Friday, February 3, 2012

Bushcraft - Central Texas Style - Using Bones for Survival

Deer Mandibles

Recycling was an everyday part of the lives of most Native Americans. They knew the value of their resources and seldom let anything go to waste. They quickly realized this importance and knew that resources could sometimes become limited. As a result, they always sought a beneficial use for everything in their environment. They also became extraordinarily skillful in using bones for survival.

When resources are limited, it was important to find a beneficial use everything. Bones are one such resource. Bones have always played an important role in survival and were used in many different ways. Bones became a regular part of everyday life and were vital for survival.

One of the primary survival uses for bones was to make tools. Handles, hoes, scrapers and many other various tools were fashioned from bones. This was especially true in areas where other tool making materials such as wood or stone were scarce or non-existent.

Many times the bones that were used as tools required very little modification. Deer mandibles (see the above picture) were often used to make bone sickles by merely attaching a wooden handle. They were then used to harvest crops or to gather grasses for thatched roofs. Many times they were used “as is” to scrape the kernels from ears of corn.

Bones were also used for protection as well. Many times the mandibles were used to make crude but effective tomahawks for defensive purposes. Quite often, portions of the mandibles were used to make handles for stone knives. This was considered an important and very valuable skill.

Bones also played a significant role in ceremonial rites and spiritual beliefs. Besides being used to fashion tools for everyday use, elaborate necklaces and other jewelry were often fashioned out of these same bones. Bones also played an important role in their spiritual beliefs. Many times jaw bones were hung in their lodgings because it was believed that the spirits of these creatures would bring similar living creatures into the path of hunters in the tribe. 

Currently, the most common modern day use for deer mandibles is as a game management tool. They are mainly used to help determine the age of deer by examining the condition and wear of the teeth. This is a skill that requires extensive knowledge and practice in order to become proficient because there are a wide variety of factors involved.

Using bones for survival is just one more way in which resources can be utilized to a greater extent. No bones about it!

Got bones for survival?



Anonymous said...

I've read that some tribes also used bone for the manufacture of projectile points (i.e. arrowheads). That makes some sense, it dries out to be very hard.

riverwalker said...

To: anonymous 8:10

Most people don't realize that metal tools didn't show up until the arrival of immigrant settlers to the "New World". Many plains tribes didn't have the wood and stone resources...therefore bone was used.

I still haven't decided as to whether to make a necklace or a tomahawk out of these deer mandibles. They are pretty well matched and will probably become a necklace.

Thanks anon.


Brigid said...

I have a number of bones around, for scientific study or simply to appreciate their form and function. Tools just seems logical for many of them.

riverwalker said...

To: Brigid

Few artifacts survive over long periods of time. Usually the more durable artifacts made of stone, metal or bones are often the only ones that remain. Other types of artifacts made of wood or leather are seldom found due to their rapid deterioration by exposure to the elements.

One of the things that sets us apart from other creatures is our ability to improvise tools with whatever resources are available.

There also seems to be a spiritual quality that is present in the bones of a creature that was once a living entity.

Thanks Brigid.


BTW, Hope your recovery is continuing to go well.

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