Friday, March 29, 2013

Alberta Wildlife and Homesteads

Short Earred Owl.  Since I've been returning home to the farm as a visitor, I've been paying a bit more attention to the wildlife in the area.  This is my first time noticing short earred owls.

Seeing the elk was a bit of a surprise.  I can't ever remember seeing elk near the farm growing up, and a dozen wandered through on my second last day on the farm.

Fences really don't slow them down.

The Ferguson Place. I can remember going for supper with Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson in this house as a very small child.

I had to stop and take some photos of the frosted trees and buildings on my way out of southern Alberta heading to Edmonton.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

MUNArch Flintknapping, I want more...

Last night's pressure flaking group
We're halfway through the MUNArch flintknapping workshops and I can't say enough good things about the student society for taking the initiative to organize these sessions, order the rock and fill the seats.  They're doing the heavy lifting and all I have to do is show up a couple nights a week and hang out with a cool bunch of folks chipping rocks.  In a workshop, I can handle groups of 15 people at a time and this year MUNArch has rounded up enough people to fill two 15 person sessions each week, with more waiting to get in.

Liz's pressure kit and finished pieces
For today's post, I was originally going to put up pictures of owls and elk from my trip to Alberta a couple weeks ago, because recently it seems like every time I put archaeology or Elfshot related musing up on the blog it turns into actual work for me to do and birds and deer seemed pretty harmless in that regard.  I'll save those photos for another day and take a gamble with a few ideas to expand the MUNArch flintknapping workshops in the future.  Even if nobody else reads this stuff, I know that I refer back to these comments and idea posts the next time I'm asked to lead a workshop, so here goes...

Trial, error, luck and talent - in no particular order.
This year we are running two concurrent 15 person workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for three weeks.  In week 1 we learn hard hammer and soft hammer percussion,  in week 2 we cover pressure flaking, and in week 3 we will be hafting our work from the first two sessions.  I think it works well as a three week series of workshops and one possibility is to switch up the third week activities every year that its offered.  We could easily substitute ground stone ulus for the third week or make the hafting session focused on a particular tool type (ie. everyone makes arrows or scrapers).  Since its an archaeology crowd, we could make week three a little more scientific and play around with usewear by cutting, chopping and scraping different materials with our tools and flakes and looking at them under the microscope to see the different polish and damage that forms.  We could also spend that week looking a little more specifically at reduction strategies for percussion or pressure flaking.   Knowing how to take a flake off is one thing, but being able to plan the sequence of flake removals so that they lead to something that you want to make is another thing.  I'd also like to try the Goat game that Jason Roe played with a group during the Calgary workshop, where everyone sits in a circle and takes turns working on a single biface, one flake at a time, until its finished or it breaks.

We're working primarily obsidian.  Pressure flaking gives you a lot of control over the final form.  I was taking lots of photos of finished pieces last night - I think these are Brittany's, but correct me if I'm wrong.

Bryn's first biface
Another alternative would be to find a way to combine all of these things into a course that runs for more than three weeks.   We could easily add an extra week or two next year to cover more ground.  It could even work as a semester long adult education course (if MUN still had adult education courses) or as the lab component of an archaeology lithic analysis course.  If it was a lithics class that students could enroll in for credits, then we could add a few bags of artifacts at the end for some practical experience in cataloguing and analyzing a small collection of lithics, to give the students a chance to put their understanding of stone tool manufacture to work.  I think that I could handle more than 15 students in the hands-on lab part of such a course, if some of the theory was explained ahead of time in a classroom setting.  Right now I spend a small amount of time explaining what we are doing at the start of the evening and then spend a lot of time going around the room helping people one-on-one, but if there was more time spent up front explaining the process, I think people could be a little more independent and require less one-on-one attention as they work and experiment on their own.

Ian's handaxe
I just wanted to jot down those ideas while they were on my mind.  There's plenty of time to forget them in the next twelve months if I don't make a note of them now.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, March 25, 2013

Should Newfoundland and Labrador have an Archaeological Society?

