Monday, September 30, 2013

...flattened away towards either end...

Drawing the Beothuk bow
Both reproduction Beothuk bows can be fully drawn now up to 30 or 32 inches.  I haven't checked the draw weight lately, but I can tell that its going up as they continue to dry.  One of the bows seems more or less stable.  If I set it down for a couple days it looks about the same the next time I pick it up.  The other one has a tendency to twist as it dries and I've been trying to stay on it with heat bending to keep up with the warping.  The one that wants to twist is noticeable stronger than the more stable one, perhaps both properties are related to the fact that it was made on the smaller of the two saplings.  Either way, I suspect that it will be the one that I keep for myself and send the more stable one to the client for their display.

Strung with rawhide
The rain finally stopped over the weekend and the rawhide bowstrings dried.  I added them to the bows today, but haven't trimmed them to length yet.  They're a nice addition, both aesthetically and functionally, they make a better, tighter bow.  The next time that I work on the bows, I'll probably start burnishing the wood with antler and then add the ochre stain.  I still plan to putter away at them over the next few weeks, occasionally stringing and drawing them.  I don't want to send one to the client until I'm sure that it will be stable.

The more I work on them, the more they start to look like each other.  The shape is partly due to the nature of the wood, the design elements that are unique to Beothuk bows, and my own input.

Drawing the second bow
These photos are my first time seeing the bows drawn outside of the tillering board.  There might be some small adjustments to make, but they aren't too bad looking.  When I was tillering, I kept in mind George Wells observation of Beothuk bows:

Beothuk bow fragments
from Howley 1914
They were thick in the central part but flattened away towards either end, where the spring chiefly lay. George Wells 1886

Based on this statement and the photo of the child's bow, I knew that I wanted to concentrate most of the flex in the limbs.  When the bow was drawn, I wanted the centre to have little or no flex to it, while the limbs should noticeable bend.  In the photo of Beothuk bow pieces to the left (taken from Howley 1914) the child's bow labelled D and E show the slight bend in the middle of the limbs that I was trying to match in the reproductions. Imagine that bow strung and drawn and that's the shape I was trying to accomplish on the tillering board in these scaled up adult sized reproductions.

Photo Credits:  Tim Rast

Howley, James P. 1914 The Beothuck or Red Indians: The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge

Friday, September 27, 2013

Tillering and some fall scheduling

Tillering a bow with a stone flake
I spent a few hours working on the Beothuk bow reproductions today, although the rainy weather has kept me inside for most of the tail end of this week.  I'm still plugging away at the prep work for this fall's workshops and demonstrations.  In St. John's, I'll be returning to The Rooms at least twice in October; once for an Open Minds workshop with school kids and then again on October 19th for International Archaeology Day.  I'll be volunteering with the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society on that day and demonstrating flintknapping.  It will be a casual open house type event and I'll be working some Ramah chert throughout the afternoon.  I'm sure that I'll have the Beothuk bow reproductions there as well, so if you want to see them and have a chat, please stop by.  In November, I'll be heading to Nunavut for a couple weeks for workshops sponsored by Parks Canada.  I alluded to these workshops about this time last year, but they were put on hold for a few months.  I'll be in Resolute Bay from November 11th to 15th and Grise Fiord from November 18th to 22nd.  If you know anyone in these communities who might be interested in learning to flintknap and haft stone tools, please let them know that registration for these workshops will be taking place shortly.

Drying the bow over a hotplate
Back in the workshop, I returned to heating, drying, bending and tillering the Mountain Ash Beothuk bow reproductions.  They dried noticeably on their own over the past couple of days in the cool dry basement.  One had started to develop a slight twist in the limbs, which I wanted to get ahead of before it set in permanently.  I twisted the limbs back using dry heat and continued to dry  the bows over a small hotplate for another hour each.  This hour of heating made the bows much stiffer than they had been yet, so I decided to do a little more tillering.  I'm not counting on the wood being stable yet, so I didn't tiller them all the way to a full draw, but they are coming along nicely.

