 2019

On the 7th of May 1552 Holy Roman emperor Maximilian II. presented a twelve year old male Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) to the public in Vienna, Austria, the first elephant that ever reached Vienna alive. Before, the elephant had been brought from India to Portugal and in 1551 he began its long journey to Vienna via Barcelona, Genua, Trient, Bozen, Brixen, Innsbruck, Passau and Linz. He was kept for some weeks in a barn in Vienna and later in Ebersdorf. Unfortunately the elephant, named Soliman in younger documents (a name not historically confirmed yet) did not survive very long. He died 18th of December 1553 caused by the „inattention of a guardian“. After its death several parts of the elephant were transformed into exhibition objects. One front leg was presented to Sebastian Huetstöcker, then mayor of Vienna, who built a chair from the bones in 1554, richly engraved with the history of the elephant and the object itself. The chair travelled through several cabinets of wonder and finally ended up in the 17th century at the Stift Kremsmünster, where it is still on display today.

In 2012 Henriette Wiltschek of the Institute of Conservation of the University of Applied Arts Vienna made an extensive analysis of the conservational state of the chair followed by substantial restoration work (Wiltschek 2013a; 2013b). Her works also contain comprehensive chapters about the cultural history of the object.

Fig. 1: Elephant chair of 1554 in the Stift Kremsmünster, Austria; below: engraved coat of arms of emperor Maximilian II.  (from Wiltschek 2013a, 11, 16, Abb. 9; photos: Henriette Wiltschek).

Henriette Wiltschek & Hans Christian Küchelmann

Wiltschek, Henriette (2013): Der Elefantenstuhl aus Stift Kremsmünster (1554). Zur Klebung und Konservierung eines gravierten Knochenobjekts, unveröffentlichte Diplomarbeit Universität für angewandte Kunst, Wien
Wiltschek, Henriette (2013): Ein postmortaler Beinbruch. Zur Klebung und Konservierung eines gravierten Knochenobjekts: Der Elefantenstuhl aus Stift Kremsmünster. – Österreichische Zeitschrift für Kunst- und Denkmalpflege 2013(1/2)
Wikipedia-pages about the elephant Soliman in English and German.

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