Human Bone as Ritual Object? Modified Human Bone from the Hoxie Farm and Anker Sites, Cook County, Illinois

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The use of human bone in the manufacture of objects, in ritual activities, and as symbols of personal, political, and spiritual relationships occurs in virtually every culture and time period (Baby 1956, 1961; Chacon and Dye, ed. 2007; Cybulski 1978; Hackenschmidt 2005; Hrdliˇcka 1941; Mensforth 2007; Pereira 2005). Across the midwestern United States, culturally modified human remains have been documented from a number of late prehistoric sites (Table 12.1) and are often associated with Classic Oneota (a.d. 1300–1700), Caborn-Welborn (a.d. 1400–1700), and Caddoan (a.d. 1250–1750) occupations (Brose et al. 2001; Pollack 2004). The two main categories of human bone modification identified at these sites are (1) the cut marks attributed to scalping, defleshing, or disarticulation of remains after death and (2) the manufacture of objects for utilitarian and/or ritual use from human remains. Examples of manufactured objects include polished and incised human bone fragments; cranial and dental elements perforated or grooved for suspension; calvaria used as vessels or bowls; gorgets, masks, and rattles constructed from cranial bone; and, less commonly, the modification of human long bones for use as beads, tubes, awls, rasps, handles, and pipestems. This chapter focuses on examples of culturally modified human bone from two late prehistoric sites in northeastern Illinois, Hoxie Farm (11CK4) and Anker (11CK21). Located approximately 3.2 km from one another and likely overlapping temporally for a portion of their occupation history, Hoxie Farm and Anker share many similarities in site organization, material culture, subsistence practices, and mortuary treatment. The types of human bone modification and the contexts in which they were found, however, differ significantly between these two sites. I explore these differences and their possible social and cultural implications and significance.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTransforming the Dead
Subtitle of host publicationCulturally Modified Bone in the Prehistoric Midwest
EditorsEve A. Hargrave, Shirley J. Schermer, Kristin M. Hedman, Robin M. Lillie
Place of PublicationTuscaloosa, AL
PublisherUniversity of Alabama Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9780817388096
ISBN (Print)9780817318611
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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