Archaeology at Signal Hill
There is a lot of archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador, but no Archaeology Society.  There are many organizations dedicated to specific archaeological research projects or subsets of archaeology in the Province, but we don't have a Provincial Society that is designed to link the profession as a whole to the interested public at large.

MUNArch Flintknapping workshop
Last week, I led a pair of flintknapping workshops geared towards undergraduate archaeology students at Memorial University that was organized by MUNArch, the archaeology student society at MUN.  I attended a St. John's premiere of a film chronicling the archaeology and history of Labrador's Southern Inuit people, that was shown as part of a seminar for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and was promoted by a SSHRC funded research project in the Department of Archaeology.  Mike Parker Pearson spoke on Friday about a remarkable decade of research at Stonehenge, which was advertised by the Faculty of Arts and through the MUN Archaeology graduate student's Friday Afternoon Beer Session (FABS talks).  A friend made a trip to Placentia on Saturday to talk about her PhD research to the local historical society.

I don't think we need an archaeological society because there is a lack of archaeology being done in Newfoundland and Labrador, In fact, I think its the opposite.  There is so much going on right now that its difficult to keep track of it all, and unless you happen to be on the inside of multiple specific organizations I think it would be impossible to keep track of everything that's going on.  I try to pay attention to what is going on in archaeology in the Province, but last week I needed to 1) be a member of MUNArch, 2) be on the mailing list for former and current archaeology graduate students, 3) be friends with an archaeology research project on Facebook, and 4) attend an evening reception to find out about all of those different archaeology events which were of interest to me.  They were all open to the public and all advertised to the people most interested in attending, but I think there may be room to draw together all of those sorts of separate happenings and all of the interested members of the public and archaeological community into one Archaeological Society for the Province.

At the moment, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are the only Provinces in Canada that do not have Archaeological Societies.  These societies are generally organized and led by professional archaeologists, either from academia, the government, the consulting sector or students and the membership is made up of avocational archaeologists or other members of the public who are interested in the archaeological past.  The goals vary from province to province, but generally the function of the society is to promote an understanding of the past among the general public and encourage an ethical and legal interaction with archaeological sites and artifacts by those who are passionate about archaeology, but may not have made a career out of it.

The shovel was a loaner, but I think I still have that trowel.
I have a few specific examples from my own life that illustrate how a strong, active archaeological society can benefit both interested members of the public and professionals.  I joined the Archaeological Society of Alberta (ASA) as a high school student, because it was the only avenue available to me at that age to interact directly with the profession in my home province.  I attended ASA talks and conferences in Lethbridge, Calgary and Red Deer and found projects to volunteer on that gave me my first field experience.  That opportunity isn't available to interested High School students in Newfoundland and Labrador.  In 1994, as I went through the undergraduate program at the University of Calgary, the Archaeological Society of Alberta awarded me a $500 student award and I got my name on a plaque in the archaeology department office, which was a huge boost to a young student.  Now that I've settled into making some sort of living as an archaeologist, my relationship has evolved with the ASA and for the past four years, they've been flying me from St. John's to Alberta to help teach flintknapping workshops and give demonstrations in centres across the Province, which has been a tremendous benefit to me personally and professionally.

 I can't really think of a reason why we shouldn't have an organization in Newfoundland and Labrador that has similar goals and offers similar opportunities to our own public, students, and professional members.  This province did have avocational societies during the 1980s dedicated to land-based and underwater archaeology, but they have become defunct (a new underwater organization has formed within the past year).  Times have changed and I think there are probably more archaeologists doing more archaeology in the Province now than at any time in the past.

