Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Carved Bone Handle

The photograph to the right is of a small piece of mammal bone, about 1½ inches long. No, those crisscrossing lines are not natural...they are incisions intended to serve as decoration and, perhaps, to improve a user's grip on what is clearly a utensil handle.

Many European-American eating utensils, particularly knives, had bone handles prior to the widespread use of vulcanized rubber, plastic, and other materials; which is to say, from the Colonial Period through the middle of the 19th century. Some of the carvings were carefully conceived and executed, but recovered archaeological specimens tend to have simple designs. The workmanship often is crude, but charming, and long-term use smooths the rough spots.

When recovered from well-defined contexts with other materials that can be associated with a particular household, such artifacts can be used by museum curators to acquire complete specimens which they use in creating those richly detailed 'period' rooms that have been so popular in house museums throughout the 20th century.



Anonymous said...

This is all very interesting but did you find one in Port Tobacco and if so which unit?

Jim said...

Sorry about that...the bone handle fragment came from Unit 52, Stratum 2; that is in the Compton field. We haven't developed the larger context yet because we are still cataloging.