The Bone Tools of Domuztepe Jeffrey J. Szuchman Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures




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The Bone Tools of Domuztepe




Jeffrey J. Szuchman

Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

University of California, Los Angeles




Introduction


Thorough analysis of bone implements is often disregarded in favor of ceramic, lithic, and architectural data. The scant reference to bone artifacts in much of the archaeological literature from the Near East attests to a common lack of interest in bone tools. This seems to be particularly the case for sites of the Halaf period, for which the broad regional unity of architectural forms and ceramic styles and motifs is such a defining feature. Admittedly, most bone tool assemblages are relatively modest in size and stylistically uniform in comparison with these other artifact classes, and in light of time constraints and the absence of bone tool specialists, neglect of bone tool analysis is somewhat understandable. A bone tool collection as large as that of Domuztepe’s, however, demands careful investigation. Despite the fact that a comparative analysis is hampered to some degree by the very lack of comparative material that is accessible in the literature, this investigation will consider the bone tools of Domuztepe with respect to bone tools assemblages from other Halaf period sites, in addition to internal evidence that may provide clues as to the types of craft activities that took place at Domuztepe.

The Bone Tools of Domuztepe

Pointed Implements


Pointed implements are the best represented category of bone tool at the site, appearing in every level of occupation and area of excavation. In many reports, these tools are referred to as awls, but in an effort to generate a bone tool typology that is guided by tool form rather than function, the use of terminology that encompasses functional implications will be avoided here. Complete pointed implements, that is, those for which the point along with the shaft and butt of the tool survive, are referred to as points, and specimens for which only the tips are preserved are designated tips. Eighty-one points or tips have been recovered, and an additional fourteen worked fragments are probably parts of the shaft sections of these tools. Together, these 95 tools comprise 58 percent of the entire bone tool assemblage (See Figure 1).



F
*Includes beads and indeterminate worked bone
igure 1


Bone points are classified into four types based primarily on tip characteristics (Table 1). Types I and II are the most frequent, comprising nearly 85 percent of the total bone points (Figure *). These types differ only in their tip characteristics. Pointed implements of type I occur with the greatest frequency, 39 in all, and are characterized by relatively long tips that are round in cross section (Plate I). Type I points come in one of two varieties: either both sides of the shaft are tapared to form the point, or only one side of the tip is tapered to meet the other side, which is left straight. The result of the latter method is that the tips lie slightly off of the center of the shaft.


b

a


Figure 1: a) Type 1 pont (dt 2149); b) Type II point (dt 2197)



Table 1. Pointed Implements by Type (N=95)

Type

Number

Percent

Type I

39

41%

Type II

32

33.7%

Type III

6

6.3%

Type IV

4

4.2%

Shaft Fragments

14

14.7%


Type II points are generally shorter and flatter than those of type I awls (Plate II). The tips extend only slightly beyond the end of the shaft, usually no more than one centimeter, though some extend beyond one centimeter. These flat points are often no thicker than 0.22 cm, a size which contrasts with the slightly more robust points of the type I pointed implements (Figure 2). Type II points may have originated as type I points, but use and wear reduced and flattened what was formerly a long, round tip.



Figure 2

The six type III points stand apart from types I and II in the nature of their overall shape, as opposed to merely tip attributes (Plate III). These are short and fat points, often with split shafts, and usually with thick points, although they tend to vary. Only complete examples fall into this category as their whole shape determines their categorization.

Only four points fall into the final category, type IV (Plate IV). These contain points that are fashioned from unsplit bone. The shaft of the bone may be split (e.g. dt 267 and dt 1205, fig *:a) but the break ends well before the point begins to taper. The result is a rather thick, sharp point in most cases, suitable for puncturing thick or heavy material. In contrast to the other type IV pointed implements, one unique point of this type (dt 1162 Fig. *:b) displays a square section and a flat tip with two severe longitudinal striations and several perpendicular striations on one surface. Though the shape of this particular example suggests a function other than that of the rest of the type IV specimens, the tool remains in this category because is made from an unsplit bone.


a

b


Figure 2: Type IV: a) dt 1205; b) dt 1162

Manufacture


The majority of pointed implements are fashioned from sheep, goat, or other medium-sized mammal metapodials or other long bones. Of the points that can be taxonomically identified, 80 percent are made from these bones. Cattle long bones and metapodials, and deer and medium to large mammal metapodials make up the remainder of the bone points (Table 2).

