Experiments and Experiences on Bone, Tooth and Antler


The theme of this page are scientific experiments and/or experiences on the manufacture and use of "osseous" material made by the WBRG membres (or related to the WBRG group). The page is edited and maintained by Éva David (Maison de l'Archéologie et de l'Ethnologie Paris, France). Please contact her for enquiries, contributions etc.


Questionaire ethno bone objects 

Alice Choyke developed a questionnaire for ethnographic bone objects. Anybody working with ethnographic bone objects or being in contact with people doing so is welcome to download the questionnaire and return the answers to Alice at choyke@ceu.hu.


Agricultural tools

XIE L. (2014) Early to middle Holocene earth-working implements and Neolithic land-use strategies on the Ningshao Plain, China. Unpublished Ph.D., The University Arizona.

XIE L. (2016) Functionality and morphology: identifying Si agricultural tools from among Hemudu scapular implements in Eastern China. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 2016: 1-47

Referenced here since Septembre 2016

Fracture patterns (use wear)

BODOROVSKI A.P. ; TABAREV A.V. (2016) Modelling the deformation of bone points: Archaeological and experimental data. Archaeology Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia 44 (1) : 87-92.

PÉTILLON J.-M. ; PLISSON H. ; CATTELAIN P. (2016) Thirty years of experimental research on the breakage patterns of Stone Age osseous points. Overview, methodological problems and current perspectives. − In, I. Radu and S. Katsuhiro (Eds.), Multidisciplinary approaches to the study of Stone Age weaponry (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology Series). Springer : 47-63.

Referenced here since Novembre 2016

Shell / Antler technology (Palaeolithic, Neolithic)

MÉDARD F. ; BOUCHERAT T. (2010) The Neolithic clapper-ring needle. Bulletin of the Society of primitive technology 40: 17-23.

ROMAGNOLI F. ; BAENA J. ; PARDO NARANJO A. I. ; SARTI L. (2015) Evaluating the performance of the cutting edge of Neanderthal shell tools: A new experimental approach. Use, mode of operation, and strength of Callista chione from a behavioural, Quina perspective, Quaternary International (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2015.11.021

TARTAR E. ; WHITE R. (2013) The manufacture of Aurignacien split-based points: An experimental challenge. Journal of Archaeological Science 40: 2723-2745.

TEJERO J.-M. ; CHRISTENSEN M. ; BODU P. (2012) Red deer antler technology and early modern humans in Southeast Europe: An experimental study. Journal of Archaeological Science 39 (2) : 332-346.

Referenced here since February 2016

Seeking the primary consistency of raw materials used in prehistory

ALHAIQUE F. ( 1997) Do patterns of bone breakage differ between cooked and uncooked bones? An experimental approach. — In, M. Kokabi, J. Wahl et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 7th ICAZ Conference, Konstanz, 26/09-1/10/1994. Anthropozoologica 25-26: 49-56.

OSIPOWICZ G. (2007) Bone and Antler: Softening techniques in prehistory of the North Eastern part of the Polish Lowlands in the light of experimental archaeology and micro trace analysis. euroREA 4(2007), 1-22.

Website "Experiments with bone and antler" of the Society for Experimental Prehistoric Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, University of Toruń

STEGUWEIT, L. (2012) Experimente zum Weichmachen von Elfenbein. — In, Experimentelle Archäologie in Europa Bilanz 2010 (9), Oldenburg, Europäische Vereinigung zur Förderung der Experimentellen Archäologie : 55-64.

ŻUROWSKI K. (1974) Zmiekczanie poroży i kości stosowane przez wytwórców w starrożytności i we wczesnym średniowieczu [Die altertümlichen une mittelalterlichen methoden der geweih- und knochenaufweichung]. Zeszyt 60 (Acta Universitatis Nicolai Copernici Archaeologia IV - Nauki Humanistyczno-Społeczne): 3-21.

ŻUROWSKI K. (1953) Uwagi na temat obróbki rogu w okresie wczesno-średniowieczynm [Remarques sur la préparation de la corne au cours du haut Moyen-Âge]. Przeglad Archeologiczny IX(9): 395-402.

