Summary | Raw materials | Items of material culture | Other tasks | Arrows | String | Survival in a prehistoric context

Raw materials | Stone | Hafts | Wood and bark | Bamboo | Rattan | Feathers and shell | Bone

3.1.6. Feathers and shell

Feathers and shell were used in a wide range of decorative items. Feathers were particularly important for head decoration while many items of jewellery were made using shell (Table 2).

Query database for items made from: Shell

3.1.7. Bone

Plate 52 52 Plate 53 53 Plate 54 54 Plate 55 55 Plate 56 56

Plate 57 57 Plate 58 58 Plate 59 59
Working on bone (52-58), A man called Kot paring down a piece of bone for an arrow point (59)

The Wola use bone in a range of artefacts, including pointed implements such as pins, gouges, arrow and spear points. The Wola consider bone-tipped arrows to be their most dangerous weapon (Plate 59). All items made of bone were manufactured using stone tools (Table 2; Plates 52-59, 74). The bone was honed at one end to form a sharp point while the marrow was gouged out of the other, if this was necessary, depending on the age and state of decomposition of the bone. Bone working was a delicate and complicated business when the raw material was human bone – used to tip some arrows and spears. The only way people could get hold of human bone was by robbing graves. This was dangerous not only because of the risk of snagging a hand or arm on a splinter of bone while extracting bone from the burial, with the same potentially fatal result as being pierced by a bone arrow, but also selection of the grave to be robbed was fraught with difficulty because of the potential dangers of disturbing ghosts. The bones used were the ulna, fibula and radius, because they were the easiest to work into the right shape. Once the bone point was the required shape, it was smoothed with abrasive leaves. Occasionally the bone points were not straight and required heating, to soften the bone for reshaping. The heating was done indirectly, by pressing the bone gently on a hot stone covered with some protective vegetation such as sword grass flowers, then sprinkling on a little water to generate steam (Sillitoe 1988).

Plate 74 74
Fitting bone point onto spear haft (74)


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Last updated: Wed Oct 8 2003