Bonetool of the Month Archives

June 2017

bta 2017 06 kerkenes plaque

This small and finely carved antler plaque was discovered in 2016 at the site of Kerkenes in central Anatolia (modern Turkey, Yozgat Province). Dating from the end of the 7th to the mid-6th centuries BC, the site is the location of the largest pre-Hellenistic city in Anatolia and was the seat of power of a region governed by people culturally linked to Phrygian speaking peoples known better from Gordion and the Phrygian Highlands of western Anatolia. The city was built as a new foundation on the mountain of Kerkenes Dağı, complete with a circuit of 7 km of granite city walls, and it was destroyed within a period of just a few generations. Recent archaeological research directed by Scott Branting (University of Central Florida) focuses on the social organization of the city, including geophysical prospection and excavations of urban compounds and houses. For further information on the site see Branting et al. (in prep.), Dusinberre (2002), Marston & Branting (2016) and Summers & Summers (2010).

The plaque was found within the mudbrick collapse directly against the interior face of the antechamber wall inside of a large room of a two roomed building in Urban Block 8. Carved in raised relief on antler possibly from a Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), the central figure is an animal with canine features, including a finely detailed rear-facing head with stylized eyes, upright ears, and sharp teeth. The plaque has few if any known parallels and is an example of the many finds from Kerkenes that are truly unique.

The object is currently archived and curated at the Yozgat Museum, directed by Hasan Şenyurt. Research at Kerkenes is conducted under a permit issued by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and is funded primarily by the Merops Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the University of Central Florida, and private donors. Zooarchaeological analysis has been undertaken by Evangelia Piskin (Middle East Technical University Ankara) and the Groningen Institute for Archaeology.

Joseph W. Lehner, Scott Branting, Hans Christian Küchelmann

• Branting, Scott A. / Özarslan, Yasemin / Lehner, Joseph W.  / Marston, John M. / Graff, Sarah R. (in prep.): Kerkenes and Phrygia: Old and New Directions of Research. in: Tsetskhladze, Gocha R.  &  Mahmut Bilge (eds.): Phrygian Lands over Time: From Prehistory to the Middle of the First Millennium AD, Leuven
Dusinberre, Elspeth (2002): An Excavated Ivory from Kerkenes Dağ, Turkey: Transcultural Fluidities, Significations of Collective Identity and the Problem of Median Art. – Ars Orientalis 32, 17-54
• Marston, John M. & Branting, Scott A. (2016): Agricultural Adaptation to Highland Climate in Iron Age Anatolia. – Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 9, 25-32
• Summers, Geoffrey D. & Summers, Françoise (2010): From Picks to Pixels: Eighty Years of Development in the Tools of Archaeological Exploration and Interpretation, 1927-2007, at Kerkenes Dağ in Central Turkey. in: Proceedings of the 6th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient near East May, 5th-10th 2008, “Sapienza” - Università Di Roma Volume 2 Excavations, Surveys and Restorations: Reports on Recent Field Archaeology in the near East, 669-83, Wiesbaden

May 2017

Among early Roman material from Magdalensberg, Austria (ca. 50 BC - AD 50), some of the bone artefacts show patterns with coloration; the traces are barely visible and the photopgraph I enclose here was "tempered" with Photoshop. However, the typical pattern is a spiral and sometimes also a double helix and one of the bone distaffs has dots in between the spirals, cf. my rough sketch. Besides distaffs those patterns also appear on bone ear spoons (or cosmetical spatulae rather) and bone pins. I have no idea, how the colouring was applied or which components were used for it; one guess was the application of wax where the colour should not stain the surface. As far as I can tell from my material, the colour in use was red. Sometimes the pattern is visible like a relief, because those spots that were dyed chip off, whereas the non-coloured parts remain undamaged. Besides Magdalensberg, I found the same kind of patterns on finds from Salzburg here in Austria, but also among those published by J.-C. Béal (1983; 1984) from Lyon and from Vienne.
Kordula Gostencnik
bta 2017 05 magdalensberg 
Béal, Jean-Claude (1983): Catalogue des Objets de Tabletterie du Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-romaine de Lyon, Lyon
Béal, Jean-Claude (1984): Musées de la Ville de Vienne. Les Objets en Os et en Ivoire, Vienne
Gostencnik, Kordula (2005): Die Beinfunde vom Magdalensberg, Archäologische Forschungen zu den Grabungen auf dem Magdalensberg 15, Klagenfurt
Gostencnik, Kordula & Lang, Felix (2010): Beinfunde aus Noricum. Materialien aus Alt-Virunum / Magdalensberg, Iuvavum, Ovilavis und Virunum. in: Meyer, Marion & Gassner, Verena (eds.): Standortbestimmung. Akten des 12. Österreichischen Archäologentages vom 28. 2. bis 1. 3. 2008 in Wien, 197-213, Wien
Gostencnik, Kordula (2014): Nicht nur edles Weiß. Die Farbigkeit antiker Beinfunde an Beispielen vom Magdalensberg. – Carinthia I 204(2), 617-638

April 2017

 bta 2017 04 swifterbant1

bta 2017 04 swifterbant2

Two antler axes from Swifterbant 3, Flevoland, Netherlands; collection: Provinciaal Depot voor Bodemvondsten van Flevoland, inv.-no. S3 910049 (left) and S3 7411 (right). Photos: Francesca Slim.
bta 2017 04 swifterbant3

