Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Ute Arrow Straightener is Made of Jurassic Dinosaur Bone

By Gavin Noller

I am currently studying an arrow straightening tool left behind by the Ute Indians long ago. The artifact is made of an unusual material—a Jurassic dinosaur bone.  As I work with this artifact that is more than  13 decades old, I imagine a scene when it was used.

A group of Ute braves are sitting on a forested mountain slope that overlooks the plains where the braves and their families have camped. The braves are manufacturing arrowheads and straightening the shafts of their arrows for hunting. The day is quite peaceful. The sun is shining—showering the landscape with its blissful, gratifying warmth and light. In the distance, the dark silhouette of a herd of grazing bison is visible.

One brave, called Leaf Who Rides on the Wind, has a tool for straightening the shafts of arrows. It is made of a peculiar material that is like bone, but is as hard as rock, and all the other braves believe it contains great medicine.

The arrow straightener that Leaf Who Rides on the Wind uses is part of a large dinosaur bone, although he does not know it. The bone was smoothed so it would fit in his hand. A single long groove was put in to the bone to straighten the shafts of arrows, so that they would hit their intended target straight and true.

After Leaf Who Rides on the Wind completes making and straightening an arrow, he wonders about how well the arrow will shoot. Ten quivers worth of arrows are finished, and with more to make, Leaf Who Rides on the Wind takes a moment to observe his surroundings in closer detail. Across the clearing in which he and the other braves sit, a couple of chipmunks are chasing each other. His thoughts are interrupted by a hunting call from a Shoshone hunting party from the west. Not wanting conflict, Leaf Who Rides on the Wind and the other braves quickly gather their things and then hastily make their way down the mountain slope and into their camp. They recount the events of the afternoon to their families late into the night around their campfire, and as the moon climbs into the night sky they head for their tepees and soon fall asleep.

Leaf Who Rides on the Wind wakes up the next morning to find that his special tool of untold magic and power is missing and he is afraid that he has misplaced it. He is desperate to find it as he feared he would not hunt well. He looks everywhere and asks his friends if they have seen it. Several days later, he finds it behind a blooming mountain mahogany bush, where he had dropped it earlier on his way from coming down the mountain slope.  Eventually Leaf Who Rides on the Wind lost his arrow straightener one last time.  

More than 13 decades later it was found again, this time by a fossil hunter. Arrow straighteners are not that common, and are not always seen in museums. But when they are, they will probably not be made of dinosaur bone from a prehistoric time that has long faded away. Now that the artifact has been recovered it is currently being studied. Continued research will reveal more of the archeological secrets of this arrowhead straightener made of a Jurassic dinosaur bone. 

Table 1. Measurements
Length (across groove)
approx. 8.89 cm
Width (tip to groove)
approx. 6.89 cm
Height (bottom to top pictured)
approx. 5.08 mm
Groove length
approx. 5.08 mm
Groove width (at top)
approx. 5.08 mm
Groove depth
approx. 1.27 cm
242 grams
Figure 1. View of arrow shaft straightener made of dinosaur
bone from a Jurassic bone bed.G. Noller collection.Photo © by G. Noller

Figure 2. Two red lines show where the grove is on the top of the
arrow straightening grove. G. Noller collection. Photo © by S. Veatch.

Author bio: Gavin Noller is a 12-year-old middle school student in 6th grade. His favorite subject in school is science, and he loves finding rocks and fossils in his free time. Gavin also has a strong interest in archaeology. He is a member of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and has worked on day-long outreach projects at the Colorado City Founder’s Day celebration and the Cool Science Festival at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

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Through this blog pebble pups and junior members of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society can access their lessons, work on assignments and projects, and receive details about field trips in the Pikes Peak Region. This Internet program is also suitable for young people who are interested in Earth science but do not live near a rock club or gem and mineral society or for young people anywhere who want a deeper dive into these topics. The only requirement is that all participants must be members of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and must fill out the CSMS membership form (under important websites) and send their registration and membership fee in. Steven Veatch is the senior instructor and will need an email from you with your name, address, phone number, and permission from your parents to participate in this program.