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From Jarlshof, Shetland and Craigentinny, Midlothian

Postcard of Whistles.
© National Museums Scotland


These bone whistles were probably used in hunting, to attract prey. The top two were found at Jarlshof in Shetland, and were probably used to lure otters. The bottom one was found in a cremation urn burial at Craigentinny in Midlothian.

The Jarlshof whistles are incomplete, but have transverse holes on one side, and five dots either above or below. The Craigentinny whistle is pierced at one end, through one side. The bone is burnt because the whistle had passed through the funeral pyre.

Mammals, birds and fish were caught and killed with a variety of equipment. Evidence of the use of bows and arrows and spears is common from an early time. Other more specialised tools, such as these whistles for attracting prey, are also known.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-042-395-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  X.HSA 212
Date: 800 - 900 AD
Jarlshof whistles: between 800 and 900; Craigentinny whistle: between 2000 and 1500 BC
Middle Bronze Age
Material: Bone; burnt
Bone; transverse perforation on one side of shaft, five dots below; other end broken
Bone; transverse perforation on one side; five dots above perforation
Dimensions: 2.10" L
2.75" L
4.50" L
What: Whistle
Whistle, otter
Whistle, otter
Where: Scotland, Midlothian, Edinburgh, Craigentinny
Scotland, Shetland, Sumburgh, Jarlshof
Scotland, Shetland, Sumburgh, Jarlshof
Description: Middle Bronze Age whistle of burnt bone, from Craigentinny, Midlothian
Bone otter whistle from Jarlshof
Otter whistle of bone from Jarlshof, 800 - 900 AD
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