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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Hat and Feather - Worked Bone

As promised following last week's blog here is a little bit more on some of the bone artefacts from the Hat and Feather yard, Walcot Street, Bath......

The Roman items from the Site

A reconstruction of the items, showing how they may have looked
The Hat and Feather site has a varied collection of bone items either lost or discarded by the occupants. An antler offcut (1) shows that items of bone and antler were being produced on the site which may have contained a Roman workshop and some of these items may have never been completed…..

As with most Roman sites, one of the most common finds of worked bone are fragments of pins (2) used to hold clothing instead of buttons, or to fix hair into fancy hair styles. These were probably then discarded as they became broken by the Romans who lived and worked on the site.

A tooth from a hare or rabbit (3) was found at a Roman level. The Romans kept rabbits but finds are rare and so this object needs further research. This find could be confused with bracelet fragments such as (4) since it is curved and has the same cross section as Roman bone bracelets made from a thin strip of bone curved into a loop, then held by a metal fastening and pins.

Also found was a pinned handle (5) (where the blade is held in place with a metal pin) made from the leg bone of a sheep. The maker has used the natural bone shape as a starting point from which to shape the handle.

Another handle (6) has taken more work to produce. It is made from an antler point that has been smoothed down and hollowed out. Its purpose is probably to prevent a wooden handle from splitting as it holds the blade in place (6A.) Alternatively it could have formed the other end of a handle held together by a washer at the blade’s tail (6B).

A 19th Century Bone Ring pull and how it may have looked
The most recent bone object (7) is almost two thousand years younger. It was found in the cellar remains of some 19th century cottages and is most likely the ring pull from a drawer. The green stain is perhaps the last remains of a copper or brass fastening. Unlike the Roman examples, where bone was used as a material in its own right, this ring pull was probably intended to imitate ivory.

Will - Post Graduate Collections Volunteer

Additional web sources:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1487787/Romans-introduced-the-rabbit.html

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