Utilizing a flake to scrape the belly of the bow
I used a chert flake to scrape inside the belly of the bow while it was drawn on the tillering board, to help the limbs bend evenly.  I don't always use stone tools when I'm in my workshop, but if they are the best tool available for a particular job, I don't mind working with them.  For example, when I drill holes in slate, I genuinely prefer to use a bow drill with a nephrite bit, because its quicker than an electric drill and it makes a more authentic looking reproduction.  Today when I was looking around my shop at the metal files, knives, and scrapers that I have on hand, it was this little stone flake that caught my eye and turned out to be the best tool for the job.  It had the perfect edge shape, angle, and sharpness to quickly and carefully scrape the belly of the bow.  There's also no danger of it leaving the wrong type of tool marks on the finished bow.    Whatever trace it leaves on the wood will be correct for the time period and Beothuk culture that the bow is meant to represent.

This is the unmodified flake that worked so well.  I primarily used the distal edge of the flake (the bulb is towards my palm).  At first glance its a fairly straight edge, but it actually had a soft concave section in the middle that worked well along the edges of the belly and a convex section towards the point that worked well for scraping into the middle of the flat wood.

The camera flash kind of washed out the edges of the tiny usewear flakes that appeared along the edge as I worked the wood, but I think you can make out a slight polishing along the edge with some shallow scalloping above it where millimetre long flakes chipped off.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

String of plaited deer skin

Two strands of rawhide twisted into a cord for a bow string.
The sheet of rangifer tarandus rawhide that the strips were
cut from is in the background
I've taken the Mountain Ash Beothuk bow reproductions as far as I'm comfortable going while the wood is still so green. I may continue to season them over a fire or I might set them aside for a few weeks and instead work on bows made from the fir staves that I collected a couple weeks ago.  The weather will partly decide this for me, as it looks like we might be in for a fairly long spell of rain, which will force me inside to work on the fir bows.  In the meantime, I'm twisting some rawhide bow strings.

Stretching the rawhide cordage,
one cord is done and the two
strands that I'm holding are
about to be twisted.
The rawhide cordage is fairly straightfoward to make.  I just cut thin strips of reindeer (caribou) rawhide a foot or so longer than I need and soak them in warm water before twisting two of these strips together into a tight strand.  I'll let it dry under tension.  I could have twisted together any number of strands, but two seemed to be about the right thickness for a bowstring.  My inspiration for the rawhide bow string is this statement  from George Wells as recorded in Howley's 1914 book, The Beothucks or Red Indians:

The string was of plaited (twisted)(?) deer skin. George Wells 1886

The bows are both tillered to a
22 inch draw.
I'm happy with the bows to date in all regards, except for their draw weight.  They look right; they are made in the correct style from the right kind of wood in the correct dimensions, but the green mountain ash is still very flexible.  I've tillered the bows to about a 22 inch draw, which is probably a little farther than I should have taken them while the wood is still so green.  At that draw they are in the 12-15 lb range.  This is very light.  The wood is so flexible that there is not much spring in the limbs, which makes the bows very weak.  

The bows took similar profiles, which was a little bit
accidental.  I made them both along the natural curve of  the
wood and they both happened to have an outward curve at
the midpoint.
The fire drying has had limited effect on hardening the wood so far, and, in fact, the humidity in the air seems to creep back into the wood during the nights.  As the bows continue to dry, the wood will harden and the draw weight should go up, but there could also be twisting and the limbs that draw evenly now, might stiffen unevenly, so I'll need to tiller the bows again when they are dried more.  If I've removed too much wood now, there won't be enough to work with later on.  I'm not certain that is going to be a problem yet, but its a possibility.

John Guy meeting  Beothuks.  Take the details of this
engraving with a grain of salt, the artist never saw the
Beothuk for himself, but the bows are not unlike
my reproductions, perhaps a little more recurved.
I'm of two minds on the reproductions at the moment.  On the one hand they are exactly what I need for the display that the client wants.  The bows look right and once they get their ochre covering, there will be no mistaking them for anything other than Beothuk bows.  And since they are relatively weak, I'm not too worried about them snapping or the string breaking or something else going wrong in the display case.  But on the other hand, I want to make something that will be a reasonable reflection of the actual power of a Beothuk bow.  We don't know the draw weight of Beothuk bows because none have survived, but I'd bet a nickel it was more than 15 pounds.  

This is not a crossbow.  One of the bows is in the tillering board with the string drawn to 22 inches.  The arrow is there to show what the full draw would look like at 32 inches.  I intend to get them to that point, but I want to dry the green wood more first.

