Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marrow Extractor and Flakes

In the next couple of posts I'll show the final Inuvialuit reproductions in the Parks Canada contract. Everything is built and I'm in the final few hours of antiquing. The cold damp weather in St. John's over the past six weeks has really slowed this job down, because the drying time between stages has been so long. On Monday, I compared all the remaining reproductions to the artifacts and if I absolutely had to, I could have called them all finished. But I didn't, I took a half dozen or so home for one final pass to try and match the finished colours and textures a little more closely. I'll compare them one last time tomorrow and then everything can be shipped next week. The artifacts go back to a conservation lab in Winnipeg and the reproductions will go to the Parks office in Inuvik.

Marrow Extractor: Tuktut Nogait National Park. This is a relatively simple stick of yew that was identified as a marrow extractor. The long bones of caribou are full of nutrient rich marrow and sticks like this can be used to push or scoop it out of the hollow cavity in the bone. It took a while to match the look of the white rot on the end of the artifact. The reproduction is shown in the photo below the original. I made it on a scrap of yew left over from the bow.

Quartzite Flakes: Tuktut Nogait National Park. (Originals on the left, reproductions on the right) These flakes took me all summer to make. Quartzite isn't a common material in Newfoundland and although it can be chipped into durable functional tools, its not a favourite of modern knappers. I tried a lot of different sources trying to get quartzites that match the artifacts in this collection. I found that I had a decent match for the light grey quartzites from Tuktut Nogait, but I couldn't find any purplish-red. I wound up going with a local sandstone. It gave me a decent look alike, but sandstone doesn't knap very well, so it took a long time to get a passable looking soft hammer flake. The smaller piece might be the base of a roughly made tool, or it might be a random piece of shatter - its tough to tell on quartzite. Side by side they are decent enough matches, but from a functional perspective they don't have much in common with the artifacts.

I'm finding with this job that the amount of time involved with matching an artifact is inversely proportional to the simplicity of the piece. The more modified a piece is by people the easier it is to match. The randomness of nature is much harder for me to recreate than the intentional work of a person.

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

Photo Captions:
Top: Planning a reproduction at the beginning of the summer
Middle: Marrow extractor, Top; Artifact, Bottom; Reproduction
Bottom: Flakes, Artifacts on the left, reproductions on the right


  1. What's with the white rot on the end of the "marrow extractor"? I would have thought that marrow extraction was a greasy business that would have resulted in quite a different type and pattern of residue, especially since it looks like either end of that specimen could have (and would have been used). Any idea on what it really was used for?

  2. I think marrow extractor is a reasonable guess. The white rot is only on one end because the artifact was found partly exposed and partly buried. The buried end is the clean end. The shape of both ends seems dictated by the undulations in the wood grain and not intentional shaping. The cross-section of the stick does seem to have been shaped - it has a plano-convex cross section with one rounded edge and one pointed edge - just like a plane's wing. I imagine that shape would have been effective for scraping the inside of a bone. The only similar object that I can think of would be a wick trimmer, but there is no singeing on it, and the notes I have say that it was found in a tent ring with a lot of caribou bones.


Related Posts with Thumbnails