History Mystery #6 answered

History Mystery #6 answered

For last week's history mystery, we received dozens of guesses about the identity of the 1,000-year-old object shown above, found in a Scandinavian mountain pass. Here is a representative sample of your responses:

"a writing scribe for clay tablets."
"a lace bobbin"
"Hoof pick?"
"The object looks like a bodkin - used to thread a drawstring through a waistband or similar opening."
"it's an ancient plumb line...just missing the string."
"I think it is a shuttlecock for weaving wool on a loom. They would tie the colored yarn to the end and the point would weave in and out between the yarns on the loom."
"Leather awl for making holes in hides."
"Toilet paper roller."

Two people got the correct answer after doing research online: it was a weaning tool used by shepherds, goatherds, and cowherds. Specifically, a bit to prevent kids, lambs, and other young animals from nursing. This item was found in the Lendbreen Pass in Norway, along with similar items that testify to the importance of herding 1,000 years ago:

history mystery wooden weaning tool for lambs

The woman who remembered seeing them on the farm when was growing up in the 1930s told archaeologists the way it worked:

"The carved furrows on each end originally had string attached, which was used for fastening behind the ears, so the bit wouldn't come loose. Usually, such bits were made in juniper, she said, as this is a very tough wood."

Even more remarkable: This ancient tool is still used today in Turkey, Lebanon, and other parts of the world! You can see a sample in the photo below or on this video at the 2:50 mark.

lamb weaning tool


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