Friday, March 19, 2010

Burin Spalls and Snow Goggles

This feels like kind of a déjà vu post - I know I've talked about burins and snow goggles recently, but here are a few pictures of finished pieces. The goggles are for the Wapusk order, and although the burin is based on the unifacial pre-Dorset burins from the Seahorse Gully site its actually heading to an archaeologist in the U.S. who works in Alaska. I don't think Brian would mind if I pointed out his exceptional blog documenting his work in both Alaska and the lower 48; Old Dirt - New Thoughts. He just happened to order a burin at the same time that the Wapusk artifacts came in, so for a few days I spent a lot of time making and playing around with burins.

The thing that makes his burin kind of cool is that the last three spalls all stayed in one piece and can be refit onto the tool in the handle. It gives you a pretty good idea of how the tool would have evolved and changed shape over its life. Although I removed them one after the other in one location, in the archaeological past these spalls might be removed days or weeks apart as the tool was used and worn down. The spalls are pretty distinctive little flakes - so even if you don't find a burin with them, you can be pretty sure when you find one that someone was using and re-sharpening a burin at the site.

The snow goggles are for the Wapusk order. I don't know much about their origin, although they are certainly Neoeskimo and not Palaeoeskimo. The body of the goggles are made on a spruce pole with about a 4 cm diameter. For the strap I used braided sinew. I braided a permanent loop through the lashing holes on one side of the goggles and then threaded a loop with a slip knot on the opposite side so that the length of the strap is adjustable, but can't fall off the goggles.

I think I've mentioned before that one of the cool things about wearing the goggles is that they make a slight improvement in your vision, if, like me, you need glasses. Your field of view is decreased and the glare from the snow is reduced to safe levels, but its also like looking through squinted eyes, but without the eye strain. Sometimes people ask if I wish that I'd been born in a different time and I always come back to my poor vision when I answer. I'm sure that I would have walked off a cliff or something before I got very old, so I'm happy living in a time with prescription lenses. Although if I absolutely had to go through life without high density glass lenses, I'm sure that one of the first things I'd make would be a pair of snow goggles.


If you are looking for another dose of archaeology blogging, check out the recently published list: "The 50 Best Blogs for Archaeology Students" Its a handy guide and I'm not just saying that because Elfshot: Sticks and Stones made the list with this generous review:

"Elfshot: Sticks and Stones : This incredible, insightful blog discusses the lost utilitarian art of flintknapping to educate readers on how the process worked and its role in the formation of humanity."

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
1: Spruce Snow Goggles with Braided Sinew Strap for Wapusk National Park
2: Hafted Burin with refit Burin Spalls
3: Wearing the snow goggles
4: Another view of the snow goggles
5: Tim, enjoying vision
6: Assorted Palaeoeskimo tools drying

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