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Snake Blakeslee Collection


The earliest bone artifacts were found 80,000 to 90,000 years ago in central Africa mainly used as a tool to dig through termite mounds. Bone tools are part of the reductive industry, manufactured by removing pieces of a bone until it becomes the desired shape.

object A449


On one side, bone is riddled with crevices. The other side is smooth with hardly any signs of wear. Edges both appear to have been broken at specific angle, as the ends are slanted forming a parallelogram shape. The tip on one side is particularly jagged, while the other end appears to be chipped; again, evidence of breakage. Tool was not likely an awl. Unclear what use was, though no evidence of striations.

What animal do you think this comes from? This is a piece of bone that is from a rib of a deer. Found in 1949 in Southeastern Colorado, this bone dates back to roughly 1100 to 1450 AD. The people who lived in the region at this time (called the Apishapa) frequently used animal bones to create useful tools. This readily material was important because it is strong, flexible, and can be sharpened easily. These characteristics likely made it easier for the Apishapa's daily tasks such as hide-work, sewing, and weaving. In fact today some people still prefer using bone tools instead of tools made out of plastic, stone or metal.

Though researchers do not know exactly how the Apishapa lived, the most common belief is that they were hunters and gatherers who occasionally farmed or traded for other materials they needed. Other researchers believe they were farmers because they lived near canyons that provided consistent access to water. Diverse vegetation grew naturally there, so experts believe the soil could have supported farming as a major source of food. What do you think this tool was used for? Experts don't know for sure. Do you think this bone tool helped the Apaishapa cut animal hides or do you think it was used to prepare grains and plant based foods?

object 368


From preliminary observations it was determined that the tool seemed to be taken from a bison's humorous. Not much else was identified because it appeared to look like a scrap piece of bone that had one edge with divots in it. The data collected from looking through the digital microscope provided further insight into the possible use of the bone. A majority of the bone appeared as though it had not been manipulated except for the smaller more pointed edge.

On the backside of this area there was a large divot that appeared as though the bone had possibly been broken at that point. When looking at the upper most edge of the bone it looks as though there were percussion markings that do not appear as though they were naturally part of the bone. Strangely, there were some diagonal striations at the further most inner end of the bone. It could have been possible the bottom of the bone was scraped on something at the time of production. The data seemed to support the idea that this was a scrap piece of bone that had been slightly manipulated, but not put into use.

object A310a


#A310a measured 4.9cm long and .8cm wide. Using the measuring tool, the width of this bone is 8.7 mm wide. There was no angle on this tool and it weighed 2.4 grams. This tool was ranked a 10 on the use wear scale because it appears to be broken and it also has many visible striations on it. This tool was likely made from a deer rib and was used as awl or a pressure flaker. It has severe traces of use wear, most of which is visible with the naked eye. The artifact has an angular break on one end, and the unbroken end of the tool shows evidence of rounding. Different types of deep striations can be found along the artifact; specifically, striations parallel to the axis of the bone can be seen near the intact end, whereas angular striations are present along the mid portion of the bone. The most pronounced striations however, are perpendicular in nature and can be seen near the broken end. These patterns indicate that this tool was being frequently and intensely used in a forward-backward and twisting motion. Due to its broken nature, it is hard to infer its use, but the bone could have very likely been used as a tool handle. Due to the nature of artifacts found at Snake Blakeslee, it could also be inferred that the tool was used as a type of awl, or even a pressure flaker.

object A232


This artifact is interpreted as a split rib implement by Hamblin (1989). Derived from a bison, it measures 59mm X 22mm wide. The tip is quite sharp, and the shape 'rounds out' near the blunt end of the implement. There is an apparent 'notch' at the tip end which separates a 'lower' very sharp tip from an upper, more rounded / recessed tip. This geometry may be a result of how the rib was initially cracked to be shaped (natural crack) or may be a result of an intended geometry by the manufacturer.

There is little evidence of striations or wear marks on any face of this artifact, with the exception of a couple of possible striations seen in the photo. The tool is very rough surfaced, perhaps because much of the interior face of the rib is exposed. There is a large crack which has been repaired, likely after excavation.

