Friday, August 23, 2013

Progress and Reindeer Skins

The harpoon heads are
done, but the harpoon
shaft needs some
I'm slowly plugging away at the Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon heads.  One of them needs to fit onto a complete harpoon, so I worked a bit today on a tamarack main shaft for it.  I'm using the L'Anse aux Meadows Groswater Palaeoeskimo harpoon shaft as the model for it.  The harpoon heads and foreshaft are all pretty much done, unless I decide to antique them.  The main shaft has a two part socket, the same as the shaft found in the bog at L'Anse aux Meadows.  The little knobby bit of wood on the left side of the photo will be lashed onto the main shaft with sealskin to create the complete socket.  Its a good design.  The Dorset didn't have drills, so its a simpler way to make a deep hole to fit a harpoon foreshaft and when everything is lashed together the forces exerted on the harpoon through use would wedge all the separate pieces together more tightly.

The dark coloured harpoon shaft is one of the two harpoons that I made based on the L'Anse aux Meadows harpoon when Parks Canada loaned it to me to reproduce.  The lighter one is the new one that I'm working on for the folks in Clyde River.

rangifer tarandus on the deck
At the end of the day, the mailman brought me a big box of reindeer skins.  Some of these are for the Dorset Parka that I'll get back to someday and some are for other craft's producers in the Province to work with.  They're really beautiful hides.  Until I find the time to work on the parka, they're going to continue to be used as lap blankets on the deck.  We've had so many nice nights this summer to curl up under the skins and watch the stars.  They also make pretty nice backdrops for photographing reproductions against, and I'm sure once I start doing demos and workshops again this fall some of them will join my travelling kit.

Middle Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon head reproduction. Chert endblade, antler harpoon head, whalebone foreshaft.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Fascinating work, Tim. I wonder why a drill wasn't part of their tool kit?

    1. I wish I knew. I think the reason that I'm so interested in Dorset archaeology is that they did so many puzzling things - like give up the drill. It doesn't seem like the sort of technology that could be easily lost. If the guy who knows how to make the drill gets lost hunting and never comes home, then someone else in camp could probably figure it out. Giving up drills seems to have been a conscious decision. Bob McGhee has imagined a scenario where the spinning action of a drill could have been linked to the swirling wind and snow of a run of bad weather. Perhaps the Dorset shamans made drills taboo to try to reverse a run of bad luck. There would be no way to prove a scenario like that, but its the kind of real life situation that could explain an otherwise irrational looking decision.

  2. Maybe the loss of the bow led to the end of the drill? Can't wait to see the Dorset parka.

    1. There might be a correlation between the loss of the bow and the loss of the drill.

      I hadn't counted on the skins being so nice when I started planning the parka. I've grown attached to having them around the house. It'll be tough to cut them up.

  3. I'll send you some old carpets, then :)


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