I don't leave the bows strung for more
than a few minutes at a time.  I don't
want them to set in this bent position.
As a sort of benchmark, the current bow hunting regulations in Newfoundland and Labrador state that you can't use a long bow to hunt small game unless it has a draw weight of at least 22 lbs at full draw.  For big game the minimum draw weight allowed is 45 lbs.  Full draw on these bows should be around 30-32 inches to fit the yard long Beothuk arrows described in the 18th and 19th centuries.  If the wood dries hard without twisting and I can return to tillering, I think the bows will cross the small game threshold at full draw, but I'm skeptical that they'll pass the 45 lb mark.  

Photo Credits:
1-4, 6, 7: Tim Rast
5: Detail from a 17th Century engraving by Theodor de Bry.  You can read more about this engraving here: and here:

Monday, September 23, 2013

...seasoned over a fire.

Beothuk bow reproduction,
ready to tiller
I was back to the Mountain Ash Beothuk bow reproductions today.  I've been going back and forth between the spokeshave and fire trying to trim the wood down and drive out the moisture.  So far, so good.  I got to the point where I'm ready to start tillering the bows tomorrow.  So they should either start to take shape or break.  
I've been using heat to drive moisture out of the green
wood, straighten bends, and harden the bows.
For this project, I need one Beothuk bow that will look good strung in a static museum display.  Ideally, I'll get a couple functional bows done and save the best one for the client, but minimally, I need to get one done to the point where it looks good strung.  There are a few historic reports of Beothuk bows, but right now this short description is what I'm using as my roadmap:
The bow is about five feet long, made of the Mountain Ash (Dogwood), but sometimes of spruce and fir, seasoned over fire. - W.E. Cormack undated

I was happy to see a channel appear in the middle of the limbs where I shaved the sapling down to its soft centre.  The channel in the reproductions is the pith canal in the middle of the tree.  The little inset photo is a photo of a Beothuk bow fragment, showing a channel running lengthwise in a similar fashion.  I don't know for certain that they are the same thing, but I think its an intriguing possibility.  Those channels on the Beothuk bows are weird, but I think this might be their explanation.

The second bow on the tillering board.  They both need a lot of work.  This stave has a lot of natural bend in it.  I was going to leave it in, but I might heat bend it into a something a little bit straighter.  We'll see how it goes tomorrow.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, September 20, 2013

Beothuk Bow Blanks

Ochre stained arrows
It didn't really seem like one of those weeks, but in retrospect, it was one of those weeks.  The time I spent in the workshop was productive enough, but I had lots of computer time prepping for fall work to attend to and then we also had plumbing problems in the house.  I'm halfway tempted to add "Washing Machine Repair" to my skills on LinkedIn.  On Monday, we had water back up into the washing machine and burn out the drain pump, so there were multiple visits from city crews to deal with the drainage problems. Then I made a mid-week tour around the city to all of the appliance parts stores until I found the one with our model of drain pump in stock.

The two mountain ash staves that I picked to work into bows and two pine Recent Indian or Beothuk arrows.  

Beothuk (Little Passage
really) arrows
In the workshop, I finished staining a Beothuk arrow or two and made some small progress on the Beothuk bows.  I trimmed down two Mountain Ash saplings to the point where I want to dry them over a fire to try and get ahead of any warping or bending that might want to take place before I move to the next stage of tillering the bows.   When I was about to start the fire this afternoon, it started to rain.  That was two hours ago.  Its beautiful out now and as soon as I'm done typing, I'm heading outside to fire harden the bows, but in the meantime I've spent two hours rebooting my computer and trying to get Blogger to load so that I could publish this post.  *sigh*  There's probably some sort of lesson in here.  If its about bow making, I'm going to go ahead and believe that the Beothuk worked their bows from green wood, because if you wait for the weather and water to cooperate in this province you'll be waiting a long time.  I'm getting a beer and a propane tank and heading to the backyard with a couple bow staves.  I'll see you on Monday.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finished Atlatls

Four new atlatls
I finished up those four atlatls that I started on Monday.  The bodies of each one is more or less the same, but I played around with different spur and finger loop designs as well as hafting materials.  The one that is going to the client in Alberta needed to be fairly robust and suitable for a lot of wear and tear from elementary school children.  For that one I went with artificial sinew and epoxy to hold it all together, while I used sinew, gut and hide glue on others.

