Deer Awl


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Awls are tools which are specifically intended to make clean holes in tough materials like leather or wood. Deer bone awls are not an uncommon find at Mississippian sites, and there were several different types. For example, a cylindrical awl could be fashioned from sections of a long bone: the bone would be ground down until one or both ends were pointed. Alternately, an awl could be made from the deer’s ulna, like the two examples pictured here. The distal portion of the bone would be cut and/or ground into a point. In some examples, part of the distal portion of the ulna was removed, leaving the round proximal end intact while the distal end is reduced longitudinally nearly in half. The very end of the point could also be further shaped and polished to increase the tool’s effectiveness as a perforator (unfortunately both of the awls pictured here are missing their tips, which is a very common occurrence)! Interestingly, both of these types of deer bone awls show use-wear polish at one end only. This is perhaps not surprising with the awls made from deer ulnas, but it is a noteworthy finding for the double-pointed cylindrical awls, as it suggests that these tools were not considered by their makers as having two equally-functional perforating ends.


Tool; Deer Bone; Deer Awl; Mississippian