Life after Death: A Brief History of Human Bone Tools in Submound 51 at Cahokia

Eve A. Hargrave, Della Collins Cook

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Human remains have been manipulated for a multitude of purposes ranging from worship of ancestors, demonstration of political power, war trophies, ritual obligation to kin, embodiment of magico-religious energies, and linkage to the spirit world (e.g., Beck 1995; Chacon and Dye, ed. 2007; Chapman et al. 1981; Chesson 2001; Geary 1990; Metcalf and Huntington 1991; Rakita et al. 2005; Sullivan and Mainfort, ed. 2010). Most examples found in the literature attribute such modification to instances of trophy taking, mortuary manipulation, or alterations to the human body (e.g., teeth, cranial modification) during life. Modified human elements that do not conform to these characteristics tend to be represented by isolated, often single, elements and are often ornamental, utilitarian, or practical in nature. Modifications include incised designs on bone, cutting and smoothing of long bones for pipes or musical instruments, cut bone circles, drilled teeth for ornaments or suspension, cut and polished cranial portions that functioned as a container or mask, and polish on the broken edges of long bones, which is attributable to use as a tool. Despite their limited visibility in the archaeological literature, such objects are fairly common, which is abundantly illustrated in the contributions to this volume.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTransforming the Dead: Culturally 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
ISBN (Print)978-0-8173-1861-1
StatePublished - 2015


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