Monday, April 16, 2012

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Side-scraper

Chert, Wood, Sinew, Hide Glue
This is a reproduction of a Groswater Palaeoeskimo side-scraper hafted in a wood handle with sinew lashing and hide glue.  This reproduction is for the teaching kit that will be used in Red Bay and western Newfoundland.  The stone tool is based on artifacts found in Groswater sites throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.  Side-scrapers show up in Palaeoeskimo sites across the arctic and subarctic for thousands of years.  Their concave working edge appears well suited for working organic surfaces like wood, antler, or ivory.

These tools were ground flat
The Groswater version of this tool was usually made on a flat, rectangular blank that contracts slightly at the distal end.  Identical blanks were used for burin-like tools.  A burin-like tool might be converted into a side-scraper at almost any time during its life.  It would be more difficult to go the other way and transform a side-scraper into a burin-like tool, but anything is possible.

We found a good reduction sequence in the Groswater layer at the Peat Garden  site at Bird Cove, Newfoundland.  The large knapped blank on the left could have been turned into a side-scraper or a burin-like tool.  Looking at this photo makes me curious about why the patches of grinding weathered so differently on the two types of tools.  What makes the BLT grinding turn white like that?  The deposition was identical -- was it how they were used?

Good for removing bark
Groswater side-scrapers were often ground flat on both faces and they have a wide, stable base with side-notches or expanding stems for hafting.  They seem designed to fit into a slotted handle and to be tied in place with some sort of narrow lashing - most likely sinew.  The working edge of the side-scraper becomes more concave as it is used and resharpened.  The beak that forms through resharpening seems like it could function as an engraving edge like a burin-like tool, although I'm not aware of how frequently usewear shows up on these tips.

Groswater Side-scraper Reprorduction
I made a short flat wood handle for this side-scraper.  There are beautiful ergonomic side-scraper handles found in the slightly earlier Saqqaq site at Qeqertasassuk, Greenland, but those side-scrapers were stemmed for hafting.  I used those handles as a reference for the general size of the handle, but used wood handles from Newfoundland and Labador Palaeoeskimo sites to guide the shape.  I made a simple handle with a rectangular cross-section that would fit into a toolkit alongside the Groswater harpoon shaft found at L'Anse aux Meadows.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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