Bonetool Archives 2022

December 2022

Neolithic decorative cylinders
These objects are cylindrical in shape, produced from long bone shafts. Into their production a significant amount of time and labour was invested – the long bone was first transversally cut by sawing with a chipped stone tool, then the cut edge was smoothed to remove any remaining roughness, and both outer and inner surfaces are carefully burnished with some abrasive mean. It is not possible to determine which bones were used, but most likely bones such as tibiae or other long bones from small ruminants. Some of these cylinders have perforations, usually two small perforations at the central part; and some of them are decorated with dots, produced as unfinished perforations. They are often found fragmented with longitudinal breakage.
Their function is uncertain; careful production, especially careful burnishing, along with occasional decoration, and polish as a result from prolonged contact with soft organic materials, suggest they were decorative items, either part of some composite jewellery, or part of clothing (i. e., some sort of clasp or buckle in combination with leather stripes or ribbons from plant materials).
They were found at the Late Neolithic site of Hadzhidimitrovo, Bulgaria (in vicinity of Yambol). Similar items were also reported from Anatolia (see Azeri 2019)
Selena Vitezović

Azeri, H. (2019): Aşaği Pinar kemik halkalari/ Bone rings of Aşaği Pinar. in: Öztürk, B. / Sami Öztürk, H. / Ere, K. / Burak Aykanat, B. / Azeri, H. (eds.): Mnemes Kharin Filiz Dönmez-Öztürk Anısına Makaleler: Anadolu Arkeolojisi, Epigrafisi ve Eskiçağ. Tarihine Dâir Güncel Araştırmalar. Essays in Memory of Filiz Dönmez-Öztürk / Recent Work on the Archaeology, Epigraphy and Ancient History of Anatolia, 71-86, Istanbul
• Petrova, V. / Iliev, I. / Lyuncheva, M. / Yaneva, M. / Nikolov, V. / Taneva, S. / Vitezović, S. / Zidarov, P. / Mitov, K. / Hadzhipetkov, I. / Boev, Z. / Fidanoska, A. / Hristova, I. / Marinova, E. (in prep.): Arheologichesko prouchvanye na kasnoneoliten kompleks ot yami do s. Hadzhidimitrovo, Yambolsko
• Vitezović, Selena (in prep.): Bone ornaments from Hadzhidimitrovo

November 2022

Photo: Focke-Museum, Bremer Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte

This fine nautical measuring stick made of ivory has been bought 1914 in the shop of the sail and instrument maker J. H. Sägelken in Bremen, Germany. It is now part of the collection of the Focke-Museum Bremen (inv. no. B. 919d).
Measurements: length 30,2 cm with two hinged wings of 15,1 cm each, breadth 1,7 cm.
Katrin Rickerts & Hans Christian Küchelmann

October 2022

This object was found in Co. Louth, Ireland during the excavation of an Early Medieval (400-1100AD) enclosure. It appears to be made from a section of antler and has been cut at both ends. It also has an angled notch cut into the side where a tine extends from the beam. It measures 6,65 cm (L) 3,22 cm (D) avg. 5,1 cm (T).
If anyone has any idea regarding function or comparative finds, it would be greatly appreciated.
Billy Sines

September 2022

These two sewing sets were collected during the 5th Thule expedition undertaken by Knud Rasmussen between 1921 and 1924. In 1924, at the end of their journey, the archaeologists prospected around Point Hope (Alaska). Their stay was brief, they counted more than one hundred houses on the site named „Old Tigara“.
Little information is known about the date and the precise context of these two needle sets, dating from the last millennium. They represent respectively a man and a woman who constitute the needle case, the latter being connected to a punch and a sewing thimble holder. All the elements are made from different parts of a walrus tusk.
Claire Houmard

August 2022

The tale of two bone scoops
How can you distinguish one bone scoop from another? The use of some bone scoops may never be known, but here are two that we can identify.

