Friday, April 15, 2011

Maritime Archaic Spear and Harpoon Head

Quartzite Spear
This red ochre stained spear and harpoon head are based on artifacts from Port au Choix, Newfoundland and Labrador.  Along with the fish spear I mentioned in an earlier post, they round out the Maritime Archaic Indian reproductions heading to the Port au Choix National Historic Site.  They are all based on artifacts from the 4400-3300BP Maritime Archaic cemetery.

The reference artifact
Maritime Archaic Quartzite Spear: For all the richness of the burials at Port au Choix, there are hardly any knapped stone artifacts.  The majority of stone tools represented in the site are ground stone artifacts like lances, bayonets, axes, adzes, and gouges.  The spear point (left) that this reproduction is based on was one of only two chipped stone spear points found in the burials.  Its stemmed base is consistent with the style of points found at other Maritime Archaic sites dating to the same time period.  Its made on a relatively tough blue-grey quartzite. Its a rough durable looking point so I gave the reproduction a relatively robust pine shaft to match.  I used rawhide for the lashing and covered the whole thing in red ochre.
Maritime Archaic Indian Spear Reproduction, 188.5cm long, quartzite spear point, rawhide and hide glue binding, pine shaft, red ochre stain

Maritime Archaic Toggling Harpoon Head: This red ochre stained toggling harpoon head is interesting because of how different it is from later harpoon heads belonging to other cultures in the province.  All of the Maritime Archaic harpoon heads were self-bladed.  Self-bladed harpoon heads were used by other cultures, but they were used alongside harpoon heads fitted with composite stone or metal endblades.  To date, I'm not aware of any Maritime Archaic endbades or harpoon heads designed to accept endblades.

Reference Artifacts in The Rooms
The harpoon heads made by the Palaeoeskimo, Thule, Inuit and Beothuk all have some degree of symmetry to them, either left/right symmetry or dorsal/ventral symmetry.  If you find part of one of their harpoon heads, you can often envision the missing pieces as mirror images of the parts that were preserved.  There might be asymmetry in the placement of spurs, barbs, or the open socket, but that asymmetry is usually confined to a single plane.  It seems like some degree of asymmetry was allowed or expected in harpoon head designs, as long as a certain degree of left/right or dorsal/ventral symmetry was maintained.  But the Maritime Archaic toggling harpoon heads, like this one, don't have any of the symmetry seen in later points.  The open socket and slightly D-shaped cross-section do away with any dorsal/ventral symmetry that might have existed in the blank.  Likewise, the off-centre line hole and single basal spur make them asymmetrical along the left/right axis.

Maritime Archaic Toggling Harpoon  Head
If there is one thing that makes the Maritime Archaic harpoon heads diagnostic it is the off-centre line hole.  Everyone else in Newfoundland and Labrador placed their line holes in the centre of the harpoon head.   On their toggling harpoon heads, the Maritime Archaic Indians placed the line hole on the short edge, opposite the single basal spur.  This would probably help with the toggling action, but it also seems to give the line hole one relatively weak edge.  The line holes on their barbed harpoon heads are also placed off centre along one edge.  The other features of the harpoon head -- the single basal spur, open socket, and self-bladed tip -- all show up in harpoon heads made by other cultures, but if you find something that looks like a harpoon head in this Province with an off-centre line hole you could probably make the argument that its Maritime Archaic.

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

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