Last Friday I gave you this object from the Horniman’s Anthropology collection and asked you to identify what it’s made from and what function it may have served:
The identification turned out to be the easiest question to answer, despite the modification of the bone. The shape of the end of the bone is a result of the epiphyses (the ends of the bone) detaching from the diaphysis (the midshaft of the bone), which tells us that the animal was a juvenile at time of death and that the bone is actually formed from two bones that have fused together down their length – which is why a similar pattern is repeated on the left and right side of the bone.
This sort of fusion is normally seen in the hand and foot bones of artiodactyls, which narrows down the possible species. Judging by the size and general proportions it would be from something the size of a Roe Deer, although a bit more chunky. The closest species I could find for comparison was the the Goat Capra aegagrus hircus (Linnaeus, 1758), although it may be from a close relative, the Serow:
As for the function, there were some great suggestions (from weaving comb to needle-case), but apparently this is the key to a set of handcuffs!
The variety of anthropological uses of bone is huge, and it’s always exciting to find something outside of our expectations – which this object most definitely is for me!
A key??? How is this? Where is it from? As an archaeologist I am now very, very confused.
Sadly I didn’t get a photo down the length – it is hollow, so that presumably plays some role in how the key works, but without seeing the lock it’s hard to imagine!
I am also confused. Wjhat kind of handcuffs? Made by whom? And when?
It’s from the Toba Batak culture in Sumatra – but that’s all I know!
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