What do you think?  Is it necessary?  Would it be beneficial? Are you interested in being involved? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail:

To see what we are missing, here are links to Archaeological Societies in other provinces across Canada:

Photo Credits:
1,2: Tim Rast
3: Screen grab from the Manitoba Archaeological Society website
4: Doris Rast
5: Screen grab from Archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador 1985

Friday, March 22, 2013

Red Ochre Acts As A Hardener in Spruce Resin Pitch

The reddish brown glue under the
sinew, where the stone meets the
wood, is red ochre and spruce pitch
While I was in Alberta for the Archaeological Society of Alberta flintknapping workshops in Calgary and Edmonton, I experimented with spruce resin and red ochre glue.  I've used spruce resin and charcoal as pitch in the past, but I wanted to try mixing it with ochre because that seems to have been the glue of choice on the emaculately preserved darts and arrows that have been found in the Yukon ice patches.  My previous experiments with red ochre pitch made use of commercially prepared pine pitch, not spruce resin that I collected myself.

Sap oozes out of spruce
trees  wherever they've
been cut or damaged
I collected the spruce resin from a walking trail between St. John's and Cape Spear.  Spruce trees will bleed sap if they are wounded.  This can happen naturally from storms tearing off branches or even lightening strikes.  Groomed hiking trails or parks are good places to look for spruce resin, because the trunks will ooze sap wherever a branch has been cut off.  Collecting the resin while its cold out makes the work a little less sticky.  I use a sharp knife to cut the bigger globs off the tree and scrape the thinner layers of sap into a plastic bag.  I'm not exactly sure, but I think that the biggest clumps of resin were on the cuts that were a year or two old.

If you collect it on a cold day, its not very sticky and you can use a sharp knife to chip the gobs of resin into a bag.

Mixing the ochre.  The
 bits of bark that we
picked out of the melted
resin dot the paper beside
 the hot plate.
There is a lot of bark and lichen attached to the resin, but I don't worry about sorting that out until I melt the sap.  In the woods, you can melt the resin on a flat rock over a fire.  Be careful, its flammable.  In fact, you can use the spruce resin to help get a fire going while camping.  In the workshops, we melted the resin in a small frying pan on a hotplate.  You definitely want to use a dedicated frying pan, because it will be nearly impossible to clean it up afterwards.  The same is true for the hotplate - you can melt this stuff on your stove at home, but be prepared for some intense cleaning afterwards.

You don't want to boil the resin, so keep a careful eye on the pan.  Boiling the sap for too long will change it and it will become crystalized, rather than consistent and gooey.  While the resin was soft and runny, we picked out the bigger bits of bark and debris that were stuck in it.  Unlike a lot of the stuff that I boil, spruce resin smells great.  It smells like Christmas.

We ground the ochre into a fine powder with a mortar and pestle.

spooning in the red ochre
We ground the red ochre up with a mortar and pestle to make a fine powder.  When it was ground and the resin was melted and picked clean of debris, we slowly added the ochre to the glue and stirred it in.  We didn't measure exactly how much ochre, but I estimate that the ochre:resin ratio was somewhere between 1:2 and 1:1.  I don't think you'd want to mix in more ochre than resin, but that's just me.  Equal parts resin and ochre, or a little more resin than ochre seemed to work well.

Adding sinew and hide glue
over the pitch.
The ochre acts as a hardener in the glue.  Spruce resin at room temperature is soft and gooey.  Its very sticky, but it will stay pliable.  By adding charcoal, or in this case red ochre, the resin will be pliable at high temperatures but solidifies quickly as it cools.  The spruce resin and red ochre glue sets extremely quickly.  You have less than a minute to work with it before it sets and becomes solid.  Most of that time the glue is burning hot to the touch, but as soon as it becomes bearable to handle you can shape it and smooth it like putty with your fingers.  Again, its very hot and will stick to your fingers, so be careful.

Ice Patch artifact,
 the pink stain is
ochre and spruce
glue outlining the
shaft that it was
once hafted to.
Its best to plan your job carefully, because you have very little time to work with the glue before it sets.  I usually dab the glue into the wood socket and then jam the point into place so that the glue squishes out around the edges.  I pinch and tap down the excess pitch that oozes out to smooth the transition between the wood shaft and the stone point, to create a more aerodynamic shape that would penetrate the target more easily.  There are a couple good examples from the Yukon ice patches where you can see exactly this pattern; the ghostly silhouette of the wood shaft is visible and the glue was spread around the edges of the wood, over the surface of the stone point.