Top is a “fid” for splicing ropes so far only recovered from the river Thames foreshore in and around London. It is dating circa 1560 to 1780. A paper on these was given at the 10th meeting of the WBRG in Belgrade 2014 (Stokes 2016). Shown below is an “Apple Corer”, a bonetool found all over Great Britain, USA and Australia. They appear to go out of use sometime after World War I. Another nice example of an apple corer from the early 1800s has recently been published on the BBC-website.

In August 2014 I obtained the smallest one yet, made from a proximal cat femur (see below). It has travelled a great deal since it was found by a mud-lark on the Thames foreshore. Sold to an American, in a flea market in London, travelled to California then back to County Durham in the UK.

The last photo shows comparisons of modern fids with the Thames bone fids. Top: a Swedish fid; second: a cattle metacarpal fid; third: a Hudson fid; fourth: a sheep metatarsal fid. The Hudson fid was first shown to me by Des Pawson, Owner & Curator of the Museum of Knots & Sailor’s Ropework in Ipswich, UK, without which I could not have made progress. The one in the photograph was designed & kindly donated to me by a professional rigger named Brion Toss, from the USA.

Paul Stokes

Stokes, Paul R. G. (2016): A new interpretation of post-medieval bone scoops from the foreshore of the river Thames in London. in: Vitezović, Selena (ed.): Close to the bone: current studies in bone technologies, 324-337, Beograd

July 2022

In the 17th to 18th century flutes and recorders were often built with ivory mounts. Flute maker Guido Maria Klemisch from Berlin specialised in the replication of such baroque wind instruments. Today the ivory inlays are sometimes replaced by cattle bone, which certainly does not look less beautiful. Below are some examples of baroque flutes and recorders with ivory parts and some details of a recently made replica with mounts of cattle metatarsi. These instruments combine an intruguing amount of musical history with craftmanship related to bone working.

Baroque wind instruments with ivory mounts. From left to right: alto/treble recorder after Pierre Jaillard Bressan, London; alto/treble recorder after Jacob Denner, Nürnberg (completely made of ivory);  alto recorder after Jan Steenbergen, Amsterdam; transverse flute after Johannes Scherer, Butzbach.
Replica of transverse flute after Johannes Scherer with mounts made of cattle metatarsi.

Click the the following links for further examples of flutes and recorders with bone and ivory mounts made by D. Perosa, Italy, Thomas Boekhout (Amsterdam), Johann Joachim Quantz (Berlin), Carl Augustin Grenser (Dresden) and Friedrich Gabriel August Kirst (Dresden, Berlin and Potsdam) and for information about their history.

Hans Christian Küchelmann & Guido Maria Klemisch

June 2022

This month’s bonetool is an anvil kind of tool made out of a metapodium of a horse (Equus caballus). It was found at the Greek to Roman site of Olbia, Ukraine. The artefact has apparently been used as support for the production of tools with serrated edges, like sickles or saws. The anvil is part of a worked bone assemblage from Olbia, which is currently analysed by our Ukrainian colleague Alisa Semenova.

This tool is a wonderful example for cultural and technological exchange, overarching a wide geographical area, different cultures and a time span of more than 2000 years. Anvils of this type have been found for instance in Romania, Serbia, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Tunisia (see e. g. Anderson et al. 2014; Beldiman et al. 2011; Gál & Bartosiewicz 2012; Gál et al. 2010; Grassi 2016; Grau-Sologestoa 2012; Moreno-Garcia et al. 2005; Poplin 2009; Valenzuela Olivier & Moreno-Garcia 2019; Vukovic-Bogdanović, & Bogdanović 2016). Alisa Semenova would be grateful for discussions and further contributions.

