ICAZ

International Council
for Archaeozoology

Worked Bone Research Group

 The Worked Bone Research Group (WBRG) was formed during an informal meeting of circa 30 specialists of whom 10 gave papers. The meeting was organized by Ian Riddler and was held at the British Museum in February 1997. The proceedings of this first meeting were published in 2003 (see publication information below).

The purpose of the WBRG is to improve communication between individuals studying worked animal hard tissues (especially bone, antler, and ivory) with special emphasis on archaeological finds. A broad diachronic, and multi-disciplinary approach is emphasized in order to promote the exchange of ideas concerning attitudes to and procurement of raw materials, technology and function as well as the social and cognitive aspects of working osseous materials of all kinds.

Topics at recent conferences have included discussions of individual assemblages, the results of experimental research on both manufacturing techniques and use wear, including macro wear with low stereoscopic magnifications and micro wear employing a metallographic light microscope with a great deal of emphasis on verification of identification by experiment. Attention has also been increasingly focused on selection of raw materials and the relationship between technology and continuity of social traditions. The level of scientific discussion at these meetings has steadily increased with the active participation of many younger colleagues. Despite the wide range of periods represented, the essence of the discussions have dealt with methodological and theoretical considerations rather than details of local typologies. A theoretical and methodological consensus has started to emerge within the group concerning approaches to this class of archaeological object.

The WBRG has held its biennial international conferences at the following locations:

  • The 1st conference took place over one day in February 1997 at the British museum and was organized by Ian Riddler.
  • The 2nd of these conferences was organized by Alice M. Choyke in Budapest, Hungary, in early September 1999 (38 papers). Participants at the Budapest meeting unanimously voted to apply for formal registration as an ICAZ Working Group. In June 2000 at the ICAZ International Committee Meeting in Madrid, the WBRG became an official Working Group of ICAZ.
  • The 3rd International Meeting of the WBRG was held in Augst, Switzerland, on September 4-9, 2001. It was organized by Jörg Schibler and his team from the University of Basel, Seminar für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, Abteilung Archäobiologie (since 2003 called Institut für Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie (IPNA)).
  • The 4th WBRG meeting was held in Tallinn, Estonia and organized by Heidi Luik of the Institute for History. Many of the papers dealt with materials from the Baltic region.
  • The 5th WBRG meeting was held in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria, at the end of August 2005. Milena Stancheva of the Regional Historical Museum in Veliko Turnovo with help from Petar Zidarov, now teaching at a university in Sofia, organized a meeting with 39 participants, 28 presentations and 11 posters from Europe and the United States. The Department of History, University of Turnovo, together with the Archaeological Museum of Veliko Turnovo were the host institutions.
  • The 6th WBRG meeting was held in 2007 at the Maison de l'Archéologie et de l'Ethnologie (MAE), Nanterre University, Paris, France. This provided a good chance to showcase some of the seminal work on worked osseous materials carried out by colleagues in the French CRNS group over the last 40 years. Their research results represent an incredible data resource for less well funded researchers in this field around the world. Isabelle Sidéra, Eva David and Alexandra LeGrand-Pineau put together a well-organized meeting with 39 read papers and nine posters. There were altogether 60 participants from 22 countries.
  • The 7th meeting of the WBRG was held from the 7th-11th of September 2009 at the Archaeological Institute of the University of Wroclaw, Poland. It was organized by Justyna Baron, Marcin Diakowski, Bernadeta Kufel and colleagues.
  • The 8th meeting of the WBRG was held from the 29th of August to the 3rd of September 2011 at the University of Salzburg, Austria. It was organised by Felix Lang and Wolfgang Wohlmayr of the Department of Classical Studies of the Universität Salzburg and the Österreichisches Forschungszentrum Dürrnberg.
  • The 9th meeting of WBRG was convened by the Henan Administration of Cultural Heritage, and the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Zhengzhou City, Henan province, China from in 2013. The chief organizer was Xiaolin Ma. This was the first meeting of the Worked Bone Research Group to be held outside of Europe!
  • The 10th meeting of the WBRG was convened in Belgrade in Serbia. The conference was organized in 2014 by Selena Vitezović (Institute of Archaeology, Belgrade) in cooperation with the National Museum in Belgrade.
  • The 11th meeting of the WBRG was held in Iaşi, Romania in 2016. It was organized by Luminţa Bejenaru at the ”Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi.
  • The 12th meeting of the WBRG was held in Granada, Spain in 2017. It was organized by Manuel Altimarino with The GEA Research Group and the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology of the University of Granada (Spain).
  • The 13th meeting of the WBRG will be organized at the University of Montreal in 2019 by Christian Pierre St. Gates.

