Friday, June 10, 2016

Newfoundland Harpoon and Arrow Reproductions

The pointy ends of harpoon and arrow reproductions
I completed a set of artifact reproductions based on artifacts found in Newfoundland and Labrador this week.  The set included a complete Groswater Palaeoeskimo harpoon, a Dorset harpoon head with a tip-fluted endblade, a barbed Maritime Archaic harpoon head, and a Beothuk or Little Passage style arrow.  These pieces are on their way to Nova Scotia right now and will be used by an archaeologist friend of mine in school talks.  

The set is intended to represent four different cultures and illustrate some of the different technologies used in the pursuit of food over time.  The complete Groswater harpoon can be used to demonstrate how a toggling harpoon works.  The small Dorset harpoon head fits onto the whalebone foreshaft on the Groswater harpoon, although it lacks an harpoon line.  The barbed Maritime Archaic harpoon head belongs to a completely different time period and cultural group so it isn't compatible with the Palaeoeskimo harpoon.  It shows a contrasting technology that would have been used for the same purpose; hunting seals.

I modeled the main shaft of the harpoon on the wooden harpoon shaft found at L'Anse aux Meadows.   
The Groswater harpoon, with it's distinctive harpoon head and endblade in place.

Ochre staining the Maritime Archaic barbed harpoon.  Unlike the Palaeoeskimo harpoon heads with a line hole centered in the middle of the harpoon head, this style of harpoon head has a single line hole positioned close to the base.  It relies on the barbs for gripping the seal and won't toggle in the wound the same as the Dorset and Groswater harpoon heads.
Another view of the Groswater harpoon head with a shelf cut on one side and lashing holes gouged through the nose to tie the plano-convex, box-based endblade in place.  The endblade is knapped from local Newfoundland chert, the harpoon head is antler, the foreshaft is whalebone, and the mainshaft is wood.  Sinew and sealskin are used to tie the various pieces together and to create the harpoon line.
Side views of the reproductions.  From left to right, Maritime Archaic harpoon head, Little Passage Arrow, Dorset harpoon head, and Groswater harpoon.
Dorset harpoon head made from antler with a tip-fluted chert endblade.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Oxbow and Besant Points

Oxbow points (Top)
Besant points (Bottom)
 Last week I knapped reproductions of a couple styles of projectile points found on the prairies; Oxbow and Besant.  Oxbow points are the earlier form and according to Record in Stone: Familiar Projectile Points From Alberta they date from 4500-4100 BP.  They were named for the town of Oxbow in Saskatchewan and have very distinctive ears that result from side notches with a deep concave base.  Besant points are found a little later (2500-1350 BP) and have a few more regional and temporal variants, but they all tend to have wide side-notches or an expanding stem.  Both Oxbow and Besant points were likely used on darts that were launched with atlatls.  I made these for a friend who is building a point typology collection assembled with reproductions made by his knapping buddies.

A page from Record in Stone, showing a variety of Oxbow points.  My reproductions are the two at the bottom corners of the page.

The Besant page from Record in Stone, with my reproductions laying in the lower left and right corners.  The lower right hand corner is made from Knife River Flint.  I don't have access to a lot of common knapping stones from the prairies, but somewhere along the way, someone gave me some KRF to try out.

Read to ship.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Kettle Lake Discovery Kit

A traveling exhibit for Canada's
northermost National Park
 Here's a look at the (very nearly) completed Kettle Lake Discovery Kit that was put together by Parks Canada to help tell the early archaeological story of Quttinirpaaq National Park on northern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut.  I've been involved in making artifact reproductions and sharing stories from Quttinirpaaq since 2010. Most recently, I was asked to make a couple reproductions of Independence I stone tools complete with organic handles for inclusion in this tri-lingual (Inuktitut, French, and English) traveling kit.  A lot of people were involved in the planning, design, and assembly of the contents of this pelican case, but the person coordinating it all was Parks Canada's Patrick Carroll.   Earlier this week Patrick shared photos from Quatro Design of the end result and secured permission for me to share these images on my blog.  I think it all looks fantastic and it shouldn't have any problems being tossed in and out of twin otters and helicopters on it's way to and from Quttinirpaaq.

