antler with drilled hole
Modified antler
  • Object number – 05922-JR
  • Material – Bone
  • Place of Origin – Virginia
  • Date – c. 1608-1610
  • Context – First Well
  • Location – Collections
  • Category – Households

This antler fragment recovered from the first well is a one-of-a-kind artifact in the Jamestown collection. Its dark color and large diameter indicates that it belonged to an elk. Eastern Elk (Cervus canadensis canadensis) roamed near to Jamestown Island in the 17th century. This antler could have been part of an animal that was hunted for food, or it could have been picked up as the settlers explored the landscape surrounding James Fort. Sadly, the Eastern Elk subspecies are now extinct due to overhunting and reduction in available habitat throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

Two points of the antler are present, but it has been cut so that the side without the points is flat. Two large holes have been drilled through it and one hole still has the remnants of an iron nail in it. These modifications indicate that the antler was used as a wall hook. The nails would have been used to nail the hook to a wall and the flattened back would help it lay flush. Like many items in the Jamestown collection, including a needle and a flesher also made from Eastern Elk remains, this artifact is an example of the colonists’ interactions with Virginian Indians and their adaptations to their new environment.

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