The geometry exposes a considerable portion of the bone's interior. The aforementioned crack is shown clearly, and occurs ~27 mm from the tip. The exterior surface shows short, natural black lineations related to the bone grain; there are a couple of superposed striations, 5.4 and 6.9 mm in length, which trend at about 17 degrees to the perpendicular. These may or may not be wear marks; it is possible they have been scratched during transport, etc. Finally, the image displays an area near the blunt end, exterior face, which may have been purposely beveled. The blunt end has been smoothed.

This is an awl or combination awl/ scraper displaying one end as a fairly sharp point, and the other end being moderately rounded. The unusual features notching and beveling seen on this artifact suggest it may have had some sort of 'special' use, perhaps as both a scraper and an awl. It is also clear that both ends of this implement have been used as some sort of tool. The lack of striations suggests this may have been used primarily as a scraper, rather than an awl. Megascopic bone typology suggested that this is a metastarsal flesher, but microscopic analysis suggests this tool was used more as a scraper.

object A298a


Tool is approximately 4 inches long and nearly half an inch wide. Along hollowed side, tip is diagonal, sharper on one end like a slope. Striations appear along sides of bone close to tip in the same slanted pattern as Artifact A382. Midway up the tool, striations change from slanted to parallel.

Along smoother flat side, striations appear close to tip and continue in different patterns along the back of the bone. Striations are also evident at the end of the bone, opposite the tip where one may have held the tool. Perhaps the tool was broken at this point and the striations indicate that this is not the actual end of the tool where it was held. 

object A169


This is an example of a pressure flaking tool that was found at the prehistoric site of Snake Blakeslee in present day Southeastern Colorado. The Apishapa people occupied the site between 1100 and 1450 AD, leaving bone and stone tools, raw bone and ceramics behind for archaeologists to excavate in 1949. Pressure flaking tools are typically made from the ribs of deer, bison, and other animals.

This bone tool from Snake Blakeslee, now carefully stored in the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Denver, was once used to press forcefully against the edges of stone arrowheads or knives to create groove-like patterns. Pressure flaking tools create sharp edges on stone tools that allow for clean cutting of hides, meat, and other materials. Bones were the preferred tools for many tasks because of their lighter and less brittle features and ability to easily alter stone shape.

Bone tool labeled A169 presents markings throughout the length of the tool. The striations are heavily located around the perimeter or edges of the piece. The rounding of the tip and edges along with the curvature of the tool suggests it was utilized as a pressure flaking tool. The large amounts of use wear around the edges suggest the tool was receiving vast quantities of pressure in those areas. The diagonal and vertical markings existent also suggest this. The tool does not present many horizontal striations suggesting the majority of the damage happened on the perimeter of the tool.

object A236


For A236b, the microscope showed multiple deep striations on the underside of the tool, while the opposite side was much more smooth with less deep lines throughout. This along with the fact that the handle had been broken off and that the working end has become dull show that this tool was used quite often and strenuously. The striations along the center of the tool show that the tool was used in a horizontal motion parallel to the tool. Also, the striations on the underside of the tool are deep and show a horizontal pattern. Along with this evidence, there was also some discoloring on the underside of the tool. This could have been from hunting and could be animal blood. On the nonworking underside of the tool, the striations were deepest towards the center of the tool. This could show that for whatever motion it was being used for, it happened mostly in the center. When examining this artifact just with the hand lens I awarded it a nine. Even without the microscope it was very clear that this tool had been used frequently.

The once working end of the tool appears to have been broken off in some way, while the other end was at one time a joint. Artifact A236a was also somehow split in half, making it not very flat. These things were all clear just by first looking at the artifact with the naked eye. The working end did not show many striations but as you move towards the center, more begin to appear. There are still not many but they all appear to be running horizontally with the tool while one prominent one runs vertically. There is a lot of discoloring though, especially towards the joint. It seems most likely that this is just a consequence of time because the color is mostly black and spotty. Although the striations run horizontally to show the motion in which the tool was used, they are not very deep. The tool was probably not used very frequently. This led us to give the tool a 5 in use wear.