I haven't seen the case in person, but it looks like there are flat cards that fit in the lid of the box with maps, photos, and information from the Kettle Lake archaeological sites.  In the foam body of the case there is a list of the artifact reproductions included in the kit, a series of individually bagged lithic reproductions, the case containing the hafted artifact reproductions and a copy of Ancient Stone Tools of Nunavut by Douglas Stenton and Robert Park.
Each of the small bags in the kit contains an artifact reproduction that users can handle and a card with a photograph of the original artifact that the reproduction is based on on side.

The flip side of the photo card has the English, French, and Inuktitut name for the stone tool 

The centre box contained a hafted scraper and microblade based on the tools found by Parks Canada archaeologists at Kettle Lake.  There is a sticker label that will go on top of this box when the kit next makes it's way to the Parks Canada office in Iqaluit.

The whole kit fits into a rugged, waterproof pelican case about the size of a brief case.  If you happen to see this case on the ground in Quttinirpaaq - I'd love to see a photo! 
Photo Credits: Quatro Design inc. courtesy of Parks Canada

Friday, May 27, 2016

Elfshot Jewellery

Earrings sent to
Port au Choix
This spring, the largest selections of Elfshot jewellery can be found in the gift shop at The Rooms and in the Heritage Shop at Port au Choix.  I've completed orders for both retail locations within the past few weeks and here are some images of the necklaces and earrings that each shop recieved to top up their existing inventory.  In the most recent orders, The Rooms focused on reproductions of Newfoundland and Labrador artifacts made from local chert while the Heritage Shop expanded their glass, obsidian and fibre optic glass inventories.

Groswater Palaeoeskimo earrings for The Rooms gift shop

These fibre optic glass necklaces are on their way to Port au Choix

Recycled glass and obsidian earrings for Port au Choix
... and a few Maritime Archaic lances (Port au Choix)
The best selection of chert jewellery by Elfshot can now be found in The Rooms gift shop, here in St. John's
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, May 6, 2016

Completed Alaskan PalaeoIndian Spears

Alaskan Spear Reproductions
Here are a few photos of the completed set of four PalaeoIndian Spears based on artifacts from Alaska which will be used in a travelling exhibit in that state.  They can be broken down into interchangeable foreshafts and mainshafts, which should make transporting them a little easier.  

PalaeoIndian spear reproductions:  Spruce, Birch, Alder.  Various cherts and flints.  Rawhide, gut, sinew.  Pitch and hide glue.

Fully assembled, the spears range in length from 77 1/2" to 84", with foreshafts ranging from 15 1/2" to 18 1/2" and main shafts ranging from 64 1/2" to 70 1/2".
Generally, the lithic tools that I make are much smaller than these heavy spears.  These have a nice weight to them and should make an intimidating statement alongside the Ice Age mammals of northern Alaska. 
Each foreshaft and mainshaft ends with a tapered "scarf" joint.  The mainshafts have tough rawhide sockets attached to them so that the foreshafts can be fit securely in place.  All of the scarfs have the same angle of cut and the shafts all have similar diameters so the pieces can be mixed and matched with each other.
One of the challenges that I often face in photographing these sorts of reproductions is finding a way to balance the projectiles on edge so that I can photograph them from the side.  This morning, I realized that the plastic safety covers for wall outlets work perfectly for holding pieces this size on edge.  You can see them at work in this photo, but I bet you didn't notice them in the previous photo until I mentioned them here. The prongs are flexible enough that I think they'll work on any projectile from arrows and darts to spears.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Thursday, May 5, 2016

PalaeoIndian Points Fitted with Foreshafts

Lashing the points in place with gut
I've been back in the workshop finishing up a set of PalaeoIndian spears for shipment to Alaska.  I've been returning sporadically to this order for several months and I'm finally wrapping things up this week.  Since the last time I updated this project, I've cleaned up the knapped points with pressure flaking and gave them the characteristic rounded bases of the reference pieces.  I've fitted them to hardwood foreshafts with a combination of pitch, hide glue, sinew, and gut lashing.  
The knapped reproductions with reference drawings
Softening the spruce gum and
red ochre pitch on the stove
 I wanted to create a bit of variety in the set so that they didn't all look identical.  I used pitch on some and hide glue on others.  I used caribou sinew on some and gut on others.  The points and foreshafts are all different lengths and sizes, although I did try to keep the proximal ends of the foreshafts the same so that all of the foreshafts would be interchangeable with all of the main shafts.

