Monday, December 27, 2010

Soapstone repaired with Chert Bow Ties

Soapstone Vessel Fragments
 I took these photos last spring of a small display of artifacts in the Great Hall of the Archaeology Department at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  These are soapstone vessel fragments from the Dorset Palaeoeskimo collections from Red Bay, Labrador.  The thing that I love about them is the little chert bow tie, used to mend across a broken pot fragment.  If you didn't have the soapstone and you found one of these things what would you call it?  It kind of looks like a little scraper.  I know they also show up in the soapstone artifacts found at Cape Ray, Newfoundland, reported by Urve Linnamae, but beyond that I'm not sure how widely they were used. 

Knapped chert bow tie embedded into a soapstone vessel fragment
The adjoining piece is missing, but it would have a small indentation carved in it to accept the other end of the bow tie.

A lot of work went into making one of these pots and the soapstone quarry might be a long way away when they broke.  The Dorset Palaeoeskimos came up with lots of clever methods to repair them.

At other sites, I've seen repairs made using cold hammered copper staples and repair holes and grooves, presumably for tying pots back together with some kind of cordage.  But I think the chert bow ties are probably my favourite solution.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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