Ian Riddler
& Hans Christian Küchelmann

Anderson, Patricia C. / Rodet-Belarbi, Isabelle / Moreno-García, Marta (2014): Sickles with Teeth and Bone Anvils. in: van Gijn, Annelou L. / Whittaker, John C. / Anderson, Patricia C. (eds.): Explaining and Exploring Diversity in Agricultural Technology, Early Agricultural Remnants and Technical Heritage 2, 118-132, Oxford
Beldiman, Corneliu / Sztancs, Diana-Maria / Rusu-Bolindet, Viorica / Achim, Irina Adriana (2011): Skeletal technologies, metal-working and wheat harvesting: ancient bone and antler anvils for manufacturing saw-toothed iron sickles discovered in Romania. in: Baron, Justyna & Kufel-Diakowska, Bernadeta (eds.): Written in Bones. Studies on technological and social contexts of past faunal skeletal remains, 173-186, Wroclaw
Gál, Erika / Kovács, Eszter / Kováts, István / Zimborán, Gábor (2010): Kora középkori csontüllők Magyarországról: egy újabb példa az állatcsontok hasznosítására / Early Medieval (10th–13th century) Bone Anvils from Hungary: another example for the use of animal bones. in: Gömöri, János & Körösi, Andrea (eds.): Csont és bőr. Az állati eredetű nyersanyagok feldolgozásának története, régészete és néprajza / Bone and Leather. History, Archaeology and Ethnography of Crafts Utilizing Raw Materials from Animals, 117-126, Budapest
Gál, Erika & Bartosiewicz, László (2012): A radiocarbon-dated bone anvil from the chora of Metaponto, southern Italy. – Antiquity • Project Gallery 85(331)
Grassi, Elisabetta (2016): Bone anvils from the city of Sassari (16th-18th centuries AD). in: Vitezović, Selena (ed.): Close to the bone: current studies in bone technologies, 133-139, Beograd
Grau-Sologestoa, Idoia (2012): Agriculture and ironwork in the Middle Ages: new evidence of bone anvils in Spain. – Munibe (Antropologia – Arkeologia) 63, 305-319
Moreno-García, Marta / Esteban Nadal, M. / Rodet-Belarbi, Isabelle / Pimenta, Carlos / Morales Muñiz, Arturo / Ruas, José Paulo (2005): Bone anvils: not worked bones but bones for working, poster presented at the Worked Bone Besearch Group Meeting Veliko Turnovo, Veliko Turnovo
Poplin, Francois (2009): Des os supports à denter les faucilles: une longue histoire technologique dans le bassin de la Méditerranée et de la mer Noire. – Bulletin de la Société Nationale des Antiquaires de France 2007, 215-221
Valenzuela Olivier, Alejandro & Moreno-Garcia, Marta (2019): Archaeological and Ethnographic Insights on the Occurrence and Use of Bone Anvils in Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain). – Cuadernos de Prehistoria y Arqueología de la Universidad de Granada 29, 293-306
Vukovic-Bogdanović, Sonja & Bogdanović, Ivan (2016): Late Roman bone anvils from Viminacium. in: Vitezović, Selena (ed.): Close to the bone: current studies in bone technologies, 66-70, Beograd

May 2022

This pair of needlework tools has been found around 1990 at a garage sale in Toronto, Canada, by Kirsten Conrad Goeckel. They are about 10 cm long. Kirsten would like to know for which kind of needlework they may have been used. Suggestions are welcome.
Hans Christian Küchelmann

April 2022

Norwegian line runners
Line runners are devices mounted on the gunwhale of fishing boats. They prevent the sliding of the fishing line along the gunwhale and reduce tension and friction on the line, thus protecting line and gunwhale. They are regular finds in medieval and post medieval Norwegian coastal sites (Amundsen 2014, 68; Henriksen et al. 2011, 195; Olsen 2004, 21, 40-41). Find distribution, contextual archaeological evidence and use-wear analysis allows for a direct correlation of line runners to vertical deep sea fishing with hand lines for large marine fish species like cod (Gadus morhua), large saithe (Pollachius virens), ling (Molva molva) and torsk (Brosme brosme). Line runners frequently show signs of repair in case parts got broken (Olsen 2004, 82).

