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Awls are a relatively common artifact at ancient Mississippian sites like Chucalissa, but most of those uncovered are fashioned out of animal bone (most commonly from the white-tailed deer). The awl pictured here, however, is actually bird beak which was repurposed as a tool: the shape, sharpness, and durability of the material in its natural state required virtually no modification for use as an awl. Given the smaller size and less-durable nature of bird beak (as compared to the long bone of a common deer, at any rate!), this awl was likely used as stitching (or sewing) awls.

Stitching awls are specifically designed to punch holes through tough material like leather (or animal hide) in order to draw string or sinew through the perforations and stitch the material together. Modern examples of stitching awls often have holes drilled in the non-perforating end through to which the string can be tied and then drawn through the hole created by the awl, much like a needle. While the non-functional end of both of the examples pictured here broke away prior to their excavation, it is certainly possible that similar holes were drilled through the beaks, for much the same purpose.


Tool; Bird Beak; Awl; Mississippian