The area of Swifterbant in the province of Flevoland is one of the most important Neolithic occupation areas in the Netherlands and the eponym of the Dutch Swifterbant culture (5000-3400 cal. BC). Excavations here started in the 1960s and were followed up by a series of new excavations as part of the ‘New Swifterbant project’ in the period from 2004 to 2010 (Clason & Brinkhuizen 1978, 70; Scheele 2011, 9-12). Due to the excellent preservation conditions huge amounts of animal bones have been recovered, which have been analysed in the zooarchaeology lab of the Groningen Institute of Archaeology (GIA). The bones mainly originate from wild mammals such as deer, wild boar, small carnivores and beaver, but water fowl and fish are present as well. The rare domestic species include dog, cattle, pig and sheep (Clason & Brinkhuizen 1978,71-80; Zeiler 1991, 71, tab. 1).
Bone, antler and tooth artefacts are common finds in the assemblages, the most numerous are pin or needle like implements and sharp tools from wild boar tusks (Bulten & Clason 2001; Clason 1978). For this month’s bone tool we chose two differently shaped axe fragments made of red deer antler (Cervus elaphus) found at the site Swifterbant 3, which display highly polished working surfaces. The site Swifterbant 3 was inhabited in the Early Neolithic period from 4300-4000 cal. BC (Zeiler 1991, 61; Raemaekers, pers. comm. 5.4.2017).

Natural History Museum, London
Esther Scheele & Hans Christian Küchelmann
Bulten, E. E. & Clason, Anneke T. (2001): The Antler, Bone and Tooth Tools of Swifterbant, The Netherlands (c. 5500 – 4000 cal. BC) compared with those from other Neolithic Sites in the Western Netherlands. in: Choyke, Alice M. & Bartosiewicz, László (eds.): Crafting Bone: Skeletal Technologies through Time and Space – Proceedings of the 2nd meeting of the (ICAZ) Worked Bone Research Group Budapest, 31 August – 5 September 1999, British Archaeological Reports International Series 937, 297-320, Oxford
• Clason, Anneke T. & Brinkhuizen, Dick C. (1978): Swifterbant, Mammals, Birds, Fishes. – Helinium 18, 69-82
Clason, Anneke T. (1978): Worked Bone, Antler and Teeth - A preliminary report. – Helinium 18, 83-86
• Scheele, Esther E. (2011): Late Swifterbant or Early TRB? MA-thesis University of Groningen
• Zeiler, Jörn T. (1991): Hunting and Animal Husbandry at Neolithic Sites in the Western and Central Netherlands; Interaction between Man and the Environment. – Helinium 31(1), 60-125

March 2017

bta 2017 03 crucifix guyana3  bta 2017 03 crucifix guyana1  bta 2017 03 crucifix guyana2
Photos: Dirk Seidensticker (left), Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Kulturen der Welt (middle and right)

Nadine Nolde kindly informed us about an unusual bone object, which she found in the exhibition of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne. It consists of a neurocranium of a sea catfish (family Ariidae, possibly Sciades herzbergii) from 19th century Surinam, South America. The ventral side of the bone has been painted into a crucifix. The object has been given to Wilhelm Joest (1852-1897), a German ethnographer and world traveler, most probably during his second journey to South America in 1889. According to Joest (1893) the crucifix has been manufactured either by catholic descendants of former slaves (slavery was abolished in Surinam in 1863) or by people of Portuguese ethnicity, who transformed it "with a few brush strokes to a really strange crucifix". The object was coloured by the painter G. Meye before it was presented by Joest to the Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte on the 11th of March 1893. After Joest’s death his collection was inherited by his sister Adele Rautenstrauch, who presented it to the City of Cologne. It became subsequently the founding collection of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Kulturen der Welt.
Measurements: 166 x 75 x 49 mm; inv.-no. 17894.

Another example of this kind housed in the collection of the Natural History Museum London was contributed by Wim van Neer, who mentioned that fishes of the family Ariidae are also called 'crucifix-fishes' owing to the morphology of their neurocranium.

Natural History Museum, London

Anne Slenczka & Hans Christian Küchelmann

Joest, Wilhelm (1893): Zoologisch-ethnographische Curiosität aus Surinam. – Verhandlungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte 1893, 157-158

February 2017

bta 2017 02 shepherd tool1

bta 2017 02 shepherd tool2 bta 2017 02 shepherd tool3 bta 2017 02 shepherd tool4
Photos: Jean-Marc Petillon

This artifact was found in a shepherd's hut used between the 3rd and the 11th century AD in the French Pyrenees (Ossau Valley, ca. 1900 m above sea level). It was made from a cattle (Bos taurus) metatarsal. The proximal end was cut straight with a metal blade, the mesial hole was carved with a blade as well, but the distal fracture was apparently caused by wear (something - probably a rope of some kind - wore down the compact tissue until it finally broke). There is a slight polish all over the object, especially on the edges, but no visible trace inside the marrow cavity. The piece was interpreted as a handle (maybe half its original length) that was broken and then recycled as a whistle (?), but any parallels, comparisons and ideas are welcome.

Jean-Marc Petillon


Calastrenc, Carine et al. (2016): À la recherche des pratiques: le site 32 de Cabanes la Glère (3e-15e siècles). in: Rendu, Christine / Calastrenc, Carine / Le Couédic, Mélanie / Berdoy, Anne (eds.): Estives d’Ossau. 7 000 ans de pastoralisme dans les Pyrénées, 115-142