Referenced here since February 2016

Working ivory

HECKEL Cl. ; WOLF S. (2014) Ivory debitage by fracture in the Aurignacian: experimental and archaeological examples. Journal of Archaeological Science 42 : 1-14.

Making a replica of the famous Lion man yielded by Aurignacian archaeological layers of the Hohlenstein Stadel (South-West Germany)

KHLOPACHEV G.A. & GIRYA E.Y. (2010) Secrets of ancient carvers of Eastern Europe and Siberia. Treatment techniques of ivory and reindeer antler in the Stone Age. Based on archaeological and experimental data. Saint-Petersburg, Nauka [in Russian, with English summary and legends], 143p.

Referenced here since January 2015

"Head" technology (antler / cranium / tooth)

AVERBOUH A. & PÉTILLON J.-M., (2011) Identification of “debitage” by fracturation on reindeer antler : case study of the Badegoulian levels at Cuzoul de Vers (Lot, France).  — In: J. Baron & B. Kufel-Diakowska (Eds.), ‘Written in Bones’ Studies on technological and social contexts of past faunal skeletal remains; Universytet Wroclawski Instytut Archeologii, Wroclaw : 41-52.

BAUMANN M. & MAURY S. (2013) : Ideas no longer written in antler. Journal of Archaeological Science 40 : 601-614.

DAVID É. ; avec la collaboration scientifique de P. van der SLOOT, J.-M. LEOTARD, C. CASSEYAS, M. MAINGEOT, O. MOLLERS, A. BRIDAULT, J. PELEGRIN, A.-L. BINOIS et P. HAESAERTS (2012) "Liège -7000 ans, les derniers chasseurs préhistoriques de Wallonie : Archéologie du Mésolithique et Expérimentation ; Rapport d'études préliminaires des zones 19 et 20 des fouilles de Tivoli". É. DAVID (Dir.), F. BASTIEN (Ed.), Maison Archéologie Ethnologie Prod. / CNRS / Service Public de Wallonie (SPW) / coll. Préhistosite de Ramioul & CETREP. DVD 5 PAL, Toutes zones, Couleur, Format 16/9, Français, 26 minutes (33'30"), Public averti, Support pédagogique.

DAVID, É & PELEGRIN, J. (2009) : Possible Late Glacial bone « retouchers » in the Baltic Mesolithic: The contribution of experimental tests with lithics on bone tools. — In: M. Street, R.N.E. Barton & Th. Terberger (Eds.), Humans, environment and chronology of the Late Glacial of the North European Plain; Proceedings of workshop 14 (Commission XXXII) of the XVth Congrès de l'Union internationale des sciences pré- et protohistoriques UISPP, Lisboa, 4th-9th of September 2006. Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseums Tagungen 6: 155-168. Mainz, Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums.

PÉTILLON J.-M. & DUCASSE S. (2012): From flakes to grooves: A technical shift in antler working during the Last Glacial Maximum in southwest France. Journal of Human Evolution 62 : 435-465.

TARTAR E. (2012) : Réflexion autour de la fonction des retouchoirs en os de l'Aurignacien ancien. Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française 109(1) : 69-83.

TEJERO J.-M. ; CHRISTENSEN M. ; BODU P. (2012) : Red deer antler technology and early modern humans in southeast Europe: An experimental study. Journal of Archaeological Science 39 (2) : 332-346

Referenced here since February 2014

Using projectile tips

PÉTILLON J.-M. ; BIGNON O. ; BODU P. ; CATTELAIN P. ; DEBOUT G. ; LANGLAIS M. ; LAROULANDIE V. ; PLISSON H. ; VALENTIN B. (2011) Hard core and cutting edge: experimental manufacture and use of magdalenian composite projectile tips. Journal of Archaeological Science 38 : 1266-1283.

 Referenced here since Dec. 2012

Processing reindeer carcasses

Skinning, cutting and cooking a reindeer using only bone and antler tools

Five short films about processing reindeer carcasses

Referenced here since April 2012

Using bone tools (bevel-end / spatula)

ARRIGHI S. ; BAZZANELLA M. ; BOSCHIN F. ; WIERER U. (2016) How to make and use a bone "spatula"; An experimental program based on the Mesolithic osseous assemblage of Galgenbühel/Dos de la Forca (Salurn/Salorno, BZ, Italy). Quaternary international 423 : 143-165.

