Tibia Digging Stick

Bison Tibia Digging Stick Tips

The digging stick tip made from the tibia of the bison is a common artifact on sites occupied by the Plains Villages, especially of the Washita River focus. This artifact is similar to the serrated flesher, however, and may have been used as a hide flesher rather than as a digging tool. The specimens were mounted on wooden handles and exhibit a glossy polish from usage, but this could have resulted from use as either a flesher or a digging tool.

The artifact is traditionally made from the tibia or lower leg bone of the bison. This is a large and massive bone especially suited for this implement. In making the tool, the bone was trimmed to remove one joint end plus one half section of the shaft leaving a flat spade- like portion of the shaft (Figure 36a). This trimming was done with a hammerstone to provide the initial shaping of the implement. The cutting edge and final shaping of the bit section of the tool was done by rubbing and grinding with a sandstone abrader. For mounting, a large perforation was made in the unmodified end of the bone to form a socket for a wooden handle (Figure 36c'). One specimen found at the Stamper site in


Texas County still contains the charred remains of the wooden handle in the socket. It is about the diameter of a broom handle but it is not possible to tell if it was a straight or an L-shaped handle. As these implements were used, they were frequently resharpened to maintain the cutting edge. Consequently, the tools became shorter and shorter with continued usage. Specimens were sometimes broken or split in half, apparently from stress to the socket caused by the wooden handle or by strain during usage. Such broken fragments were often salvaged for making other types of bone tools.

The digging stick tip and bison scapula hoe are two of the more common bone tools on the Washita River focus sites. Examples of various stages in their manufacture and usage have been recovered from excavations. The tibia and scapula of the bison were saved as raw materials for making these tools and were preserved for future use. A cache pit found at the Brown site in Grady county contained several scapula and tibia bones which had been partly trimmed for later production of these digging tools.


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