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Worked Bone

Submitted by mccaffer on Fri, 03/07/2008 - 2:19pm

Worked bone objects are another artifact class that have often been recovered archaeologically but that have received little attention apart from cursory descriptions. Bone tools were made either of animal or human bone, and were usually shaped by grinding a smooth edge onto the broken end of the bone. Tolstoy (1971:293-295) described several different bone tools from the Valley of Mexico, including awls, needles, tubes, scrapers and points. To this list can be added the weaving batten and a musical rasp known as an "omechicahuaztli." Bone weaving battens have been reported from Tehuacán (Johnson de Weitlaner 1971) and Tomb 7 at Monte Alban (Caso 1969; G. McCafferty and S. McCafferty 1989; Norton 1989; S. McCafferty and G. McCafferty 1992). Ethnographic examples of bone "corn huskers" (tapiscadores) are known from the Maya highlands (Hayden and Cannon 1984), that closely resemble the tool type usually termed "awls." Occasionally, bone was also carved with intricate designs, usually of religious scenes, and these were sometimes worn as costume adornment such as pendants.

The majority of bone tools found are usually associated with weaving, embroidery, or leather-working. As discussed in relation to spindle whorls, these were traditionally female tasks in Mesoamerican society, and were closely associated with female gender identity (S. McCafferty and G. McCafferty 1991).

Sixteen pieces of worked bone were identified by Wolfman in the preliminary analysis of the UA-1 objects (1968:29). Virtually all of the tools that were identified can be related to textile production or leather-working, including 4 awls, 3 needles, and a spindle whorl.

An additional research potential of the UA-1 bone tools is to identify possible female work areas based on their spatial distribution. The distribution of bone tools is represented in Figure 170. In the upper levels these artifacts were concentrated over the remains of Structure 1 and the trash midden. In the occupational levels, the greatest concentration occurred in Room 2, where they were part of a weaving kit that included the bone whorl, awl, deer antler, a clay whorl mold, and a vessel containing pigment (Figure 171). Other bone tools were located in Room 3 and on the porch just to the east.



Figure 170. Spatial distribution of worked bone




Figure 171. Weaving kit found in situ in Room 2

The concentration of bone tools in Room 3 and on the porch indicates that this may have been an area for textile production, probably associated with female activities. The presence of curated bone tools with other weaving accoutrements further demonstrates the importance of this activity at the site, and supports the argument that women resided in the Structure 1 compound.

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