The pitch alone will do a pretty good job of securing the point in place, but its still a good idea to do a sinew wrap over the join and down the wood shaft.  The sinew will protect the pitch from chipping and will help prevent splitting in the wood shaft.  The sinew wrap also contributes to smoothing out the transition between the stone and the wood, which again, improves the aerodynamics of the projectile and helps the point penetrate deeper into the target.

Willow shaft, chert projectile point, red ochre and spruce pitch, sinew and hide glue hafting.  This is the foreshaft that I made in the workshops, using a little  Hoko Knife to work the wood 

Hafted point from
Calgary workshop.
We didn't experiment with the strength of the glue.  I recall from hearing Andrew Zipkin talk about his experiments with adding ochre to plant resin that in the best case scenario the ochre glue was just as strong as the ochre-free plant resin.  In most experiments it actually weakened the glue.  Which makes me think that ochre wasn't used to make a tighter bond, but it does change the properties of the pitch by acting as a hardener.  Spruce resin on its own is gooey and soft at room temperature, but once a bit of ochre is mixed in it changes.  For a few seconds, while it is cooling, it can be shaped like putty and it rapidly solidifies into a hard, water resistant glue that creates a very strong bond between stone and wood.

Photo Credits:
1-7, 9, 10: Tim Rast
8: Screen capture from The Frozen Past: The Yukon Ice Patches.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Plans and Profiles: Kieran Westley Researching Submerged Landscapes North of Ireland

Kieran Westley with a rather nice flint
blade found about 2m underwater
(photo taken by Wes Forysthe)
Kieran Westley is an archaeologist with the Environmental Sciences Research Institute at the University of Ulster who specializes in Maritime Archaeology, especially reconstructing and surveying submerged landscapes.  He completed a Post-Doc at Memorial University following the completion of his PhD at the University of Southampton.  No matter where you are in the world, the sea level has changed over time.  This change happens as the earth's crust moves up or down and water is added or removed to the world's oceans through melting or freezing of water in polar ice caps or continental ice sheets which causes coastlines to erode or be built up.  In Ireland, the earliest coastal sites have been inundated by rising relative sea level.  These are the sites that Kieran is looking for...

Plans and Profiles #14. Kieran Westley, Submerged Coastlines and Archaeological Sites north of Ireland

1) Tell me a little bit about your project.

Rough palaeo-geographic reconstruction showing the 
north of Ireland assuming a sea-level fall of -30m 
which could have taken place as early as 13,500 cal BP. 
The project involves attempting to identify, map, reconstruct and sample submerged archaeological landscapes in the north of Ireland. We're looking at submerged landscapes because sea-levels around Ireland were lower during its earliest known colonization - the early Mesolithic (dated to around 10-9500 cal BP). We know that these early colonists needed at least some sort of maritime adaptation to get to Ireland because the available sea-level evidence suggests that it was separated from mainland Britain at this time despite the lowered sea-level. In addition, worked flints have also been found on at least one outlying island which were also not connected to Ireland and hence would have needed watercraft to get there. However, probably due to sea-level rise, we have very little evidence of these coastal/maritime adaptations onshore, and therefore have to look for it offshore. An additional reason for researching these submerged landscapes relates to cultural resource management. We're seeing increasing development of the continental shelf; for example, cables, pipelines, offshore wind turbines etc. All of these activities have the potential to damage or destroy the undersea archaeological record. Therefore, in order to manage and protect these archaeologically important submerged landscapes, we need much more information on where they are located and preserved. In other parts of NW Europe, submerged landscapes are much better studied, for example in the Baltic and the North Sea; however, Ireland really remains a blank slate as far as this type of research goes.

Intertidal peat layer exposed on the beach at Portrush West Bay
The actual methodology involves two strands. Firstly, large-scale mapping and reconstruction of submerged landscapes using marine geophysical data. These include high resolution multibeam sonar systems which map seabed topography and substrate, and sub-bottom profiling systems which give acoustic cross-sections through the seabed allowing us to map buried layers. Secondly, a program of diver survey to ground-truth potential submerged landscape features, and identify archaeological remains.

