Bone hoes from the Middle Iron Age, Limpopo Province, South Africa

Justin Bradfield, Annie R. Antonites

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents the first recognised evidence of bone hoes in South Africa. Two bovine scapulae and a portion of a long bone show use-trace evidence that supports our interpretation as ground-working implements. The scapulae were probably hafted onto wooden handles using a combination of plant fibres and sinew, whereas the tool made from the long bone appears not to have been hafted. Bone hoes represent a short-lived technological innovation, although the reasons to account for this remain speculative. The recognition of these agricultural implements poses interesting questions about the extent and variety of bone working among Iron Age agriculturalists in the Limpopo Valley during the 10th – 13th centuries AD, and potentially also about the nature of women's work in these communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-134
Number of pages9
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Agricultural implements
  • Farming communities
  • Iron Age
  • Limpopo Valley
  • Scapula hoes
  • South Africa
  • Use-traces
  • Worked bone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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