Makah Cultural and Research Center Online Museum

Bone and Antler Technology

Whale Bone ClubBone and antler are difficult to work, which made precise selection of raw material particularly important. for example, most sea mammal bone is more porous than land-mammal bone. Bird bone is hollow and easily sharpened for awls and drilled for beads. Antler offered the best material for whale harpoon barbs, and it was excellent for wedges, awls, handles, and combs.

Analysis of Ozette tools showed that bark shredders are from whale shoulder blades and upper jawbones, material naturally flat and straight. Clubs are from lower jawbones, which are particularly dense and heavy. Whalebone adze handles are almost all from right ribs, the natural curve of the bone matching the handedness of the adze owner. Similarly, beaver-tooth blades are mostly right incisors, and deer-bone awls are right foreleg bones. Flat discs from whale vertebrae could be used as readymade spindle whorls, though most whorls at Ozette were wooden.

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All content for this exhibit is © Makah Cultural and Research Center.

The Community Museum is a project of community organizations and Tribes across the Olympic Peninsula, and the University of Washington.
Support for the project comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Preston, Gates and Ellis, LLP.