Bone Beads

Bone Beads

Bone beads are fairly common artifacts found on Oklahoma archaeological sites. They are never abundant but several examples are usually found on sites representing the Plains Villages where they are very characteristic. Specimens occur elsewhere, however, in different contexts.

The bone beads are normally made from a section of hollow bird bone which is already perforated and light in weight. In making beads from the bone, the joint ends were cut off and the shaft of the bone was cut up into sections forming individual tubular-shaped beads. They were cut by sawing a groove with a piece of flint around the bone and then snapping the bone in two. Several beads could be made from a single bone depending upon the bead length and the bone size. The end of the beads were usually ground smooth to remove the rough edges resulting from the snap break, but this was not always done and some specimens still exhibit these irregular ends.



There is considerable variation in the diameter and length of the bone beads. The diameter depends upon the size of the bone from which they were made and it varies from less than 5 mm to more than 12 mm. The length also ranges from short beads measuring 15 mm or less up to long beads measuring as much as 100 mm. The most common size, however, falls between 20 mm and 35 mm in length (Figure 38).

Many of the bone beads exhibit polish from being worn as a necklace or from having been handled. Others appear without polish as a cut section of bone. It is likely that the bone bead served as "spacers" which separated other types of beads suspended on a necklace.


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