Sometimes it’s the small finds at an archaeological excavation that capture the imagination. And they keep us going while we might be excavating areas that are otherwise not the interesting. I found this wee carved bone while sifting.
It’s only about 4cm long and 2cm wide, but a design of perfect circles has been carved into this small bone. Clearly, it is only a part of a larger artifact, but it is likely that it was not much wider than the fragment I picked up while sifting. I’m not sure what it was used for – maybe it was a knife handle or a make-up tool. We often find similar designs on other artifacts apparently related to the enhancement of physical beauty. A plain-looking bone just wouldn’t do to apply that kohl under your eyes!
From my observation it is unlikely that the carved bone is ivory, but it might nevertheless be an imitation of more expensive ivory articles.
The carved bone was not found in any good context. Therefore we do not know what time period it might have been used in. The area seems to have been leveled during the Byzantine era, but the bone could have come from any of the previous time periods, including the Iron Age. I doubt people during the Byzantine era would have spotted a small bone while moving soil laden with old potsherds to establish their vineyard or orchard.