Report on the manufacture and wear trace analysis of ten bone and antler artefacts from the Wijnaldum-Tjitsma terp.
Introduction and Methods
A total of 10 bone needles from Wijnaldum-Tjitsma were analysed at the Laboratory for Artefact Studies, Leiden University with the aim of shedding light on manufacture, residue and wear. The selection consists of six complete needles (of which three are broken, but all pieces are present), one fragment of a bone needle, two pins and one unidentified object. All needles were analyzed using a Nikon SMZ I2 and a Wild Periplan stereomicroscope (magnifications 6,5 to 160x) and a Nikon Optiphot metallographic microscope (magnifications 100-300x). Photographs were taken with a Nikon Fi1 digital camera. The stereomicroscope gives a general overview of traces of manufacture and wear. The metallographic microscope gives a more detailed view of the wear and facilitates a more detailed interpretation of the traces present. The needles did not need any cleaning as no dirt or sediment was present. All needles and their wear traces were well preserved.
It should be stressed that if an object was used for a long time on different materials only the last use or uses would be visible in the use wear. Obviously this will depend on the sequence, but generally the traces from the last contact material supercede the existing traces of wear. For example, if a needle is used with leather for a short period of time and is subsequently used with plant fibres for a long time, usually only the traces from contact with plant fibres would still be visible.
None of the objects is shaped in a rather rough, ad hoc manner. Almost all objects seem to be shaped by scraping and/or cutting. This can, amongst other features, be seen at places where the scraper or knife dived too deep into the surface, leaving shallow hack marks. An exception is find number 5528 which seems to have been finished by polishing. It is likely that some of the needles were polished after the initial shaping phase by scraping and/or cutting, but no traces of this were visible. Most of the needles still display some part of the original outer surface of the bone. These needles were made out of a thin bone, i.e. a pig fibula and only part of the sides and the front and the back end were modified (find numbers 1, 153, 1001 and 1024). In these cases the spongeosum is visible inside the needles on the fractured surfaces. The perforations can be straight or hourglass shaped. Find numbers 5528 and 1001 have an oblong shaped perforation. On find number 5528 there are two perforations drilled close to each other.
Five of the needles were used on plant fibres (find numbers 1, 1001, 1024, 1065 and 5528). Unfortunately it is not possible to specify the plant species involved. Experimental research has so far not shown enough variability in the polish resulting from contact with different kinds of plants to allow precise identification. These needles might, especially if you take their shape and size into consideration, have been used for the making and repairing of nets or to manufacture containers of different plant fibres. The traces present on the other two needles (find numbers 153 and 2650) display features that can be attributed to contact with different materials, suggesting that they were indeed used on different materials.
Of the two pins one displays traces of wool (find number 5972). It was probably used as a fibula on a woollen mantle or cloak. The other pin shows traces of probable contact with hair and was probably used as a hairpin (find number 3453). The last object, of unknown type, has probably been used to work skin or leather (find number 3869). The entire surface of the object shows the same wear and even the reverse is rounded, indicating the object was pulled through leather in its entirety.
Find number 1. This undated needle was made out of a pig fibula, thus necessitating minimal shaping. Indeed, a large part of the surface consists of the original surface of the bone. Where traces of manufacture are visible, they are due to a scraping and/or cutting motion. The needle is faceted in cross-section. The end of the needle is wide compared to the shaft and has a large drilled straight perforation. The needle was used for the processing of plant fibres.
Find number 153. This needle, dated to the Migration period, was made out of a pig fibula. The reverse of this needle is flared. The needle is partly hollow as the marrow cavity that transports blood through the bone is present in this needle, starting from the tip. The needle was shaped by scraping and/or cutting and in some areas the old bone surface is still visible. The needle was probably used on different materials.
Find number 1001. Also dating to the Merovingian period, this needle was made out of a pig fibula. The flared reverse side of the needle shows traces of manufacture by both scraping and polishing. The needle’s tip lower part mostly consists of spongeosum. The perforation is oblong in shape. The tip was probably also shaped but is unfortunately missing. The needle was used on plant fibres. The degree in which the wear traces have developed suggests that it was used for a shorter time than the other needles analysed.
Find number 1024. This needle, dating to the Merovingian period, was made out of a pig fibula. It is complete and faceted in cross-section. From halfway up the shaft it is rather flat with a slightly oblong, hourglass shaped eye. On one of the sides it is clearly visible that two holes were perforated very close to each other. They join into one perforation on the needle’s other side. The needle was shaped by scraping and/or cutting and was probably finished by polishing. The needle was probably used on plant fibres.
Find number 1065. This needle, dating to the Merovingian period, was made out of a long bone fragment of an unidentified mammal. It was shaped by scraping and/or cutting and finished by polishing. At the tip the tool is round in cross-section, whereas near the perforation it is flat in shape. The eye is hourglass shaped. On parts of the surface a greyish brown colour of unknown origin is visible on top of which there are use wear traces. The colour therefore seems to be part of the bone. The needle was used for processing plant fibres.
Find number 2650. This needle, dating to the Migration period and made out of a long bone fragment from an unidentified mammal, is very irregularly shaped by scraping and/or cutting. The perforation is slightly hourglass shaped and oblong. The needle seems to have been used on different materials. The wear traces indicate skin/leather, plant materials and possibly wool.
Find number 3453. This pin is dated to the Merovingian period. It was made out of a long bone fragment from an unidentified mammal. The pin is faceted in cross-section and was shaped by scraping and/or cutting. Some hack marks on the surface are indicative of some faults during this phase of the manufacturing process. The shaft shows traces that resemble the traces seen on an experiment used to sew hair. The traces on this archaeological tool are, however, a bit more greasy in appearance. The experiment was done on clean hair and it is possible that the traces on the archaeological tool represent oilier or dirtier hair. The circular shaped end of this pin shows traces that differ from those on the shaft. They are probably the result of frequent handling of this hair pin.
Find number 3869. This unidentified object dates to the Merovingian period and was made out of a bone fragment from an unidentified mammal. Although it appears straight, its shape is irregular. It is shaped by scraping and/or cutting the bone. The object displays traces of contact with hide over its entire surface. This suggests that the object was pulled through hide or skin. The reverse of the object is also rounded.
Find number 5528. This needle is dated to the Migration period. It was made out of a long bone from an unidentified mammal. The needle is completely flat, unlike the other needles in this study. The needle only displays traces from the final polishing phase of manufacture, remnants of the spongeosum are still visible. The perforation of this needle was made by placing two holes close to each other. The needle was used to work plant fibres.
Find number 5972. This pin dates to the Merovingian period and was made out of red deer antler. The pin is faceted in cross-section. These facets are the result of cutting or scraping this pin into shape. The entire surface displays traces of contact with wool. This pin was probably used as a fibula on a woollen garment.