Reconstruction of antlers

The reconstruction of the antlers was undertaken to obtain further information on spatial distribution, and to find a starting point for the technological and functional evaluation of the antler finds, in order to establish whether the Bilzingsleben antlers represent a homogeneous assemblage. The detailed morphological description of the antler material formed the starting point for the attempt at systematic reconstruction (only those elements where the fracture areas could be unambiguously matched were considered). 83 units were reconstructed from a total of 187 fragments (6.63% of the total of antler fragments) - two units were composed of five antler fragments, five were composed of four fragments, five more were composed of three fragments, and 71 refitting units were composed of just two antler elements.

Critical evaluation of the list of reconstructed units shows that for some of them, three-dimensional documentation is incomplete. In particular, finds from the diluvial fan retrieved during the early years of excavation, as well as the finds from the Chara limestone (Planum a - see stratigraphic provenance in the list of reconstructed units), are not fully documented. Finds from fills of crevices are, as such, not easily identifiable from the documentation, and five reconstructed units (Nos. 79, 80, 81, 82, 83) will not be considered in the following summary because the fracturing happened after excavation. 42 units include at least one element where the record of which does not allow accurate positioning (Nos. 2, 3, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 25, 27, 28, 29, 32, 34, 36, 41, 42, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 59, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 70, 73, 74, 76).

Fourteen of the units from the Chara limestone horizon came from Planum a and can, therefore, only be assigned to the respective grid square (Nos. 23, 30, 31, 33, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 43, 44, 57, 58, 60). Twenty-two units from better documented positions (Nos. 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26, 69, 71, 72, 75, 77, 78) were excavated in the shore terrace and pavement areas, as well as in the diluvial fan facies and inside the fan, although their exact stratigraphic position was not recorded.

Including the 22 reconstructed units mentioned above, and including other units without fully documented positions but where one or more of its reconstructed parts lay far apart from each other, and omitting all those from the Chara limestone horizon, the spatial distribution of 40 reconstructed units can be shown graphically. Most of the mapped units (Fig. 29) derive from only one facies, although the few exceptions point to a relationship between the alluvial fan facies and the shore terrace facies. Unit Nos. 10 and 13 could possibly have thrown further light on the relationship between these two facies and site formation processes, but the regrettable lack of stratigraphic information (on the up to 1.0m thick travertine sands of the diluvial fan) prevented this.

Fig. 29: Map of refitted antler fragments (click to select reconstruction units)

Both of the reconstructed Unit Nos. 14 and 28 probably include elements from different stratigraphic positions, which would relate Plana a to b and a to c. Unit Nos. 36 and 45 definitely include finds from different stratigraphic positions and relate Plana a to b, but neither of them belong to the units that could be mapped. All other units are either of uncertain stratigraphic origin, or belong to one of the Plana of the three different facies given in the refit list.

The stratigraphic occurrence of reconstructed units is shown in Table 4.

RefittingunclearPlanum aPlanum bPlanum cDiluvial fan
Main beam - brow tine1-223
Main beam - second tine2-326
Main beam - main beam5-326
Main beam - crown--114
Skull - skull1-2-4
Antler base - antler base--1-2
Brow tine - brow tine--113
Crown - crown tine--11-
Tine - tine1101-7
Crown tine - crown tine64-14
Antler fragment - antler fragment---- 1
Table 4: List of refitted elements, according to their stratigraphical positions

In the case of units with more than two elements, each match is counted separately. The 'refitting' column contains the row: 'main beam - main beam', which displays all matches of beam elements not specified elsewhere in the column. The row: 'skull - skull' shows matches along the suture of the frontal bone of unshed antlers. Refitted tine fragments mostly originate from Planum a. This observation must, however, be taken in connection with the large number of refitted tine fragments in the column marked 'unclear'. Fewer refitted units originate from Plana b and c than from the whole of the diluvial fan, which is stratigraphically not subdivided.

The gaps in the three-dimensional recording of finds make it impossible to estimate the distances accurately between reconstructed elements from Planum a, and of other units which are recorded but not individually plotted. However, the shortest distance between reconstructed elements coming from the same or from a neighbouring grid square may be estimated at 10mm. The longest distance for pieces from the same (1.5 x 1.5m) grid square would be 2.1m, or 3.4m for pieces from two adjacent squares. Where possible, by listing the reconstructed units according to their grid squares, the following distribution is seen:

Closer distances are more common for reconstructed units from the same or neighbouring grid squares (n= 51); while units that include elements from far apart grid squares are less common (n= 22).

Reconstructed units with exact spatial documentation (Nos. 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26, 69, 71, 72, 75, 77, 78) reveal the following distances:

Distances of separate reconstructed units
No. of unitsDistances

Reconstructed units with elements separated from each other by a distance less than 1.7m form the biggest group.

Distances of separate reconstructed units
No. of unitsDistances

Very short distances are dominant in this group. In total, distances of less than 1m and less than 5m are most common, while longer distances are rare. The differing fracture patterns as observed in each reconstructed unit occur in all of the distance categories. Most reconstructed units (71) contain only two elements.


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Last updated: Thu Aug 10 2000