Early, pre-12th century line runners are simple V- or U-shaped objects, which just guide the line (top row). Examples have been found in Bergen, Borgund and Trøndelag. Bones of land mammals and whales or antler of red deer (Cervus elaphus) and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) were used as raw materials (Olsen 2004, 41-43; Sørheim 2004, 121).
From the 12th century onwards a marked change in the technology of line runners becomes visible in Northern Norway, with the invention of composite devices consisting of two end plates with a rotating cylinder in-between (bottom row). Finds of rotating line runners stem from Kongshavn, Finnmark and Bergen. Together with other types of fishing gear, like particular types of fish hooks and heavy line sinkers, line runners provide evidence for the the intensification and standardisation of the North Norwegian fisheries in the 11th to 12th century, which is related to the export of stockfish (Henriksen et al. 2011, 194-196; Olsen 2004, 43-45, 55-56, 63-65, 89; Sørheim 2004, 120-121).
Hans Christian Küchelmann

From top to bottom: whale bone line runner from Borgund, 1100-1500 (from Sørheim 2004, 121, fig. 14); antler line runners from Bryggen, Bergen, 12th century – 1332 (from Olsen 2004, 41, fig. 30, inv. nos. 46160, 4133); suggested reconstruction of line runner with rotating cylinder from Bergen, made of hardwood, 1248-1332 (from Olsen 2004, 44, fig. 32); end plate of rotating whale bone line runner from Kongshavn, Finnmark, (from Henriksen et al. 2011, 196, fig. 13.19).
• Amundsen, Colin P. (2014): Coupled Human and Natural Systems. A New Perspective on Early Fishing and Fishing Cultures of Northern Norway. in: Harrison, Ramona & Maher, Ruth A. (eds.): Human Ecodynamics in the North Atlantic. A Collaborative Model of Humans and Nature through Space and Time, 55-78, Lanham, MD
Henriksen, Jørn E. / Nordby, Camilla / Oschman, Cora (2011): Artifacts: The Finds Retrieved. in: Olsen, Bjørnar / Urbańczyk, Przemyslaw / Amundsen, Colin (eds.): Hybrid Spaces. Medieval Finnmark and the Archaeology of Multi-Room Houses, 181-205, Oslo
Olsen, Ole Mikal (2004): Medieval Fishing Tackle from Bergen. in: Øye, Ingvild (ed.): Medieval Fishing Tackle from Bergen and Borgund, Bryggen Papers Main Series, 7-106, Bergen
• Sørheim, Helge (2004): Borgund and the Borgundfjord Fisheries. in: Øye, Ingvild (ed.): Medieval Fishing Tackle from Bergen and Borgund, Bryggen Papers Main Series 5, 107-133, Bergen

March 2022

The artefact shown below has been found 1939 in Basel-Spiegelhof, Switzerland (Berger 1963, 37, Tafel 19.9). It is from a medieval context, but precise context data are missing. The implement is 77 mm long, 17 mm broad and 8 mm thick. The function of the object is not clear yet. Suggestions comprise a mount or a foot of a casket, a tool for lace-making, a peg of a stringed instrument or a part of a whistle. Suggestions and comparative finds are most welcome.
Florian Setz

• Berger, L. (1963): Die Ausgrabungen am Petersberg in Basel. ein Beitrag zur Frühgeschichte Basels, Basel

February 2022

This month we present various examples of bone wind instruments, originating from the site of La Real, Majes Valley, Peru. They date to the Middle Horizon period (600-1000 CE). The instruments were likely included in mummy bundles of elite burials and the site also contains the remains of dozens of dogs and parrots. Both Wari and Nasca cultural influence is evident at this site.
Aleksa Alaica

Alaica, Aleksa K. / González La Rosa, Luis Manuel / Yépez Álvarez, Willy / Jennings, Justin (2022): The day the music died: Making and playing bone wind instruments at La Real in Middle Horizon, Peru (600–1000 CE). – Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 68

January 2022

A handle in the shape of a greyhound, probably from a walking stick, was found 2020 during excavation in the 18th-19th century village of Meppel, province Drenthe, the Netherlands. At the site Kromme Elleboog 2 (streetname) we found two buildings belonging to a farm and a forge from the 19th century. The handle was found in a cesspool. If I remember correctly, it was made of ivory sections. Examples of similar handles are welcome.
Arjan Hullegie

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