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Snake Blakeslee Collection


What is an awl? Awls are one of the most common artifacts found in archaeological sites. Men and women used bone awls to perform various tasks such as piercing holes, or marking materials such as wood or leather. Bone awls were perfect tools because of the thick, strong tip with a small radius and sharp point. These traits were the perfect combination to make small, precise holes. The bone tool comes from any number of animals.

Hunters choose the animal depending on the desired size of the awl and the material desired to pierce. Awls made a common appearance in the everyday lives of not only the Apishapa people from the American southwest, but also indigenous cultures from around the world. They can vary dramatically in polish from wear, methods of preparation, and size. An Apishapa person used some of these awls at the Snake Blakeslee site in the Apishapa canyon. To hold the animal skins up, he/she pierced holes in the hides and then tied them down. The tool also simplified the process of weaving baskets. The Apishapa's genius in using the awl is only exemplified in the modern world by the fact awls are still used commonly in the present day! The tool was first made of bone, and then slowly they made a transition to stone awls, and most recently, metals.

object A302


Artifact A302 measured 16.2 cm long and .9 cm wide. It's angle is 10 degrees and it weighs 10.2 grams. This tool was ranked to be a 9 on the wear scale because there are a lot of visible striations along the tool that do not requires a hand lens to see. This bone tool was made from a deer metapodial/metatarsus/metacarpal. This tool was used as an awl. 

The condyle of the bone is present, and shows signs of smoothing. The tip of the tool is still intact and relatively sharp with only minimal dulling. Significant use wear is evident by perpendicular and angular striations along the entire length of the artifact, although they intensify as you move up the bone, and are most concentrated in the mid section of the artifact, at the 6-8cm mark, when measuring from the tip. These striations indicate that the tool was most likely used for piercing holes, with twisting motions to increase the size of the opening. The width of the tool at the largest concentration of striations is 4.77mm, which could indicate the desired size of the hole being punched. This is shown in the image above. The use wear analysis could classify this tool as an awl that was likely used for clothing manufacture.

object A278


Artifact A278 measured 6.9 cm long and 1.3 cm wide. It's angle is 18 degrees and it weighs 3.6 grams. This tool was ranked to be a 7 on the use wear scale because there are visible striations along the tool. This bone tool was made from a deer ulna or metatarsus.

Artifact 278 could be classified as an awl. The condyle is still present on one end, with evidence of filing or smoothing. On the other end, the tip is still intact and sharp. The tool shows moderate use wear, with specific concentrations of wear near the tip. Angular and perpendicular striations can be found near the tip as well as further up the length of the artifact. The image above shows the perpendicular striations found 3cm above the tip. These striations indicate twisting of the tool, which in combination with the sharp tip indicate that the tool was potentially used for poking holes in animal hides or other similar materials, and then widening the opening with the thicker part of the bone. This type of tool would be very useful in sites that focused on hunting and the processing of animal remains as a main activity, which other data has proven of Snake Blakeslee.

object A382


This bone was found in 1949 in Southeastern Colorado. This tool comes from the anklebone of a deer. It is estimated that it was used between 900 and 600 years ago. Around the world other bone tools have been found dating back almost two million years. The earliest humans used this type of tool to dig termites out of their mounds. However, researchers believe this particular bone tool was used for skinning animals, sewing, and weaving.

This tool is approximately 6 inches long and nearly an inch wide at its widest (base). Along carved out side there are slanted striations from the tip that run along side and then stop mid way. Slanted appearance may be indicative of the awl being used in an angled downward motion. Along the backside, no striations are immediately visible.

object A331


Based off of preliminary findings the group inferred that this tool was a broken awl possibly made from the metapodial of a deer. Some striations were visible to the naked eye but with further examination it was easier to identify the direction of the striations. Under the digital microscope it was discovered that at the broken end where the tip would have been, the striations start out being diagonal instead of horizontal making it a point of expansion instead of perforation.

The examination of the tool appeared to show that many of the large cracks in the bone have possibly resulted from age instead of use. There were particulates found with in one of the main cracks on the curved back of the tool. On one of the longitudinal smaller edges there were multiple striations trailing up the edge.

object A66a


This bone artifact is best described as an awl, measuring approximately 128mm X 24 mm. The awl has a relatively sharp 'use' end, with a blunted opposite end. Hamblin (1989) describes this artifact as a split bison rib.

