ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
ossamenta ([personal profile] ossamenta) wrote2016-04-05 09:57 am
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Mystery bone tool

Where has the month gone? It's already April, and over here in Oxford we've had a brilliant sunny spring Saturday. I went out for a walk to the town centre and back, stopping at the Town Hall for the popup exhibition which shows our finds from the huge Westgate excavation. I can't wait to get hold of the animal bones: it's not everyday you get the opportunity to do research on a medieval Fransiscan friary!

At the moment I'm working on a completely different site: a multi period rural site, ranging from the Neolithic to the Anglo-Saxon period. So far nothing stands out in particular. Perhaps once the numbers have been properly crunched I might be able to see some chronological changes in animal husbandry.
But one find stood out when I saw it: a bone tool made from a sheep metacarpal. I've seen such bones before - there were several from the East Kent Access Project as well as a small number from other Iron Age and Roman sites in Oxfordshire. Despite being relatively common, we don’t know what their function were. It has been suggested that they are textile tools and that the grooves comes from wear from yarn, but I’m not certain about that: can repeated use of yarn really wear such a small number of distinct grooves? I would instead expect general wear and tear all along the shaft, or a larger V- or U-shaped groove in one or both ends of the shaft.

What do you think, dear readers: have you any ideas what these bones were used for?

 photo Thame_THF15_ant_zpstn2bhxlh.jpg

 photo Thame_THF15_med_zpsi4orw4tl.jpg

As an aside: Ideally one shouldn't write the identification code so prominently if the item may be photographed later, but this was a joint project, and the other company did the washing and marking of the finds (so I can't just walk across the office and tell them off). Mostly these things happen when the person marking is not experienced in spotting the important details of the object, such as writing over the pathology on an animal bone, or - my favourite - across the decoration of a bone mount! I'd like to say our people are better taught, but these things can happen in the best of places, particularly if people are tired and/or inattentive. But it's no disaster: if the metacarpal will be photographed for publication they'll just have to scrape the ink off.
vatine: Generated with some CL code and a hand-designed blackletter font (Default)

[personal profile] vatine 2016-04-05 09:31 am (UTC)(link)
[ wildly speculating layman here ]

Just looking at it makes me think "yarn, or twine, holder; groove intentionally made to limit slippage". Once you have such a groove, it may end up being deepened and/or widened from wear, depending on exactly how it was used.

[ although I have some experience making my own tools, plus some experience in some textile, wood, and metal crafting ]
vatine: Generated with some CL code and a hand-designed blackletter font (Default)

[personal profile] vatine 2016-04-07 07:54 am (UTC)(link)
I'm thinking maybe lift yarn for, oh, I don't know... Nope, probably not weaving. Maybe some sort of "position yarn/twine being pulled, so as to save the hand doing the guiding"?

I mean, I've considered building something similar for winding steel wire into coils to be cut into chain-mail links, so that's what occurred to me.