last update: 28. 7. 2010

Bone Workshop

This page contains pictures and information about bone working from different times an regions.

More facts about contemporary bone workers are available in the online-shop, where objects can also be purchased .

Safe Harpoon Manufacturing

At the Department of Anthropology of the Oberlin College a project was conducted under the supervision of Amy Margaris demonstrating, step by step, the replication of a style of harpoon point once used for sea mammal hunting by Alutiiq Natives of Alaska’s Kodiak archipelago. It was documented in an 11-miute film entitled "Antler Craft: A Barbed Harpoon Point". The Alutiq Natives probably would have be delighted by the invention of proper safety equipment for the manufacturing process...

Aleut harpoon
harpoon replication
A slippery business

From the Bronze Age until the beginning of the 20th century metapodiae and radii of cattle and horses were used for ice skating in Europe. We wanted to know how this works and tried it. More about archaeological and historic bone skates can be obtained from the report, the Bone Skates Database and the Hurstwic Reenactment Group.

bone skates
bone skating
Vikinge håndværk

Some impressions from the Vikingemarked at Ribe Vikingecentret (Denmark), rebuilt next to the site of the viking age market place.

Dennis Sørensen 1 Dennis Sørensen 2
Dennis Rune Sørensen at work and the result.
Matthias Kallähme Matthias Barkmann
Matthias Kallähme (left) and products of Matthias Barkmann (right).
Ruud Conijn 1 Ruud Conijn 2
Excellent Replicas of archaeological artefacts from Ruud Conijn.
Ribe 1 Ribe 2 Ribe 3
Morraine from Australia on the left and the work of two nameless artisans.
European Middle Ages

Some examples from the lively european medieval scene.

Geweihschnitzer Antje Chrosziel
Sam Voigt, bonecarver of the reenactment group Fogelvrei (left); works of Antje Chrosziel (right).
Schachfigur Gürtelschnalle
Fotos: Monica Tielens
Replicas of Monica Tielens: a chess gaming piece built from mammoth ivory after the find from Lewis (Scotland, 12th century AD, original from walrus ivory) on the left; a frisian belt buckle (ca. 1000 AD) on the right.
Edgar the Banwyrtha
Foto: Regia Anglorum
A comb and weaving tablets from Edgar the Banwyrtha, boneworker of the UK reenactment group Regia Anglorum (left); bone workshop with Kerstin Schwämmle of Agil (right).
Foto: Air New Zealand
New Zealand on the air again

Traditional Maori bonecarving has become a carrier for cultural identity in todays New Zealand: These bonecarvings of Brian Flintoff were advertised in Air New Zealands "Skyshop Catalogue" 1998. Depicted are two Hei-Matau (stilised fish hooks, bottom), one Manaia (a bird-like mythical figure, left) and other motifs. More related in DAVIS 1994.

Stilised fish hooks are worn as pendants in whole Polynesia representing different styles from different archipels. The example at the right is known as Makau in Maui, Hawaii. It was manufactured by Lonita and Wilfried Heun from cattle bone. Makau
African handicraft
Nigeria 1 Nigeria 2 Nigeria 3
A highly decorated object of unknown purpose from Kano, Nigeria, made from an artiodactyla--metapodial.
All sorts of useful and decorative things like cuttlery, candle holders, jewelry, etc. are made of bone in Kenya showing a typical wax-dyed decoration. On the right are two spice-boxes made from Humeri available at the Knochenarbeit-online-shop, Germany. Gewürztöpfe
The Guanche Recall

The Guanches, natives of the Canarian Islands, manufactured tools and a lot of other objects from bones (e. g. fieldworking instruments, fish hooks, beads, pendants). These iron knifes shafted in sheep or goat tibiae and the figurines were produced in Teneriffa. I found them at Sangara in Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera.

Gomera 1 Gomera 2
Modern Bone Working in Germany

Although it is not a flourishing branch bone working has survived until today. Some bone workers still practise and at the Berufsfachschule für das Holz und Elfenbein verarbeitende Handwerk (School for the Wood and Ivory Working Handicrafts) in Michelstadt pupils are trained to become bone and ivory carvers.

Nähzeug Tabakdose1 Tabakdose2
Fotos: Rudolf Gögl
Needles from Northern Germany from the beginning of the 20th century (left) and bavarian tobacco boxes of deer antler from Rudolf Gögl (right).
Kreisel 1 Kreisel 2 Kreisel 3
Fotos: Armin Kolb
Perfectionism at it's best: spinning tops from Armin Kolb.
Tattoing with Bone Tools

Apart from the tattooed scythian mummies from the frozen tombs of the Altai (ca. 500 - 300 BC, see e. g. POLOSMAK 1994; ROLLE 1992) the by now oldest evidence for tattooing are some small lines on back and legs of the bronze age ice mummy from the Ötztal in the Alps (around 3300 BC). Since a very sharp bone needle was found within the equipment of the ice man, one hypothesis is that the tattoing instrument might have been from bone (HÖPFEL et al 1992). The tattooist Daemon Rowanchilde and the archaeologist Julian Seeger from Canada replicated and tested the instrument successfully – a strange kind of exprimental archaeology.

Tattooing tools Tattooing with bone tools
Fotos: Daemon Rowanchilde & Julian Seeger
One cultural center of tattooing developed in Polynesia. In New Zealand for instance the Moko, the traditional Maori face tattoos are made with sharp-edged bone blades, the so called Uhi (NELEMAN et al. 1999).
Piercing Stuff

Bone jewelry from Wildcat: ear plugs, claws, fleshtunnels and other piercings of indonesian buffalo horn and bone, mammoth ivory and a chain of vertebrae of cobra.

Wildcat 1 Wildcat 2 Wildcat 3
Fotos: Wildcat
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