So far, we’ve used the data to create rough approximations of palaeo-geography, and identify high potential areas where the palaeo-landscape has been preserved. These have formed the basis of our program of diver survey. Three main sites with palaeo-landscape evidence have been investigated so far. Firstly, a probable wave-cut rocky shoreline west of Ballycastle in c. 12 to 15m water depth. While features like this provide a nice indication that sea-levels were lower, they unfortunately can’t be dated directly. Secondly, a buried and submerged peat layer in the West Bay Portrush, in at least 3m water depth which extends off a thick layer of intertidal peat which is occasionally exposed when storms strip away the beach sand. We’ve traced this peat offshore with sub-bottom profile data and sampled it to get a date of c. 8900-9200 cal BP. Finally, another submerged peat (which has been dated 8700-9400 cal BP) and a small concentration of worked flints (which include distinctive early Irish Mesolithic forms) in c. 2-3m water depth are also under investigation. These come from two small adjacent bays (the flints in one and the peat in another) in Eleven Ballyboes townland, County Donegal. The bay with the flints has a collection of around 1500 water-rolled intertidal lithics amassed by a local collector, but the underwater finds we’ve made in the last year include much fresher examples and could therefore represent the remnants of an in situ source deposits More work confirming this and also investigating the submerged peat for palaeo-environmental and archaeological evidence will hopefully happen this coming summer.

Possible wave cut rocky shoreline at -13 to -15m depth west of Ballycastle (bathymetric data collected by the JIBS project, terrestrial aerial photo and DEM courtesy of LPS)

2) How did you become interested in this particular problem?

I've been interested in submerged landscapes since my undergrad days. What first piqued my interest was the colonization of the Americas involving the now submerged Beringian landbridge and the possible coastal route down the western coast of the US and Canada. Consequently, I went to Southampton University to do a masters and then PhD focusing on maritime archaeology and submerged landscapes. Most of my research since has therefore had some sort of a submerged landscapes component. The reason for looking at the north of Ireland is a little more pragmatic. Firstly, I got a job there (at the Centre for Maritime Archaeology, University of Ulster) and secondly, a very large quantity of seabed mapping data for the Irish coast was made available, giving archaeologists a chance to actually visualize the seabed in unprecedented detail.

3) Has your project changed since you originally began working on it? How?

Some of the intertidal lithics collected from Eleven Ballyboes
There have definitely been changes. When we started, it was intended that we would follow a nice 7 stage methodology devised by Trevor Bell at the MUN Geography Department. This essentially aimed to collect data on the seabed and sub-seabed, use this to create a detailed palaeo-landscape reconstruction and then apply predictive modelling of archaeological site locations to target ground-truth surveys. However, once we got going, we found that while the individual stages were great, sticking to a rigid structure was actually quite difficult, since some stages relied on data which was not available at the time, while we could make a head start on other stages where data was available. A good example of this is our work on the Eleven Ballyboes site – we targeted the site because it had lithics which appeared to be washing ashore and were therefore able to skip the predictive modelling stage.

This type of research is also massively interdisciplinary and really dependent on help from colleagues (most notably Ruth Plets, Rory Quinn and Peter Woodman, but also with help from individuals too numerous to mention). Dive surveys also require a team (thanks to Rory McNeary, Wes Forsythe, Colin Breen and the NERC Facility for Scientific Diving) and often boat support. It’s often the nature of research projects that people move on, get involved with other research projects or take on new jobs. For example, I personally had to put aspects of it on hold while I undertook research on the impact of coastal erosion on behalf of the Northern Ireland government heritage agency. Between this and my colleagues’ other commitments, the project has moved from a full time exercise to something a little more ad hoc, which is a shame, but is sometimes the reality of research.

4) If you had a time machine and could present your research to the people who lived at your site(s) – what would you hope their response would be?