DAVID E. with coll SEPPÄ J. ; with contributions PELEGRIN J. ; HANSEN L. ; GUSTAVSON L. (2005) The bone tools of 10.000 years ago. Maglemosian "bone adzes : The 2005 experiments (Denmark). A Lejre experimental centre project (n°15/05). Dir. E. DAVID, Ed. M. CHEVAIS, CNRS Images Prod./The Lejre Experimental Centre (Denmark). DVD PAL, All zones, Color, Format 4/3, English, 25 minutes.

Video: Reconstructing the Manufacture and Use of Mesolithic Bone "Adzes" by Experiment
thumb video adzes lejre
Film download (62,3 MB)

DAVID E. with coll SEPPÄ J. ; with contributions PELEGRIN J. ; GUSTAVSON L. (2006) The bone tools of 10.000 years ago. Maglemosian "bone adzes : Last results. A Lejre experimental centre project (n°15/06). Dir. E. DAVID, Ed. M. CHEVAIS, Maison Archéologie Ethnologie Prod./The Lejre Experimental Centre (Denmark). Video H264, All zones, Color, Format mp4, English, 2 minutes.

Video : Reconstructing the Manufacture and Use of Mesolithic Bone "Adzes" by Experiment : Last results

Available here since February 2017

Using bone beamer

Beaming tools appears in considerable numbers in late Neolithic and Chalcolithic sites of the Great Hungarian Plain. They were in use for at least 1000 years. The artifacts are almost exclusively made from metatarsal of cattle or red deer. Tools are characterized by continuously renewed and sharp edged facets along the whole length of the diaphysis, sometimes on one, two, three or all four sides

In 2009 several beaming tools were replicated and experimentally tested by Markus Klek in cooperation with Alice Choyke.

Cited here since Dec. 2010

experimet bone beamer 1 b_150_100_16777215_00_images_stories_experiments_exp_beamer_klek2.jpg b_150_100_16777215_00_images_stories_experiments_exp_beamer_klek3.jpg

Processing bone and antler (Neolithic forms)

A workshop on "Experimental Manufacture of Neolithic Bone and Antler Artefacts" has been held in the Museum Burghalde in Lenzburg, Switzerland in 2009. The workshop was part of the master course "Bone and Antler as Raw Material for the Manufacture of Tools in the Neolithic and Roman Time: Typology, Chronology, Technology and Raw Material" at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

A documentation of the workshop by Jörg Schibler and Sabine Deschler-Erb is online availabe at

Cited here since Dec. 2010


Processing harpoon (Alaskan form)

An experimental project on the manufacture of harpoon points once used for sea mammal hunting by Alutiiq Natives of Alaska’s Kodiak archipelago was performed at the Department of Anthropology of the Oberlin College, USA in 2008 under supervision of Amy Margaris. It is documented in an 11-minute film.

Available here since Nov. 2010 

  b_150_100_16777215_00_images_stories_experiments_aleut_harpoon2.jpg   b_150_100_16777215_00_images_stories_experiments_aleut_harpoon1_.jpg

Using bone for ice-skating

From the Bronze Age until the beginning of the 20th century bones have been used for ice skating in Europe. In the majority of cases metapodiae and radii of cattle and horses were applied. An experiment on the use of bone skates was undertaken in 2002 by Hans Christian Küchelmann and Petar Zidarov. The experiment is documented in the proceedings of the WBRG meeting in Tallinn 2003:

Küchelmann, Hans Christian & Zidarov, Petar (2005): Let's skate together! Skating on Bones in the Past and Today. in: Luik, Heidi / Choyke, Alice M. / Batey, Colleen / Lougas, Lembi (eds.): From Hooves to Horns, from Mollusc to Mammoth – Manufacture and Use of Bone Artefacts from Prehistoric Times to the Present – Proceedings of the 4th Meeting of the ICAZ Worked Bone Research Group at Tallinn, 26th–31st of August 2003, Muinasaja teadus 15, 425-445, Tallinn
download (pdf 1.5 MB)


Available here since Oct. 2010