Friday, February 11, 2011

Skin Scraper with a Copper Bit

 Pistol grip scraper
This is kind of a cool reproduction scraper made on a split caribou antler.  At first glance, this might look like a  tool made on a random scrap of antler, but the handle was carefully selected to give a long straight section of beam ending in a forked notch.  There are a dozen or more of these scrapers with pistol grip handles in the Canadian Museum of Civilization's online artifact catalog, mainly from the Central Arctic.  The forked design was important to the function and when a second tine wasn't naturally available, or if it broke off, then it was added.  Here are links to two repaired scrapers where the small tines were added as a peg or with rivets.

You can see the specific artifact that this reproduction is based on in the CMC artifact catalog here:

Skin scraper: IV-D-439

The scraper from the end of the tine to the tip of the blade is roughly the width of my thumb and about 30 cm long.
These handles grow on Caribou
I've noticed occasional discrepancies in the CMC catalog between the measurements listed in the database and the photo reference.  In this case, the artifact in the link above is listed as being 37.5cm long in the text, but in the photo it looks to be slightly longer than the 20cm scale included in the photo.  Even with a bit of distortion from the perspective of the photo, the artifact doesn't look close to being twice as long as the photo scale.  The scraper I made is 30cm long, which I think is a reasonable guess of the actual artifact size.

Copper bit held in place with copper rivets

Most of the tine in the foreground was rebuilt
The specific scraper that I was asked to reproduce was made on an antler tine that was carefully selected to create just the right fork in the handle with very little modification.  I wasn't so lucky, I found an antler in my stockpile that had a long straight beam and small prong that matched the artifact, but the larger half of the fork was a lot bigger.  That meant I had to grind it down and refinish it.  Caribou antler is quite spongy on the inside and I couldn't leave the interior spongy antler exposed, because it changed the whole look of the piece.  I built a new antler surface in the part of the handle that I modified using a combination of glue, antler dust, sawdust, rock dust, paint, charcoal, and beeswax.  I've set it aside now.  I think its a reasonable reconstruction at the moment, although I might come back to it and fiddle around with it a bit more.  Its not an invisible repair, but its not distracting either.  If you didn't know it was there, I don't think it would catch your eye.

Square base, with flaring ears
The scraper bit is made from cold hammered copper, held in place with two copper rivets.  The bit edge is convex and flares slightly, creating slight ears on either side.  Its not perfectly flat and the working edge, especially at the ears, rolls up slightly.  The general shape of the scraper reminds me a little of the square based, earred chipped stone end scrapers that the Groswater Palaeoeskimo made.  It makes me wonder if maybe they would have been hafted in a handle like this.

Nain artifact, with comparable hafting area
This particular scraper is flat in the hafting area, where the rivets hold it in place, but some, like the one in this link, are are bent around 3 sides of the antler handle and secured that way.  This hafting method reminds reminds me of one of the objects that Amelia Fay found at her site on Black Island, near Nain, Labrador.  I don't know if Amelia's artifact is a scraper handle  (some ladles or scoop handles were attached the same way) but whatever it was riveted to might have fit on in the same way.
By the way, Amelia was interviewed on CBC radio yesterday about her work and you can listen to the podcast here: Black Island archeological dig leaves researchers puzzled... Thanks for the Elfshot shout out!

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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