Bone Shaft Wrench

Bone Shaft Wrench

The bone shaft wrench is a common tool found in Plains Village sites in central and western Oklahoma. This implement is especially typical of the Washita River focus in the central part of the state.

The shaft wrench is believed to have been used for straightening arrows in which the wood of the shaft was heated. The shaft wrench was used to hold the hot arrowshaft while pressure was applied to straighten the shaft. The arrowshaft would be passed through the hole in the bone which served as a handle or wrench while shaping the arrow. The shaft wrench was a popular tool among bison hunting groups throughout the Great Plains.

Two varieties of shaft wrenches are found in Oklahoma. One is made from a deer bone, usually the ulna from the foreleg, and the other is made from a wide flat section of rib bone from the bison. Examples of both types are shown in Figure 33.

The deer bone shaft wrench was made using the whole bone for the most part although occasional trimming of one joint end was done. The bone shaft which is tubular and hollow in cross section was perforated with a hole that passes through both sides of the bone. This circular perforation initially was between 9 and 11 mm


in diameter but as the wrench was used, wear from the arrows enlarged the hole and produced an oval-shaped perforation with the length of the perforation parallel to the length of the bone shaft. The wrench hole was placed toward one end of the bone so that the remaining section could serve as the handle. Most specimens when found in the field are broken across the perforation and show much wear. Use of the shaft wrench caused wear at the hole section so that it became weaker and weaker and eventually broke and was discarded. Examples showing various stages of wear as well as initial preparation of the implement have been found, however. Many specimens have a high polish from handling the wrench, and an occasional specimen has been decorated by incisions on the bone shaft (Figure 33b').

The bison rib shaft wrench was made from a section of bison rib which was perforated in a fashion similar to the deer bone wrench (Figure 33c). The bison rib wrench, however, is more rare in Oklahoma and appears to have been associated only with the proto-historic Wichita Indians. This type of shaft wrench is more commonly associated with cultures of the central and northern plains, whereas the deer bone shaft wrench is associated with the southern plains.


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