Horn Core Hoes

Horn Core Digging Tools or Squash Knives

A fairly common artifact present on sites of the Plains Villages in Oklahoma is the bison horn core hoe, digging tool, or squash knife. This tool is also called a "horn core scoop" in other localities on the plains. It is perhaps best represented in Oklahoma on sites of the Washita River focus although it does occur elsewhere.

The artifact is made from the skull of the bison. The horn core was used for the handle and the adjoining rather flat portion of the skull was used for making the fan-shaped cutting edge (Figure 37). An unfinished specimen found at the Lee site in Garvin county, Oklahoma, indicates the initial preparation stage. The horn core was split or cut in half and was removed along with a large portion of the joining part of the skull which served as the blade of the tool. The cutting edge was then shaped by rubbing with an abrader to form a sharp edge. Additional smoothing to eliminate rough areas on the horn core handle as well as on the interior part of the skull portion was also done.

Finished specimens display use polish on both sides


of the blade usually accompanied by the fine striations at a right angle to the cutting edge which suggest utilization as a hoe or digging tool. Many specimens show beveled cutting edges from resharpening the bit which becomes reduced in size with continued use. It is not clear if this tool was mounted in some manner on a wooden handle or if it was held in the hand. Some specimens have a flattened area on the inner face of the horn cores as if it may have been lashed onto a handle suggesting that it was held in the hand. No indications of cord wear or notching on the handle are present.

Wichita Indian informants identified these items as "squash knives" and stated that they were used to cut squash and pumpkins into strips which were dried and woven into "mats" for food storage.

Most specimens have a length between 150 and 200 mm although the size is dependent on the size of the bison skull from which it was made and the amount of resharpening that has taken place.


Table of Contents