National Museum of Scotland – Bone, Horn and Antler Gallery

Finally. Here’s the long promised skeletal materials gallery from our NMS photos.  Leather finds photos are in another post, and I’ve already done the leatherworker’s toolkit elsewhere. Click on the photos in the gallery them to ennoble if you want a closer view.

The full set of photos contain lots of stone and metalworking as well.

Stone, bronze and iron age

Leatherworking finds
Burnt stones and flint, leatherworker’s rubbing bone fragments and pebbles. Family cist grave, Patrickholm, 2100BC-1750BC

Bone axe-headed pins
Bone axe-headed pins. Orkneys, AD0-600

Roman leather fragments, 100-175AD
Weaving comb and leather fragments. The triangular piece looks like it might have been from a tent. Newstead, 100-175AD

Shuttle and weaving tablets
Bone shuttles, Dun Scurrival and Elsay, horn(?) weaving tablets, Burrian, Jarlshof, Keill, Tain, Keiss 200BC-AD200

Bone dice
Bone dice, Newstead and Sty Wick Bay AD1-200

Weaving combs
Broxmouth, Burgar, Hillswick, Howmae, Newstead and Thrumster, 200BC-AD400

British Leatherworking Tools
Bone, metal and wooden British leatherworking tools. Awls from Ruberslaw, Burrian, Druimvargie Cave, Foshigarry, Knop of Howar, MacArthur Cave, Skara Brae, Torran Dubh, Buiston and Newstead. 8500BC-900AD
Needles from Hillhead, West Grange of Conon and Laws of Monifieth. 300BC-800AD.

Unfinished pieces of bone work
200BC-AD800

Antler comb making
Making antler combs 200BC-AD800

Comb blanks and flat plates
Comb blanks and flat plates 200BC-AD800

Bone pins
Bone pins, Kerrera, Buiston, Burrian, Jarlshof and North Uist, Covesea. AD500-1100

Bone pins
Bone pins, Skara Brae, Broxmouth, Jarlshof, Roughout.

Bone pins and gaming pieces
Bone pins, AD600-1000 Burrian, Foshigarry, Jarlshof

Bone combs and decorative work
Bone combs, pendants, handles and belt sliders, AD500-1100. H.KL3

Bronze needles and bone cases
Bone needle cases, Freswick and Vallay AD800-1100
Bronze needles and bodkins, Balevullin, Freswick, Newstead, Swandro and Traprain Law 200BC-AD1000
Bronze shears, Loch Erribol, AD1-200.

Pin beaters
Pin beaters used in weaving. A’Cheardach Mhor, Dunbar and Jarlshof. 200BC-AD400

Bone needles and bodkins
Bone needles and bodkins. A’Cheardach Mohr, Burrian, Foshigarrt, Freswick, Jarlshof, Keiss & Newstead. 200BC-AD1000

Game Piece, 8-9th century
I think this little fellow is walrus ivory, a game piece in the shape of a cowled figure from Mail in the Orkneys, AD750-800. He looks similar to the hooded figures shown on the Pictish standing stones of the period.

Pagan Viking grave, Orkney
Bone comb from a pagan male Viking grave from a Viking and native cemetery on Orkney. Eighth-ninth century. The museum shows the grave as excavated.

Bone tools
Bone Mattock, knife and tool handles. Foshigarry, Vallay, Burrian, Cairston and Stromness. 200BC-AD800

Medieval

Antler comb
Antler comb from a woman’s grave, Cnip, c. AD1000.

Bone needle case
Bone needle case with remains of metal needles. Woman’s grave, Cnip, c. AD1000.

Bonework debris
Bonework debris, Bac Mhic Connain, Borough of Biordsay, Foshigarry, Gurness, Jarlshof and Westray, 4000BC-AD1500

Isle of Lewis Chess pieces - Knight
Knight from the Isle of Lewis chess set. This one’s a token effort. I’ll cover all the pieces in another post as I’ve been chasing them around the various musea that have them. Walrus Ivory, found in Uig, Lewis in 1831. Other pieces are in the British Museum. H.NS19023, H.NS 25-9.

Leather belt pieces and bone awls
Leather belt pieces and bone awls with off-cuts from leatherworking, from Fast Castle, Berwickshire.

Early Modern

Powder horn, James Graham Earl of Montrose
Powder horn belonging to James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose (25 October 1612 – 21 May 1650), his arms are engraved in the silver base plate.

National Museum of Scotland – Leather Gallery

There’s a proverbial cow somewhere that’s starting to look nervous…

I’ve finally finished the first cut of the NMS photos. Here for your edification and viewing pleasure is the first lot of leather photos. I’ll do the skeletal materials photos in another post, and I’ve already done the leatherworker’s toolkit elsewhere. Click on them to embiggen if you want a closer view.

The full set of photos contain lots of stone and metalworking as well, I’ll also get the textiles and paint photos up in the Fullness of Time™.

Stone, bronze and iron age

Roman leather fragments, 100-175AD
Weaving comb and leather fragments. The triangular piece looks like it might have been from a tent. Newstead, 100-175AD

Decorated Leather panel, Newstead

Embossed and decorated leather chamfron panel, Newstead. 75-100AD

Roman and Celtic leather shoes

The one-piece shoe on the left is from Newstead (2nd C), the wooden last from Buiston and the two piece shoe from Iona (both 6-8th C). This is one of the problems with the NMS, they group similar items together even though there may be several centuries apart and from different cultures and imply a relationship between the objects that doesn’t necessarily exist.

Roman leather shoes

Multi-part shoes, Newstead 2nd Century AD. There’s at least two and possibly three different styles of shoe here.

Roman leather shoes

Multi-part shoes, Newstead 2nd Century AD. There’s some unrelated leather working tools on the top shelf.