Intertidal test pitting at Eleven Ballyboes  (or how many 
archaeologists does it take to dig a 1 x1…) 
(photo taken by Rory McNeary)
I’d hope that they’d be interested in how much the landscape was changing because of sea-level rise. It’d be really interesting to know the extent to which they actually perceived the change in sea-level and whether they thought it was a good or bad thing. Also, I would hope that they would then tell me where they’ve left all their coolest stuff.

5) Has your research taught you anything about yourself? What? 

That persistence pays off, and that you never know as much as you think - there’s always something more to learn.

Diver sampling the Portrush peat layer (buried under 
the sand) with a small hand core
6) I can’t imagine doing this research without...

Dive gear obviously and lots of lovely geophysical data.

7) How do you unwind when you need to get away from your research?

Beer, televised sport and Call of Duty on the Nintendo Wii (though not necessarily in that order).

8) Do you have any advice for students just starting out in Archaeology?

Archaeology is a tough field to stay in – take every opportunity you get to build up different skills and experience. You never know which might come in handy.

Sample of fresh lithics from underwater
versus water-rolled ones from the
intertidal beach. The fresh ones tend
to be grey or blue-grey, while the
rolled ones are patinated yellow, red,
orange or light grey.
9) What books or websites would you recommend if people want to learn more about your area of interest in general? Or your project in particular?

Our project has its own (infrequently updated) blog: Submergedlandscapes. This has lots more information on the project and the sites I mentioned earlier. More widely, SPLASH-COS (Submerged Prehistoric Landscapes and Archaeology of the Continental Shelf) is a Europe-wide networking project. There’s a webpage ( ) and a Facebook Page . These have links to other projects including ongoing research and meetings. For the books – go for the recent volume Submerged Prehistory by Jonathan Benjamin et al. (2011). This is an edited volume with research papers from across the world. It’s a really nice introduction which showcases the breadth of current research in the field.


Do you have research that you'd like to share with other arcaheologists or do you know a student or colleague whose work should be highlighted?  Send me an e-mail:

Photo Credits: 
Kieran Westley, unless otherwise noted in the captions.
Plans and Profiles Banner, Tim Rast based on a linocut by Lori White

Monday, March 18, 2013

Knapping with the Archaeological Society of Alberta in Edmonton

Hafting workshop
On Saturday, I had the good fortune of leading a flintknapping workshop in Edmonton sponsored by the Archaeological Society of Alberta.  This was the second of two workshops organized by the Strathcona Centre of the ASA, with Sean Lynch teaching a beginning knapping workshop the weekend before.  Each workshop had a dozen or so people in attendance.  This was my first time in Edmonton since I was a child and I loved the city and had a great time meeting and working with everyone.

A productive bunch.  Sean Lynch is billeting in the middle in the light blue shirt.

"Hoko Knife" from the workshop
We focused on hafting techniques in the workshop, with most participants leaving with multiple hafted flakes and tools.  We started with the simple, clever, and effective "Hoko Knife" based on an artifact recovered from a well preserved site along the Hoko River in Washington.  Throughout the day, the students used their Hoko flake knife to whittle and carve other hafts and handles for their knapping projects.  We worked with different natural glues and binding materials and, of course, there was plenty of knapping throughout the day as well.

Peter grinding ochre for the the spruce glue on his arrow.

Kurtis, standing, organizing
There is some good volunteer energy behind the Strathcona Centre right now.  I don't know everyone working to build the Society's presence in Edmonton, but Kurtis Blaikie-Birkigt deserves a lot of credit for organizing these workshops with Sean and I.  The scope and scale of the session reminded me a lot of the first "Advanced Workshop" that I was invited to lead at Calgary four years ago, and I've seen a lot of growth there in the time that I've been involved with those workshops.  I'd love to see similar growth in Edmonton over the years.  For more information on the Strathcona Centre, visit the Archaeological Society of Alberta's website.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dorset Parka Options

This little Dorset carving
shows a man wearing a
fairly big parka which
ends above his knees.
As I'm going through the Dorset Palaeoeskimo carvings that I have access to in person, or through photographs, I'm seeing three styles of parka showing up; 1) a short outer parka which ends at the waist, 2) an inner parka which hangs slightly lower on the hips, and 3) a long outer parka which ends at the lower thigh or knee level.  The carvings are not so detailed that you can determine the type of skin used in their construction or how the fur was treated (ie. hair left on, hair removed, hair facing in, hair facing out, etc) so I'll use ethnographic analogy with Inuit clothing to make some guesses about that along the way.