Table 2. Tool Type by Identifiable Animal (N=125)




Med. Mammal

Sheep/Goat

Cattle

Deer

Med.-Lg. Mammal

Pig

Pointed Imp.

28%

27.2%

8%

4%

2.4%

0.8%

Spatulas

2.4%

--

7.2%

0.8%

--

--

Pierced Ribs

0.8%

--

0.8%

--

0.8%

--

Pins

0.8%

--

--

--

--

0.8%

Notched Scapulae

--

1.6%

--

1.6%

--

--

Misc.

2.4%

0.8%

0.8%

4%

0.8%

2.4%

Total

34.4%

29.6%

17.6%

10.4%

4%

4%


Evidence of the sequence of manufacture of pointed implements appears as cut marks, perpendicular, longitudinal or diagonal striations, either in combination or alone, and polish. Except for the unsplit type IV points, the shaft of the bone is split longitudinally. The method of bone fracture is unclear, but presumably percussion of the dry bone against a hard surface or slicing of softened bone with a blade were the options available to the manufacturers. Generally, the top of the shaft is left unmodified and the sides and bottom of the bone are reduced to meet in a point. In several cases the bone is cut to a point by means of a blade and no further modifications are made (e.g. dt 2196 Fig *;a and dt 747). More often, however, and in the majority of types I and II points, the sides are ground after the preliminary cut has been made. Often, a series of striations perpendicular to the long axis of the bone is visible. These striations are akin to scratches present on some ground obsidian, which suggests that these marks are the result of grinding the bone with a coarse stone, as is the case with ground obsidian artifacts. In some cases, a slight rounding of the striations, visible under magnification, provides clear evidence that the marks appeared prior to the polishing of the tool, and are therefore manufacture wear. Similar striations may appear on the top or bottom of the point. Dt 2149 (see fig.*) exhibits perpendicular striations that wrap around the top, sides, and bottom of the point. On the top of the tool, the striations run from the end of the tip and up only two centimeters, but continue up the sides to where the cut side meets the natural side of the shaft. Longitudinal striations occur on fewer examples and are sometimes quite prominent. The deeper cuts probably indicate use wear that was sustained after manufacture. Some tools have diagonal striations that occur in isolated patches along the top of the tool. The condyle on the articular end of one bone (dt 2152 fig *;b) is ground flat in the same way that the point is ground, and the result is an area of diagonal striations covering the top of the butt end of the tool.


a

b


Figure 3: a) dt 2196; b) ground articular end of dt 2152

After the tip of the tool has been shaped by cutting and grinding, the entire bone is polished, sometimes to a very high shine. Burnt pieces tend to have a consistently high polish, presumably as a result of the heating process and not necessarily reflecting the intent of the manufacturer. Dt 1815, of which only one small section of the point is burnt and carries a high polish, highlights this contrast in sheen between burnt and unburned bone. Some tools may have been burned intentionally in order to increase their hardness. Controlled heating at moderate temperatures will darken and harden bone, but prolonged heating at very high temperatures will char and ultimately deplete the bone's resilience (Campana 1989:36, Fig. 2). One might imagine that if the manufacturer of the tool was aware of the tool's intended use in puncturing a particularly resistant material, a special heating process would take place in order to strengthen the tool. Alternately, a tool used for a previous task may have been burned before reuse for a task that might require a sturdier tool. Whether or not a specific specimen this particular collection was in fact burned intentionally, however, is impossible to determine.

Use wear is more difficult to discern on the points and indeed on the entire corpus of bone tools. The heavy longitudinal scratches mentioned above might be the result of a particular pattern of use, but the nature of the use is difficult to determine. Areas of especially high polish may result from tool use. Punching an awl through a thick hide, for example, produces a rounding and polish on the tip of the bone that gradually recedes up the shaft of the tool (Campana 1989:57). Sheen will also develop on tips used in basketry and cloth weaving. A few points display small, but fairly deep diagonal notches on one side near the tip. Rarely more than two such marks appear, and these may be the impressions of the fingernail of the user as the user dug into the tool to gain control or leverage. Several tools contain a variety of scratches that range along the top of the shaft of the bone, and these may be evidence of processes that occurred during use or after discard.