British Leatherworking Tools

British leatherworking tools. Knives from Cairnholly, Cleughhead, Luce Sands, Traprain Law and Camelon. 7500BC-900AD. At least the dates are fairly obvious on this set, even if it does cover nearly 8000 years. The shoe is from Newstead.

British Leatherworking Tools

British leatherworking tools. Awls from Ruberslaw, Burrian, Druimvargie Cave, Foshigarry, Knop of Howar, MacArthur Cave, Skara Brae, Torran Dubh, Buiston and Newstead. 8500BC-900AD
Needles from Hillhead, West Grange of Conon and Laws of Monifieth. 300BC-800AD.

Medieval

Leather shoes 13-14th C

Leather shoes from the lead mining site at Sillerholes, West Linton, Peeblesshire. 13th to 14th century.

Leather belt pieces and bone awls

Leather belt pieces and bone awls with off-cuts from leatherworking, from Fast Castle, Berwickshire.

Shoe soles

Leather shoe soles. The one on the right is a child’s size. 15-16th century.

Early Modern

Shoe sole detail, Tomb of Mary Queen of Scots

Shoe sole detail, Tomb of Mary Queen of Scots. 1606-12. The cut in the sole for hiding the welting [see comment below] sole stitches can be clearly seen.

Bombard, seventeenth century

Large bombard from the 17th century, four layers of leather in the handle, possible traces of red paint on the back edge. H.JS32.

I have some detail photos here.

Scottish Bollock Knives, 17th C

Scottish Bollock Knives, 17th C

L: With gilt and engraved decoration indicating it belonged to the Master of Home. H.1991.1865.1

R: with scabbard and gilt and decoration on the blade, dated 1617. Scottish, probably Edinburgh. H.LC. 111a and b.

Note the diamond cross-section. Most earlier daggers of this type have triangular cross-section blades.

Leather case for a wax tablet

I saw in the site stats a few days ago that someone was here looking for information on satchels for holding Roman wax tables. It’s a little late now, but here’s one I prepared earlier, back in 1995 for a leatherworking competition at a re-enactmentconference.

Waxed tabula were used as note-books and for medium term document storage, and were usually bound into books of two or three leaves, however tabulae with up to five leaves were not uncommon. In the military context, they seem to have been used by officers for writing orders and jotting down notes. A rectangle tucked in a fold of the tunic behind the belt on some first century grave stones was identified as a tabula cerata by K. Korber in 1927 1. To protect these tabula bearing important information — possibly for transferral onto bronze or stone, satchels such as those from Barr Hill 2 or Vechten were used.

Leather case from Vechten

Drawing from van Driel, C., Leatherwork in the Roman Army Part 1

The case is copied from the one found at Vechten, which was flattened by the weight of the strata above it, so the reconstruction is based on the shape of the leather and the positioning of the stitch holes. Most commentators suggest that the leather would have been waxed or oiled to improve strength and moisture protection.

 This Recreation:

Roman Wax Tablet Case

Tab. Pomp. 15 was used as the model, as this tabula has three leaves and the available wood was about the right size. The thickness (11mm) was taken from fragments found in the hoard at Roman Corbridge, (AD80-163) as this attribute was omitted from the Pompeii catalogue.

The pine was thinned and hollowed with all the finishing done by hand. The binding holes were drilled, and the sealing groove was filed. The exposed surfaces were treated with olive oil, and the bees’ wax was melted and poured in to the recesses. The leaves were bound with 3mm leather thong.

The flat end of the stylus was forged from a rod of 6mmf brass and the point filed, the whole article then was tinned using the technique of lead-wiping. The stylus length was chosen by comparing the length of the stylus with the length of the tabulae of both the “Girl with pen and wax writing tablet” 3 wall painting from Pompeii and the London Procurator’s Office Tabula 4 and applying that relation to the tabula at hand. It seems likely that the stylus was the same length as the spine of the tabula, so the stylus could be pushed in to the ties for storage, without overhanging the ends and damaging either the stylus or case. This relation holds true in both examples.

Roman Wax Tablet Case

The case was made from vegetable tanned leather from the top split of the hide (next to the skin). It was sewn using black dyed linen thread which had been rubbed with bees’ wax. The type of stitch used is the same as used on leather shield covers (tegimen), leather “envelopes”, and tents (papillio) of the period. The label was cut and attached — it may have been used to address the document. The leather envelopes from Vindolanda are known to have had the address and seal sewn on 5, and the tabula found at Roman Corbridge were associated with small scraps of papyrus 6 which may have carried addresses. The case was finally treated with olive oil for moisture-proofing.


[1] K. Korber, Mainzer Zeitschrift 2, 1907, p26: 11. 1916, p.57. Quoted in van Driel, C., Leatherwork in the Roman Army Part 1Exercitus: Vol 2 No1 (Winter 1986)

[2] Robertson, A., Scott, M., & Keppie, L., Barr Hill, A Roman Fort and its Finds BAR 16. 1975 fig28 no 39.

[3] Williams, Rosemary 1983 Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Abridged and Illustrated, Bison Books, 1983

[4] Scullard, H.H., Roman Britain — Outpost of the Empire, Thames & Hudson, 1991, p87

[5] Bowman A.K. & Thomas J.D., Vindolanda: the Latin writing tablets, Britannia Monograph Series no 4 1983

[6] Allason-Jones, L., & Bishop, M.C., Excavations at Roman Corbridge — The Hoard, English Heritage 1988, p86 & 87, Object 298 (Fig 103 — AMLab Photo )

Another old shoe

Archaeologists at a melt (rather than a dig) in Norway report having found a preserved 4300 year old leather shoe.

The news report is here.

Thanks to Gina for pointing it out.