Monday, June 22, 2009


Its been a crazy busy weekend since last Friday's post. I've delivered two wholesale orders, including the big Korea order to the Craft Council, spent Friday afternoon to Sunday morning on the Eastport Peninsula, and Sunday afternoon demonstrating flintknapping at the Geocentre in St. John's. I couldn't manage a long run on Sunday, but I did a few minutes on the treadmill in the evening. Its going to be a slow Monday morning, but I still have a hectic week ahead, so I can't slow down too much.

The trip to Burnside was great. Its been too long since I was last out there - the rhyolite quarry is such a striking site. Its just so huge - Laurie McLean's estimates for the numbers of worked flakes and cores in the main location is in the millions. Its overwhelming. There's 5 thousand years of flintknapping piled up a meter deep covering a talus slop that is tens of metres long and dozens of metre's wide. The exposed bedrock is battered and bashed from quarrying and there are large granite hammerstones scattered throughout the mix. Its mind-boggling.

There are smaller sites and knapping episodes strewn all over the mountain, from the summit to shoreline. Each of those spots are amazing, and the density of material begins to approach manageable levels. You can see discrete knapping events. One particularily interesting site is a small rock overhang or cave. Laurie's crew found part of a biface inside the cave and associated flakes. They excavated a small pocket in the boulders on the floor of the cave and found 800 flakes and the other half of the biface. The flakes were piled up below a natural stone seat and you can imagine the knapper sitting there, perhaps in out of the rain, working a rough block of rhyolite from higher up on the mountain into a portable bifacial core. Unfortunately for him or her, but fortunately for the archaeologist, one of those big bifacial cores broke and was left behind with the flakes to tell the story.

We put a tarp down inside that pocket in the cave and I sat on that same stone seat and demonstrated for the camera how someone using local hammerstones and antler would test a raw rhyolite core, discarding waste flakes and creating a portable bifacial core that would yield useful sharp flakes for the months to come. It was an absolutely unique opportunity. The site had been excavated, and we were careful to keep my modern flakes from contaminating the archaeological record. To sit inside that cave and knap rhyolite from that mountain, in exactly the same spot that a knapper sat and used thousand's of years ago is a pretty memorable experience. I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished documentary now.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
Top: Flakes, hammerstones and a view from the summit at the Bloody Bay Rhyolite Quarry.
Middle, Left: Laurie Mclean with Matt and Greg filming at the Beaches Site.
Middle, Right: A section of a very large Rhyolite biface that we found on the surface at a site near the quarry. Its broken and this section is perhaps a 1/3 or a 1/4 of the original biface. Likely, an expended bifacial core.
Bottom: Flakes in situ. Everytime you tilt your head down at Bloody Bay cove you'll see flakes like this. Its amazing!

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