Florida Bushcraft: Bone and Antler Tools

Like Native American tribes everywhere, the people who lived in Tampa Bay before European contact (the Tocobaga) had to meet all their needs from locally-available natural materials.

Because Florida is mostly sand and lacks widespread deposits of stone like chert or flint that are useful for toolmaking, the Tocobaga made many of their everyday tools and implements from alternative materials like bone or shell.

Some alternative materials for tools: antler, oyster shells, and bone

Bone and shell tools are all made in the same basic way. The first step is usually to use a sharp stone burin (a strong projecting point) as a scriber to mark the rough bone into flat sections.

Scoring a bone before breaking it

Then a hammerstone is used to carefully break the material along the scribed lines.

A bone blank

After that, it is a straightforward but long and tedious process of rubbing the tool on a rough rock to slowly grind it into the finished shape. 

Grinding a bone arrowpoint

Modern reproductions are usually done with saws, cutting wheels and grinders, but the process is exactly the same—it just doesn’t take as long.

Finished bone point

Finished bone chisel

A finished chisel made from a split antler

Finished antler pressure flaker

A bone awl

A bone needle


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