Inner and outer parkas are interpretations of the Dorset carvings that people have made throughout the years based on Inuit clothing.  An inner parka is a warm, insulating layer worn next to the body with the fur or hair side facing in. A warm layer of air is trapped in the hair of the parka, next to the wearer.  An outer parka is worn over this insulating layer, with the hair facing out.  Often the outer parka will completely cover the inner parka, however, some of the Dorset carvings appear to give us glimpses of their inner parkas.  The most clear is in the wooden figure on the left.  You can see two lines at the man's waist where a short outer parka hangs to the waist and a slightly longer inner parka extends to the hips.  You can also see the cut of his trousers and his high boots, but that's another project.

This tiny carving from Komaktorvik Fiord, Labrador is only 2.1 cm tall, but it does have a few  clothing hints.  There is a slight pinching at the waist which is emphasized by two horizontal two lines.  For this blog post, I'll use it as another example of a inner and outer parka, like the wooden figure on the left, but I'm reserving the option to interpret it as a belt at a later date.

What's happening under his chin, inside his big collar?
Muffler? Scarf? Turtleneck inner parka?
One of the soapstone figures from Labrador may also give us a glimpse of an inner parka, this time at the neck.  Inside the large three-sided collar of the figure, there seems to be another layer, under the person's chin that looks kind of like a turtleneck sweater.  Hides and fur don't stretch, and since all of these parkas are designed to be pulled over your head, perhaps a turtleneck isn't the best analogy, but it does seem that there is some sort of extra collar covering the neck inside the collar of the outer parka.

Over time, I'd like to make versions of all three of these parkas, but for now, I want to start with the largest.  An inner parka on its own isn't really complete.  The same is true of the short outer parka - unless you make an accompanying inner parka its not really going to look finished.  However, the big heavy, knee length coat covers everything (except for that turtleneck looking thing at the throat), so that's where I want to start.  It also figures into one of my favourite descriptions of the Tunit.  The following passage is a description of the Tunit (Tornit) recorded on Baffin Island by Franz Boas in the 1880s, decades before archaeologists first described the Dorset culture.
The Tornit lived on walrus, seals, and deer, just as the Eskimo do nowadays, but their methods of hunting were different. The principal part of their winter dress was a long and wide coat of deerskins, similar to the jumper of the Eskimo, but reaching down to the knees and trimmed with leather straps. When sealing in winter they wore this garment, the lower edge of which was fastened on the snow by means of pegs. Under the jacket they carried a small lamp, called tumiujang [TU-ME-U-JANG](literally, resembling a footprint) or quming [COO-M’NG] over which they melted snow in a small pot. Some Eskimo say that they opened the seals as soon as they were caught and cooked some meat over these lamps. When the seal blew in the hole they whispered, “Kapatipara” [KA-PA-TI-PA-RA] (I shall stab it) and, when they had hit it “Igdluiliq.” [IG-D-LU-EE-LICK] Frequently they forgot about the lamp and in throwing the harpoon upset it and burned their skin. (Franz Boas, The Central Eskimo 1888)

I think you can see his knees, shins and toes
pressing against the front of his parka.
Nearly 100 years later, archaeologists excavating on Shuldham Island in Northern Labrador found a tiny soapstone carving at a Dorset site that seems to illustrate this story.  It depicts a human figure with the distinctive Dorset collar, but instead of wearing a waist length coat, the little man seems to be squatting down with his knees tucked inside of a large parka.  Caribou skin was a preferred winter clothing option amongst many Inuit groups because of the superior warmth that comes from the hollow, insulated hair.  Caribou are available in the area around Shuldham Island and since the story recorded by Boas specifically references large caribou skin coats, that is what I will use for this reproduction of a long Dorset Palaeoeskimo outer parka.

