St. Thomas guild – medieval woodworking, furniture and other crafts: The game of the Four Seasons: making 7-sided dice

St Thomas Guild has a nice write-up on making 13th century seven sided dice for use with a number of games the Book of Alfonso X the Wise. There method for making the spots is quite different from mine, but may work better for some of you. I may have to redo that post some time.

seven sided dice

St. Thomas guild – medieval woodworking, furniture and other crafts: The game of the Four Seasons: making 7-sided dice.

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

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


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.

6-9th century leather worker’s toolkit

I’m about half way through the photos from the National Museum of Scotland, it takes a while to sort 800-odd pictures. I couldn’t resist the temptation to share this one. It’s a leather worker’s toolkit, dated from between AD650 and 950 * from Evie, Orkney.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

The box is made from a single piece of timber, hollowed out so there’s no joint in the base for the heavy tools to push out. Some of the tinder boxes from the Mary Rose (82A0070, 81A1718, 81A3874 and 81A 5922) are done the same way, although in the latter case to keep moisture out of the tinder.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

Carving on the back of the tool box.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

Tool handles. The metal blades have obviously corroded, but many can be inferred from the handle shapes.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD
Bone leather punches.

Leatherworker's tool kit, 550-850AD

Pumice, antler and leather thong. I wonder if the antler is an edge slicker?

The original can be seen in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

* An earlier version of this post had incorrect dates of 550-850 for the finds.

Mandatory Downloading

The York Archaeological Trust have produced some excellent works over the years and have lately taken to publishing on-line as well as paper. In a move that’s making the fatted calves look somewhat nervous, they’ve now made some of their out-of-print fascules available as PDF files. The third one in the list is The Archaeology of York 17/16 Leather and Leatherworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York by Quita Mould, Ian Carlisle and Esther Cameron.

Grab some of the others while you’re at it, there’s horn and bone projects in them for you to try.

I’m busily downloading my copy, the server is a little slow, running only a few K per second, so be patient. I’m getting a faster download using IE8 than I did with Chrome, so try a different browser if it seems too slow or unreliable.

My thanks to Glenda and Jenny for pointing this page out to me.