Exhibition Objects

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Gnawed and digested bone fragment © 2000 The Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester

Gnawed and digested bone fragment

Bison bone from Pin Hole. Last Ice Age.

This piece of bone, probably part of a bison rib, was found by A.L. Armstrong in Pin Hole in 1936. Armstrong found this specimen approximately 23 metres (75’) from the entrance and at a depth of 4 metres (12’). The large hole at the left end was believed by Armstrong to be drilled, while the surfaces of the bone had been rubbed down and polished. Armstrong interpreted this find as part of a bull-roarer which was attached to cord by which it was whirled in the air to produce a vibrating humming note. Amazingly, given its fragility, Armstrong tried it out and noted that ‘…when whirled rapidly, it proved to give out the characteristic note…’. A use in initiation ceremonies was suggested. More prosaically, this is a piece of bone which has been partially digested and regurgitated by a spotted hyaena. The outer layers of bone have been completely destroyed leaving only the spongy bone and all of the holes have been produced by salivary acids. Many examples of bone eroded in this way, are known from this and other cave sites used by spotted hyaenas as dens.

Length 9 cm