Part Parka, Part Tent?
I'm also very curious about the mechanics of building a coat so large that you can pin it to the ground, tuck your legs inside and build a fire in a lamp in it.  When you actually start to think about how much space your butt and knees take up when you squat down, this coat is going to need a lot of volume.  As one friend pointed out 'you're basically making a ball gown'.  I also think of it as a wearable tent.  I think it will be fun to test this story.  I mean, if you are going to pin your coat to the ground and have a lit lamp inside of it, wear does the smoke go?  Maybe the Dorset collars are part hood and part smoke flaps.

Photo Credits:
1,3-6: Tim Rast.  All of these photos are of artifacts on display at The Rooms in St. John's.
2: Plate 2 from Ancient People of the Arctic, Robert McGhee 1996.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Flintknapping with the Archaeological Society of Alberta in Calgary

Alberta archaeology, hands-on
This past weekend, the Archaeological Society of Alberta sponsored its annual flintknapping weekend in Calgary. The Calgary Centre organized it and the event was held in one of the large classrooms in the Archaeology Department at the University of Calgary on Saturday and Sunday. This year was the best attended and most diverse flintknapping weekend that I’ve seen in the four years that I’ve been invited to help lead the workshops with Jason Roe.

Early on Saturday - the tarp didn't stay this clean for long.

A toolkit taking a break
On Saturday, we packed the room with 32 participants who were there to learn the basics of stone tool making. Jason and I walked the group through the basics of pressure flaking, hard hammer and soft hammer percussion. There is a core group of 8 or 10 diehard knappers who come out every year and they make a tremendous contribution to helping out the newcomers by answering questions, providing advice, donating materials, rounding up participants and demonstrating different flintknapping techniques, tools, and strategies. I always try to take advantage of their knowledge and come out of the workshop with new ideas and inspiration for my own work. But on the first day, it’s all about the new knappers. It’s always fun to see someone strike off those first few flakes in their knapping career as the bug begins to take hold.

Rick demonstrating correct biface reduction strategy on Saturday afternoon

Jason setting up the barrel hoop for Allan.
On Sunday, we continued with a casual ‘Knap-In’ day where we covered more advanced topics and gave the students an opportunity to try their hands at number of projects using the skills that they had learned the day before. This session used to be called the “Advanced Workshop”, but we found that name to be a little misleading, since you don’t have to be a very experienced knapper to get a lot out of this day. This year we called it a Knap-In, in order to encourage more people to take part and it worked. It’s an opportunity for everyone to just have fun, work on problems, or just hang out and chat with other folks interested in stone tools and archaeology in the Province.

Obsidian point, red ochre and spruce resin pitch with sinew and hide glue binding on a hand carved willow shaft.

Tyler mixing the ochre and
spruce gum on the hot plate
 to haft his point shown above..
There were about 20 of us on Sunday and we had a number of activities and materials for students to try, including pounding points out of copper pipes and iron barrel hoops, interactive demonstrations in pressure flaking reduction strategies, hafting, glues, arrow making, ochre grinding, and more. Jason led a group of students in a game of “Goat” where everyone sat in a small circle and took turns talking strategy and knocking flakes off of a core one-by-one until someone broke it an became the “Goat”. It looked like a lot of fun and I think on whole this was probably one of the most instructive knapping weekends that the Archaeological Society of Alberta has ever put on.

The room was hopping on Sunday.  Different stations and activities evolved around the tarp throughout the day.  

Dawn's First Arrow.  Awesome.
I want to pass along a huge thanks to the ASA and especially the volunteers in the Calgary Centre for organizing the event and allowing me to participate.  In a couple of days, I’m off to Edmonton to do a workshop on Saturday at the University of Alberta for the Archaeological Society’s Strathcona Centre. It should be a lot of fun and everyone is going to leave with their own hafted tools.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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