Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Workshops, Beer, and Vikings

I'm still plugging away at glass points in the workshop for spring jewelry orders.

I got a phone call yesterday from a fellow who attended a flintknapping workshop I did at L'Anse aux Meadows in 2007. He stopped by this morning to pick up a few flintknapping kits. It got me thinking about workshops again -- I've been intending to do one in St. John's around Father's Day for a couple years now but I haven't been able to follow through on it. Maybe if I put it in writing here it'll remind me to sort out the details. The Geocentre or The Rooms seem like good spots to host something.

The L'Anse aux Meadows workshop was a good day. The participants were social studies teachers who were touring historic sites across the province. In a workshop, I start with a demonstration, which runs 45 minutes to 1 hour. I show everyone how a spearpoint can be knapped out of a large rock using stone and antler tools. The second half of the workshop is hands-on. Everyone gets a flintknapping kit that includes a copper tipped pressure flaker, a leather palm pad and an instruction booklet called "From Beer Bottle to Arrowhead". The first point that everyone makes is a beer bottle bottom point. A flat bottomed beer bottle is the ideal raw material to learn to flintknap with. You can find them everywhere, glass is a little easier to chip than flint or chert, and the bottle bottom is already the right thickness to make an arrowhead. In a class of 12-15 people there are always a couple people who get done the beer bottle point and move on to make a second or third chert or obsidian point. The hands-on portion of the workshop averages about 2 hours.

The L'Anse aux Meadows workshop sticks in my mind because that evening Lori and I tagged along with the teachers to their Viking feast in Parks Canada's reconstructed Norse sod houses. Interpreters in costume prepared food from the period and told stories from the sagas. Birgitta Wallace, who spent years excavating at L'Anse aux Meadows was there as well. It was one of those smoky blends of oral history and archaeology that I really enjoy. Bjorn the Beautiful would answer questions in character using extracts from the sagas to illustrate his points and Birgitta would address the same points with decades of archaeological research as her references. It was a fantastic experience.

Flintknapping Kit: $18.40

Photo Credits:
Top & Bottom: Tim Rast
Middle Left & Right: Lori White

Photo Captions:
Top: L'Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site.
Middle Left: Flintknapping Workshop in the Park
Middle Right: Bjorn the Beautiful entertaining guests
Bottom: Elfshot Flintknapping Kit

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