One Type of Bone Artifacts from Olbia and Its Interpretation

Keywords: Northern Black Sea region, Olbia, bone anvils, crafts, agriculture


The study of bone and horn produced items often causes great difficulties for researchers, since it is difficult to determine accurately the true functional purpose of an artifact. In some cases, for example in such as we will describe in the paper, this problem can be solved using ethnographic data.

One of the most numerous categories of finished produced items made of organic raw materials is known in the Soviet, and later in Ukrainian, scientific literature under the term ‘rashpil’ (rasp).

The raw materials for these artifacts were mostly long (metatarsal, metacarpal, and bones of gaskin), less often flat (mandibular), bones of large domestic animals like horse and ox. Less often, deer antlers were used for these purposes. Tools made from the long bones of large mammals were usually first made plane pressing the diaphysis. One or more anatomical sides of the bone were processed, preserving the epiphysis or making it partially or completely plane. In the latter case, the shape of the produced item was close to a parallelepiped.

A characteristic feature of all these tools, regardless of the raw material and the degree of modification, are specific traces on the work surface – a series of parallel or chaotic lines of notches of subtriangular shape. They are applied, obviously, by some thin sharp tool. In the case when the ‘rashpils’ were made of metapodia, the tools with one, two, three, or four working surfaces can be found. A significant number of such artifacts were found in a broken, apparently in the process of operation, form. We know about cases of repeated use of one tool when after it lost the necessary work characteristics, the working surface was made plane again and reused.

Such tools come from many ancient sites of the Northern Black Sea region and Scythian settlements outside the Northern Black Sea region.

For a long time, they were mistakenly considered tools for processing ceramics, bone, tanning of hides, and even stone grinding. Their real purpose, as anvils to put teeth into serrated sickle blade sections, was established after analyzing large amounts of ethnographic data.


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How to Cite
SemenovaA. (2021). One Type of Bone Artifacts from Olbia and Its Interpretation. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (1(33), 177-187.
Iron Age