Bonetool of the Month Archives

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