Spatulas (Plate V)


Spatulas are represented in the bone tool assemblage with much less frequency than points. All spatulas are made from split sheep/goat or, more often, cattle ribs. No complete spatula has been recovered. Only seventeen tips, making up eleven percent of the assemblage are present. Spatulas subdivide into two categories based on the shape of the tip. Eight round-tipped spatulas have wider and more circular tips than their point-tipped counterparts (Figure 3). Though thickness of the tip is not necessarily an indicator of type, some round-tipped spatulas are considerably thicker than the point-tipped spatulas. The rounded and angled tips may have served different purposes, but use wear on the tools is often indiscernible, as it is with the pointed implements. Manufacture wear patterns are also similar to those present on the points. Perpendicular striations that verify that the rib was ground into shape appear on the sides of a number of spatulas. Other longitudinal and varied striations are visible on some specimens, but, as is the case with the points, these do not appear in any particularly notable pattern. Most spatulas are polished after they are shaped, usually only on the upper surface and sides. In rare cases the bottom of the rib is also polished.

Figure 3

Pierced Ribs (Plate VI)

A special category of pierced ribs occurs with relative frequency. Eight of these tools make up five percent of the entire assemblage. These are spatula-shaped items fashioned from ribs, with a pierced hole usually lying within two centimeters from the rounded edge. No complete examples are present, and it is possible that some tools classified as spatulas are in fact pierced ribs, but the pierced portion of the tool has not survived. Like spatulas, these are made from the ribs of large mammals. One or both sides may be polished and perpendicular striations may appear on the sides of the rib. The hole in the preserved part of one specimen (dt 741 Fig. *:a), lies nearly seven centimeters from the rounded edge. It is this portion of the far end of the tool which may be missing from some spatulas that would otherwise be placed in the pierced rib category. The hole itself is most often drilled from both sides of the rib, leaving drill marks on each side, though in one example the hole is drilled only from one side. Holes have an average diameter of 0.36 centimeters and range between 0.25 and 0.6 centimeters. One pierced rib (dt 1286, Fig. *;b) displays three deep striations that radiate up from the hole. These marks do not extend to the underside of the rib, and thus do not appear to be string marks. Nevertheless, the form of these tools suggests that they would have been useful in a weaving context.


a

b


Figure 4: a) dt 741; b) dt 1286

Pins and Needles (Plate VII)


Pins and needles together make up six percent of the entire assemblage. Four needles and six pins are represented, but only one complete example of each survives among the other fragments. Needles are very fine and very flat, whereas pins tend to be rounder and somewhat sturdier. The only complete needle is polished on both sides and has a very delicate eye that is drilled from both sides (fig *;a). The one complete pin has a fairly deep groove that wraps around its circumference 1.9 cm from one point (fig *;b). The entire tool is polished and there is a subtle flattening of the tool on one side of the center of the pin.


a

b


Figure 5: a) Needle dt 741; b) Pin dt 1286

Notched Scapulae (Plate VIII)


Four notched scapulae may have functioned as percussion instruments. Both sheep/goat and cattle scapulae are notched in this manner, and the largest example measures nearly 16 centimeters across. The notched surface is well polished on one specimen and only slightly polished on the others. Dt 1083, with 44 incisions, preserves the greatest number of notches. Analogous objects have been found at Arpachiyah (Mallowan and Rose 1935:Plate XII.a), Sakce Gözü (duPlat Taylor, Seton and Waechter 1950:fig 30.4-6), Yarim Tepe II, (Merpert, Munchaev and Bader 1976:Plate XXIX), and at Girikihaciyan (Watson and LeBlanc 1990:93-94, Fig. 6.6).


a

d

c

b


Figure 6: Notched Scapulae a) dt 1083 b) dt 1730 c) dt 2679 d) dt 2794

Dunham (1994) has collected all artifacts of this type from the Neolithic to the fourth century BC. She presents a strong case that these implements, usually created from a long bone or scapula, like the Domuztepe examples, served as musical rasps. This interpretation, based on common wear patterns exhibited on all of Dunham’s chronologically diverse examples, accords well with the Domuztepe notched bones. The edges of the notches on several of the Domuztepe specimens are rounded, and this feature, combined with the distinctive polish that the implements carry, suggests that they were rubbed over with a fairly solid object. This action would have produced a rather distinct sound, which Dunham vividly describes.

Miscellaneous


Noteworthy miscellaneous items include a goat astragalus that has been shaved on two sides and may have served as a token or gaming piece (cf. human finger bone models from Arpachiya [Mallowan and Rose 1935:99-100, Fig. 52.1-2 and Plates X.a, XII.a]); a scalloped large mammal rib; a spoon-like cattle scapula worked and polished on the flat end; two antler pegs; and a sheep/goat scapula with two punctured holes, which may have been produced by post-depositional processes. The functions of these items are undetermined.
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