Bone awls are classified according to the characteristics of the bone used in the manufacture of the tool. Some bone awls retain an epiphysis, the rounded end of a long bone, where the joint or adjacent bone would be attached. This knuckle end then can be worked to comfortably fit in the hand. The awl shows good fine patination of the dark bone surface. Typical of being in the ground for some time and oil or grease from original use creating a patina, this now dry after being lost for some thousands of years in a desert environment.
Long animal bones are split and worked to a fine point. This bone awl resembles the North America plains indian awls. A type of awl found on the Southern Plains, Oklahoma. The rib-edge awl produced from a bison vertebra or vertebral spine edge of a bison. In cross section the triangular shape and the presence of the spongy or cancellous bone gives it the signature of the animal and maker of that region. Similarly this awl has the triangular shape and spongy bone area. At this time without the aid of a DNA analysis and radiocarbon -14 dating report we can only surmise what type of animal this may have come from in Africa. Attribution of the animal from whence it derived at this point is not assured.
History; An awl is produced from a long bone, normally around 100mm to 150mm in length, although smaller and larger are unearthed from archaeological sites. The pointed spike end is generally used for piercing or marking softer materials, wood or leather. The bone awl was an all purpose implement for Homo Neanderthalensis (Neandertals or Neanderthals), to Homo sapiens. Its uses were for making large holes in anything less resilient than bone. It can also function as an alternative to antler, as a pressure flaker when knapping flint points or shaping razor edge knives. And an awl can be a useful tool for many other applications, picking out, splitting soft woods, to open weft in weaving and an aid in woven basket ware, digging up tuba’s or roots, for the production of fishing hooks or barbs and possibly an awl could be used as a formidable stabbing weapon when hunting or in defence. Therefore an important part of the early man tool kit and armoury.
Many awls have been discovered in the North American planes, a favoured tool for working with animal pelts or skins and making many domestic wares and clothing for the indigenous North America Indian peoples. The prehistoric awl is a different artefact entirely and rarely do we find Neolithic implements of such rarity from Europe or Africa.
The oldest so far discovered bone tools are from the continent of Africa, these approximately dated to 1.5 million years ago. It is accepted that they appeared and the technology was developed there before any other geographic region.
In the Blombos Cave excavations since 1997 in the Southern tip of Africa, at the Heidelberg, Western Cape, South Africa. Have revealed a collection of twenty-eight bone tools from layers dating to 70 thousand years old. To the period in time attributed to the Middle Stone Age (280,000 years ago to 50–25,000 years ago). Subsequent analyses of these splintered polished bone tools has revealed that a formal method of production produced them.
Provence: The sub-Saharan find has been traded through trade routes, souks and bazaars of middle Africa eventually finding its way to a European gentleman’s collection several years ago.