The points hafted in their foreshafts

Forming the rawhide sockets
 For the joint between the foreshafts and the main shafts, I used a simple tapered scarf join.  Scarf joints are a characteristic of the few surviving PalaeoIndian foreshafts found in North America.  I tend to think of scarfed joints as permanently fixed joins, but they can also work as detachable joints.  In this case I cut long tapers on the ends of the foreshafts and made a matching taper on the spruce main shafts.  I wrapped the end of the foreshafts in saran wrap, fit them in place against the matching scarf joint on the main shaft, and then wrapped around the overlapping joint with rawhide.
A dried rawhide socket (left) and the matching scarf joint on a foreshaft (right)
The foreshafts in place while the sockets dry
As the rawhide dries it hardens and bonds to the wooden main shaft while the saran wrap prevents the foreshafts from being glued in place.  The rawhide holds it's shape and creates a tough socket with an inside mold of the matching foreshaft.  I coat the outside of the rawhide with hide glue to add to it's stength.  The end product is a little like a fibre glass socket on the end of the main shaft. I'll update again with some final shots of the assembled spears when everything is dry and ready to ship.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, March 28, 2016

ARCH 4153 Field Trip to The Rooms

Touring the Archaeology vault at The Rooms,
with Lori Temple (in green)
I've been teaching ARCH 4153 Lithic Analysis this semester at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  A good part of the course was hands-on flintknapping, especially early in the semester.  In was a fun start to the course and it gave the students first hand experience with working stone.  The latter half of the semester was dedicated to an analysis of lithic debitage collected from the Spearbank Site (DlBk-1) in the community of Cow Head, on Newfoundland's west coast in the mid-1970s.  This is the type site for the Cow Head complex.

One student's flake
This is an important site for the Province and has been periodically re-examined since Jim Tuck first excavated it 40 years ago.  The most recent and systematic work was done by Latonia Hartery as part of her MA research at the University of Calgary in the early 2000s.  However, there are still many, many bags and boxes of debitage that have not been touched.  We tackled one crate of debitage this semester.  Each student was given a sample of around 250 pieces of debitage, made up of flakes, cores, and shatter and they systematically poked, prodded, and measured two dozen attributes on every single fragment.  They put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to study each piece in painstaking detail.

Sifting through the diagnostic artifacts from the Spearbank site at The Rooms

Boxes of artifacts
Earlier in March the class met at The Rooms during our regular class time to tour the Archaeology Lab with Lori Temple, the Archaeology/Ethnology Collections Manager.  We viewed the vaults where the diagnostic artifacts from the Spearbank site are stored and the students sorted through the boxes of artifacts to find examples of diagnostic artifacts from the same levels and units that their flake samples came from.  The idea was to help put the flakes and the site into context by seeing some of the tools that were being made and used at the site.

Archaeology lab space at
The Rooms
There do seem to be patterns emerging in the collection, even in these relatively small samples (the site was a quarry and the total flake count from all of the excavated material must be in the hundreds of thousands).  The students are working on their final papers right now and I'm looking forward to reading all of their results, thoughts, and conclusions.  I've been extremely impressed with the effort and commitment to the course from everyone in the class.  We have one more fun class of flintknapping and hafting stone tools and then the semester is over.  I'll certainly miss hanging out with them every week.

Arch 4153 at The Rooms

A flake attribute analysis is a lot of work.  The payoff for the students is an increased familiarity with the sort of debitage commonly found at any pre-Contact archaeological site.  The benefit to the collection is a high resolution snapshot of the way lithic resources were used.  The cost is time.  A lot of time. 
Photo Credits:
1-3, 5-7: Tim Rast
4: Lori Temple
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