A number of perennial problems encountered by worked bone specialists should be mentioned here. Separation of artifacts recognized as worked in the field from objects pulled out of the faunal assemblage remains a serious practical problem, often resulting in a single assemblage being divided and even analyzed in two separate parts. Zooarchaeologists are also rarely trained in recognizing the waste from tool manufacture so this kind of information on manufacturing practices often gets lost in faunal assemblages. There is also a need to carry out focused ethnographic research on how living people actually choose to use bone as a raw material and how they use and discard bone tools and ornaments. People still regularly employing implements and ornaments made from hard osseous materials are rapidly disappearing. In many cases, only the older generation has any memory of the role bone tools played in various kinds of social interaction, critical imponderables which are very difficult to get at from archaeological materials alone.

Finally, despite the increasing interest in worked osseous materials within general archaeological circles, jobs paying people to do this kind of analysis remain far and few between, even in France. Thus, many new, excellent scholars will have a difficult time continuing their research after their studies are over.

The WBRG group runs a closed mailing list (bonetools@listserv.iif.hu). Enquiries or announcements can be placed there. A website run out of the University of Basel at: http://www.wbrg.net/ (Hans Christian Küchelmann, webmaster).

WBRG Publications:

Note: From the 4th meeting onwards, all articles in the Proceedings and published ICAZ session volumes have been peer reviewed.

  • 1st Meeting: Materials of Manufacture: The Choice of Materials in the Working of Bone and Antler in Northern and Central Europe During the First Millennium AD edited by Ian Riddler (2003). BAR International Series 1193. Archaeopress, Oxford.
  • 2nd Meeting: Crafting Bone: Skeletal Technologies through Time and Space edited by A. Choyke, and L. Bartosiewicz (2001). British Archaeological Reports International Series 937. Archeopress, Oxford.
  • 4th Meeting: From Hooves to Horns, from Mollusk to Mammoth: Manufacture and Use of Bone Artifacts from Prehistoric Times to the Present edited by H. Luik, A. Choyke, C. Batey, and L. Lõugas (2005). Muinasaja Teadus 15. Tallinn.
  • 6th meeting (Paris 2007, and a session at ICAZ 2006 Mexico City): Ancient and Modern Bone Artefacts from America to Russia. Cultural, technological and functional signature, edited by Alexandra Legrand-Pineau, Isabelle Sidéra, Natacha Buc, Eva David, and Vivian Scheinsohn (2010). British Archaeological Reports International Series 2136, Oxford
  • 7th meeting (Wroclaw 2009): Written in Bones. Studies on technological and social contexts of past faunal skeletal remains, edited by Justyna Baron & Bernadeta Kufel-Diakowska (2011). Wroclaw. The proceedings can be downloaded from the WBRG website: http://wbrg.net/meetings/wroclaw-2009
  • 8th meeting (Salzburg 2011): The Sound of Bones. Proceedings of the 8th Meeting of the ICAZ Worked Bone Research Group in Salzburg 2011, edited by Felix Lang (2013). Archaeo Plus. Schriften zur Archäologie und Archäometrie der Paris Lodron-Universität Salzburg 5.
  • 9th meeting in Zhengzhou, China: Ma, (2014): Proceedings of the 9th Meeting of the (ICAZ) Worked Bone Research Group, Zhengzhou, China, 2013, edited by Xiaolin Ma and Yanfeng Hou, In: Zooarchaeology 2, Beijing: Cultural Relics Press.
  • ICAZ 2010, Paris, France: edited by Alice Choyke and Sonia O’Connor: From These Bare Bones: Raw Materials and the Study of Worked Osseous Objects. Oxford: Oxbow (2013), ISBN 978-1-78297-211-2.
  • ICAZ 2014, San Rafael in Argentina: Global patterns in the exploitation of animal-based raw materials: technological and socio-cultural issues, edited by Alice M. Choyke, Annalisa Christie, Vivan Scheinsohn and Natasha Buc (2016), Cuadernos del Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Pensamiento Latinoamericano Series Especiales 3(2) Open source on-line journal.
  • 10th meeting in Beograd, Serbia: Close to the Bone: Current studies in bone technologies, edited by Selena Vitezović (2017), Beograd: Institute of Archaeology ISBN 978-86-6439-006-4). The volume is available to download for free from the WBRG webpage.
  • 11th meeting in Iasi, Romania: Worked Bone and Archaeology: Proceedings of the 11th Meeting of the ICAZ Worked Bone Research Group in Iasi 2016, edited by Luminita Bejenaru, Quaternary International: (Volume 472, Part A, Pages 1-168 (5 April 2018). The articles can be accessed through Science Direct.
  • 12th meeting in Granada, Spain: Manuel Altamarino Garcia has indicated that the editing of the proceedings for the 12th meeting of the WBRG that was held last year (2017) in Granada is underway. Articles will be subjected to a double-blind peer review and edited by the Department of Prehistory and Archaeology and the University of Granada. The volume will be published in Cuadernos de Prehistoria de la Universidad de Granada.

This information has been contributed by Alice M. Choyke, WBWG Liaison to ICAZ. Last update: August 2018. Anyone wishing to inquire about the WBRG should write to her either at choyke@gmail.com or choyke@ceu.edu.