By Steven Edholm
We like to see things as black and white, good or bad, better and worse. It helps us function in daily life where we need to make fast judgements or live on cruise control without having to over analyze everything. But it is also a trap that can limit us and cause us to do really dumb stuff. It helps to look at things in context. We can pit antler against bone to see which one is better for tools and such, but the victor will be dependent on circumstance and what it is that we are trying to accomplish, rather than on more arbitrary grounds. Both Tamara and I have largely gravitated toward espousing and detailing the qualities of materials as a way to view paleotechnics. While our feeble minds may gravitate toward one or the other as superior, redwood is not oak, soapstone is not jade, antler is not bone, and none is superior to the other except in the context of specific uses. Bury an oak fencepost and it will probably fall over in 5 to 10 years, where redwood may last for 50 or much more. Make a bow out of redwood heartwood, but in spite of your best design efforts, it’s just going to be kind of lame.
Bone and antler are similar materials. The qualities of both can vary quite a bit, but they are still very different. bone can be more or less flexible depending on many factors, like what part of the animal, what species, age etc.. but antler is, by it’s nature, generally tougher and more flexible than bone. Some uses of these two materials will overlap, while for others, one is clearly superior to the other. Keep these thoughts in mind as I’m speaking in generalities here. (more…)