There is no macroscopic evidence of manufacturing or wear use markings on this artifact. It displays a· sharp point which could be useful for piercing hides or for use in basketry.

At low (3X) magnification, this artifact replicates what was seen macroscopically- no obvious manufacturing marks or wear use markings are evident; there is a natural crack near the blunt end of the artifact which runs parallel to the length axis. It is possible, but speculative, that this crack was created during the initial splitting of this bone. At higher magnification (30-SOX), possible wear marks are seen although these markings are more than likely natural bone marks, and not attributed to use; additionally, there may be weak, shallow striations along the side face of this artifact, but again, this is likely speculative. The tip of this artifact is very sharp and beveled.

The lack of striations or markings on this artifact are a bit of an enigma, in that the bone is very sharp at one end, and has been shaped and beveled to appear as an awl of some type. The angled portion of the artifact beneath the blade suggests it was also used to scrape. Given that all of these artifacts were obtained from Room F, which is interpreted to be a work area for the preparation of meat & hide, the shape and sharpness of A66a would fit in.... a useful tool to both pierce hide and to possible scrape meat from bones (but why not a scapula?). Megascopic bone typology from class room exercise is confirmed by microscopic analysis: awls made on rib bones. Further analysis of this artifact could involve some sort of residue/ chemical analysis to determine for the presence of hide or meat. Because there seems to be no association with plant preparation or basketry at this site, it is more than likely this instrument was used in preparation of meat and hides. 

object A117


This bone artifact is best described as an awl, measuring approximately 54mm X 7 mm. The awl has a relatively blunt 'use' end, with a sharpened opposite end. The artifact is four-sided, and the tip end is relatively smooth and polished. Hamblin (1989) describes this artifact as coming from some sort of large mammal, in this case either a deer or bison. 

There is macroscopic evidence of wear use markings and polishing on this artifact. It clearly has been used extensively, hence shows wear rank of 5. It displays a blunt point which could have been used primarily to pierce hides for stitching, etc. The 7mm width of this tool would make a properly-sized hole for laces, etc, to shape and tie the hide into useful clothing. There is a crack perpendicular to the length axis where a matching piece was glued to the artifact. The artifact had clearly been cracked and repaired but it is not known if the pieces were found separately or if the break occurred at a later point in time.

At low magnification, this artifact displays obvious striations, although the striations near the tip are not as obvious as they are at high magnification. At higher magnification (30X), there are easily observable striations. Situated behind a 2mm tip (fairly blunt), the somewhat shallow striations are ubiquitous, trending at an acute angle to the perpendicular (15-40 degrees). These striations continue toward the blunt end of the artifact, where striations trending at 15 deg become subordinate to the 40 degree striations. They measure 1-2mm in length and appear to be fairly deep. It should be noted that the striations continue along a side-face of the artifact, where they measure 47-80 degrees from the perpendicular to that face.

At approximately 28 mm from the tip, the striations cease, and the finish looks more polished. The blunt end displays some degree of beveling/smooth edging. Megascopic bone typology seems more in doubt on this artifact, that it is some sort of punch rather than a possible patterned pressure flaker made on rib bone. Wear marks I striations would support the former.

The striations record a twisting motion while using the artifact as an awl, such that the user inserted the awl with a twisting motion, or did the same upon withdrawal of the awl. The twisting motion causes the angle of the striations to change during twisting. Additionally, this artifact shows a moderate degree of use, which either speaks to the effectiveness of the awl's design, and I or the user's fondness of it. It is likely that this artifact was used to produce holes in hides. Megascopic bone typology seems more in doubt on this artifact, that it is some sort of punch rather than a possible patterned pressure flaker made on rib bone. Wear marks I striations would support the former.

object A149


Bone tool labeled A149 presents many striations that follow the length of the tool and vertical and diagonal striations in select places. The intense amount and pattern of the damage on tool A149 suggests it was once used as an awl. An awl is utilized to pierce holes in material like leather. The horizontal striations covering the length of the tool are evidence for piercing through material. The many vertical striations located at the thinnest and sharpest end suggest consistent twisting to expand the hole at that location. At 7.721 mm, a significant amount of diagonal markings are existent suggesting a constant rotation of the tool at that point. The entirety of the bone tool is marked by these horizontal vertical and diagonal patterns proposing this tool was utilized very often for piercing holes.