|Pyrite fire making set|
|Pea-sized pyrite in a chert biface|
Why Does Pyrite Make A Spark? When you strike a pyrite nodule with a sharp piece of chert, iron, or another pyrite nodule, tiny flecks of the pyrite are struck off and they instantly react with oxygen in the air, creating a hot spark. You'll smell the sulphur burning. If you direct these sparks into a flammable tinder you can ignite a glowing ember, which can be fanned into a flame to ignite tinder and build a fire. In these photos I've used a bit of dryer lint. My pyrite nodules work fine for lighting fires, but they are several times larger than the pyrite fire starters that I've seen from archaeological sites.
|Hold the pyrite with your fingers out of the way|
|Strike the pyrite with a sweeping, brushing motion (can you see the glowing sparks?)|
|You'll need a very flammable tinder to catch the spark, like this piece of dryer lint.|
The pyrite fire starters that I'm familiar with from archaeological sites in the Province are about the size and shape of small, rust-coloured golf balls. As they are used, the sharp edges and irregularities are worn off and they become more spherical or egg shaped. They usually aren't too spectacular to look at, but they tend to get noticed in digs because of their weight. Even under the dirt, you know that you are holding a chunk of metal and not an ordinary rock.
|Pyrite fire starters (#5) illustrated in Howley 1915. Image modified from the online version of the book.|
1-6, 8: Tim Rast
7: Modified from: http://www.mun.ca/rels/native/beothuk/beo2gifs/texts/plateXXXIV.html
Ernest William Hawkes, 1916. The Labrador Eskimo
James Patrick Howley, 1915. The Beothucks, or Red Indians, the Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland: The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland