Scapula Hoe

Bison Scapula Hoes

The bison scapula hoe was a common cultivating implement among the Plains Village Indians. It was used for cultivating small garden crops such as maize, beans, and squash. The bone hoe continued in use until iron hoes became available from French traders during the 18th century.

The scapula hoe was made from the large flat shoulder blade of the bison. The shoulder blade or scapula was trimmed to remove the spine and rough sections along one face to form a large and fairly flat piece of bone. This trimming was done with a hammers tone to break away parts of the blade and then this surface was rubbed with a sandstone abrader or hone to smooth and flatten the surface. The end of the scapula was also trimmed and sharpened by grinding to provide a better chopping edge. This sharpening was frequently done to remove nicks or damaged edges or to resharpen the hoe so that the length of the tool became smaller and smaller with usage. Some of the larger scapula hoes recovered measure as much as 400 mm in length, while heavily used and worn specimens measure as little as 150 mm in length. Most specimens recovered from excavations are broken or badly worn and were probably discarded as no longer useful. The blade of the hoe became highly polished with use in the soil, and small fragments can often be identified. Hoes that were broken, however, were sometimes salvaged and converted into another type of tool.



The scapula hoe was mounted onto a wooden handle for actual use. The Oklahoma examples are represented by two kinds of mounting treatment of the joint area. The most common type has a deep groove or half-socket running from the joint (acetabulum) towards the blade (Figure 35b). In some examples the surrounding area of the acetabulum has been slightly abraded or altered, but the grooved area for seating the wooden handle received major attention. The hoes were apparently mounted on an L-shaped stick or handle which was secured to the half-socket and lashed into place by cords or thongs. This style of mount is most typical of the plains groups in central and western Oklahoma.

The other type of mounting preparation is one in which a large hole has been drilled or cut directly into the acetabulum to form a complete socket for the wooden handle (Figure 35a-a'). Rough areas of the joint section were sometimes smoothed or trimmed, but usually the socket was the only part that was produced by modification. The wooden handle was then inserted into the socket and bound in position for actual use of the scapula as a hoe.

The complete socket variety of this implement is found in the Arkansas River valley area of eastern Oklahoma associated with the Fort Coffee focus sites. This style of hafting is also characteristic of the central plains while the half-socket type is more typical of the southern plains.











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