Bison Scapula Hoe

Image of Bison scapula hoe.
Shoulder blade adapted as digging tool

After thousands of years of using stone, and to a lesser extent mussel shell digging tools, some Native people transformed the bison’s shoulder blade, or scapula, into digging tools to tend their gardens.

In 1673, Marquette and Joliet visited the Grand Kaskaskia village on the riverbank opposite Starved Rock in LaSalle County. Archaeologists relocated the remains of the village in the 1940s, and among the objects they recovered are modified bison scapulae. Native Americans modified the shoulder blade by shaving off part of a muscle attachment and creating a hole, presumably to attach the bone to a wooden handle. However, we don’t know why the bone digging tool was preferred to traditional stone cultivating tools.

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