Two Methods of Rawhide Production & It’s Suitability to Perform a Variety of Tasks

Sally Herriett

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


The lack of research into rawhide and associated artefacts is due in some part to the nature of the material; in that being organic, it rots. However, experimentation and reproduction, is the perfect medium by which a greater understanding of this and other organic material can hope to be achieved. Experimental archaeology, attempts to reproduce the process, product, and the action of its use, giving valuable insight into many aspects of material culture adding credibility to the varied applications these materials may have had.
The purpose of this study was to use experimentation to reproduce two types of rawhide, to study the properties and to investigate claims regarding the applications. One claim by Catlin (1857) was that when buffalo, today we would refer to the animal as bison, hide was processed to make a Sioux shield, ‘it was so strong that it could deflect arrows with ease and may even turn a bullet from an old fashioned gun’ – (Catlin 1857). It was hoped that by reproducing these processes a greater insight into the material that is rawhide, and any application that it may have had in prehistory, would be gained.
The two methods by which the hide was processed for this study included open-air sun drying, and stretching the hide over a heat source, in order to shrink it prior to air and sun drying. It was the possibility that this second production method could alter the rawhide that I knew, to such an extent that it could turn a ball from a smooth bore gun, that I believed needed more investigation. This study, therefore, focused on the ability of the materials to be used for protection, as in a shield.
Each process was completed using half of the same hide, and the two samples underwent a variety of tests to investigate and compare the properties. This included its resilience during continuous stress, how it reacts when in contact with water and if they provided effective protection against projectiles. The findings demonstrate how different the two resulting types of rawhide are, in appearance, physical attribute and resulting plausible applications.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExperimental Archaeology And Theory
Subtitle of host publicationRecent approaches to testing archaeological hypotheses
EditorsFrederick Foulds
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxbow Books
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)978-1-84217-766-2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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