Monday, November 24, 2014

Another day in the workshop

Palaeoeskimo scraper reproduction in Newfoundland chert
Another day in the workshop is gone.  I've been plugging away at a few simple Palaeoeskimo tools to try to get back into the rhythm of knapping.  Its been so long since I've knapped at production volumes, that I need to turn the blisters on my hands back into calluses.  I spent most of the afternoon preparing tools and materials for an Open Minds session tomorrow.  I'll be helping grade 5 students make ground slate tools at The Rooms for the next three Tuesdays.  I need about a half day worth of preparation time ahead of the half day workshop.  Usually, I do the preparation the day before the workshop, so it always feels like an Open Minds session occupies two days of my work week.  Instead of waiting until next Monday, I'm going to try preparing my kit for next Tuesday when I get home from The Rooms tomorrow afternoon.  If I can get into the routine of finishing an Open Minds day with a fully stocked and ready to go kit, then future sessions should only feel like one day away from my regular workshop schedule, rather than two days.   

I don't think I showed this photo yet.  This the completed obsidian necklace that I was hafting last week.  Right now it's bound for Australia.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, November 21, 2014

Finished Ivory Polar Bear Head Pendants

Dorset Palaeoeskimo Bear
Head Reproductions
I finished the polar bear head amulets that I was working on and have them strung on to simple black leather cords.  Walrus tusks can have natural cracks running their length that are dark brown or black at the surface but that warm to a honey or caramel colour on the inside before they vanish.  The surface of the first two carvings that I worked on had these dark bands running lengthwise along the heads and  I wasn't sure if the client would like the look or not, so I made a third one to give a nice clean, white option.  All three heads are based on Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts found in the High Arctic and Newfoundland and Labrador between about 2000 and 1000 years ago.  I purchased the ivory that I used here from the Co-Op in Cape Dorset, Nunavut.

The head on the left is based on artifacts from Newfoundland and Labrador, while the head on the right are based on Dorset Palaeoeskimo bear head carvings from the High Arctic.  The High Arctic versions are more anatomically natural carvings, with more detailed musculature on the head and muzzles, with more detailed noses and mouths.  The Newfoundland and Labrador version is relatively natural looking for this province, but by comparison, it is still a more stylized form emphasizing the silhouette of the bear head over anatomical accuracy.  

The underside of the bears differ as well.  The original Dorset Palaeoeskimo bear heads were often carved with suspension holes or holes running from their mouths down their throats.  The two smaller carvings here have simple holes carved at the base of the head and the original artifacts were likely suspended from a cord, much like these necklaces.  The larger head in the lower right corner of this photo is based on the Newfounldand and Labrador artifacts that have the linear channel running the length of the head, with one hole in the mouth and one hole in the throat.  If a cord was threaded through them originally, then it seems like it was probably running lengthwise through the head, rather than suspended at one end as shown here.

Three little bears.  I have my favourite, but they all turned out well. I have a lot of respect for the Dorset Palaeoeskimo crafts-people who made the originals with stone tools.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pendants in progress

I have a few pendants in progress in the workshop.  The wood shaft on the obsidian arrowhead will be trimmed down and drilled so that it can be strung on a leather cord.  The walrus ivory bear head above it is one of two that I'm working on at the moment.  The one shown here is inspired by Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts from the High Arctic.  Its coming along nicely, so far, although I want to leave the finishing for at least one more day.  I don't like carving too quickly.  I think slower carvings turn out better.  It takes time to plan each cut.
 Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ground Slate Lance heads

Slate lances and ivory polar bear
head preforms
I finally have something from the workshop to share.  I finished a pair of Dorset Palaeoeskimo slate lance heads today.  I need one for an upcoming order and the other will be a spare to keep in my display collection that I tote around to demonstrations and talks.  While I was in the cutting, carving, and grinding mode, I started a couple small ivory bear heads.  Again, I need one for an order and the other will go into my collection.

Dorset Palaeoeskimo ground slate lance heads.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, November 14, 2014

Slow return to the workshop

I'm slowly returning to the workshop after what seems like months away.  I did spend a bit of time working on projects in September, but between travel, office work, and NLAS responsibilities since then, its been impossible for me to schedule any time in the workshop, let alone put in a full day's work.  Hopefully that will change next week and I can get some orders filled before Christmas.  Its going to be a busy winter season making reproductions, if I can just make the time to get back into my studio.  I'm very grateful to have such patient clients.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

French Archaeology in Newfoundland and the NLAS AGM

Dr. Amanda Crompton speaking at The Rooms
To cap off a busy day, the NLAS helped organize a talk this evening at The Rooms followed by our 2nd Annual General Meeting.  Amanda Crompton spoke about her research into understanding the French history of the region of Newfoundland called the Chapeau Rouge. This prominent landmark, which looks a little like a squashed hat, has an interesting, but poorly understood history.  With at least 50 people in the room, this was the best attended NLAS event to date.  You can view Amanda's talk on the NLAS youtube channel here.

Immediately following the talk, the NLAS held a brief AGM where we presented the results of our last year's activities and talked a little bit about our future plans.  You can view the AGM on our Youtube Channel here.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, November 10, 2014


Herculaneum is the smaller, better preserved, sister site to Pompeii.  Both were simultaneously destroyed and preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.  I've heard many people suggest that if you only visit one, then Herculaneum is the site to see.  I think you should see them both - Pompeii is sprawling and massive.  The scale of the site is tremendous and you can literally get lost among the ruins.  Herculaneum was covered by hot ash and gases, not by tonnes of rubble, so the buildings are more complete, often with second and third stories in tact and the extreme heat charred and preserved a lot of wood as well.  

Considering it was destroyed nearly 2000 years ago, it's remarkably easy to picture Herculaneum as a living vibrant port city.

The blackened timbers are original wood.  The painted figures and advertising on the walls are original, too.

Mosaic floors were everywhere and tended to be more complete than what we saw in Pompeii.

A glimpse inside a second story room. 
These blackened doors are the original charred wood remains.

I've seen houses listed for sale in worse condition.

Another tile floor

Metal grates in the windows are still in place.

Wooden shutters, lintels, and doors all preserved.

I think he's using the knife to pry out the spear.  He obviously studied medicine at the University of Talladega Nights.

On the way out of the town you can catch glimpses of the bodies of the townspeople killed in AD 79.  People were trapped by the sea as they tried to escape and only their bones remain.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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