The one on top is the one that I'm sending to the client.  Like the other three, is is made from maple, with a moose antler spur and leather finger loops.  The lashing on the spur and finger loops are artificial sinew and epoxy.

Ready for a dart
The only real disappointment is that I probably won't get a chance to play with them at the venue I was testing out.  I was hoping that we could include an atlatl toss in an upcoming Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society event, but the field we have available at the venue is a little too cramped to do it safely.  The security guard who asked me to stop throwing the darts agreed that it was an unsuitable venue for atlatls.  It will have to be another place and time.

They range in length from 47-55 cm long

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, September 16, 2013

Roughing out a few Atlatls

Maple atlatls with antler spurs
I set aside the Beothuk bow project for the day and switched to atlatls and ochre staining.  I have a couple quick jobs that I want to finish up before I return to the bow later in the week.  One of these atlatls will be going to a client in Alberta, but I'll be hanging on to the others for the time being.  I'm hoping that some of these will be used in a public event here in St. John's in a few weeks, but I can't say for certain now. I'll finish a couple with epoxy and artificial sinew to make them a little more durable and weather-proof and the others I'll tie together with gut and hide glue.   I'll probably make a stone weight for one or two of them as well.

The four atlatls are all similar designs based on plains atlatls and are all more or less the length of my forearm, from the tip of my fingers to my elbow.  They are made from maple, with moose antler spurs.  At this point they are roughed out enough that I can duct tape the spurs in place and test them out on darts to make sure that all the spurs work.  There is usually a little bit of tweaking to make sure that the spurs stay in contact with the dart for just the right amount of time.  Once they are tuned, I'll attach the spurs permanently and add the leather finger loops.   When I test the spurs, I'll also be judging the field where the event might take place to make sure its big enough and that there won't be any danger to cars or pedestrians if we go ahead with the toss.   I'll let you know how it works out.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, September 13, 2013

Starting a Beothuk Bow Reproduction

Is there a bow somewhere in one of
these sticks?
I've been working on a reproduction of a Beothuk bow for less than a week and my impressions of the bows are changing quickly.  I collected a big fir trunk a couple days ago quartered it down and started working two of the staves.  I know that I want the bow to be 5-6 feet long, based on the historical observations and the notion that Beothuk bows were the "height of a man".  I wasn't sure about the width of the bow, so I tried to figure that out from the one photograph that depicts bow fragments. I've cut and pasted the bow fragments from that photo into the image below, but you can see the source photo, including the arrow shafts, in this blog post.

Beothuk Bow fragments from Howley 1914.   A, B, C) Adult sized pieces. D) Part of a child's bow.  E) The same bow as D photo reconstructed with the assumption that the slight narrowing under the [6] label is the grip. F) Another child's bow.  

In the middle of the photo is a
reproduction Beothuk Arrow.
Immediately below it, you can
see a 2.1 cm wide kraft paper
bow pattern pinned to the fir
 bow stave.
There is no scale in the photo, but when Janet Chute examined the Beothuk bow and arrow pieces in the Newfoundland Museum and Canadian Museum of Man in the 1970s, she mentioned that the arrows averaged 1.2 cm in width.  I haven't had any luck tracking down these artifacts to view them myself.  They seem to have been misplaced sometime over the past 40 years, but working from Chute's measurement and the photo of bow and arrow fragments in Howley, I tried to work out the width of the bows.  Assuming the arrows are approximately 1.2 cm wide, then the bow fragments in the photo must be about 2.1 cm wide, or 13/16ths of a inch.  The child sized bows and arrows obey the same ratio.  If the kids arrows were scaled up to 1.2 cm in diameter, then the kids' bows would also be 2.1 cm wide.  This is very narrow.  Even if my calculations are out by 20%, they are still less than an inch wide.  Imagine a five or six foot long bow the width of your thumb - its skinnier than a broom handle.  From the photos and written descriptions,  I think the bows are flat on the inside or belly, but rounded on the outside or back.  If you look at the photos of the bow parts, I think you can see a D-Shaped cross section to most of them.  The fragments that appear flat (A and D above) are probably photographed belly side up, but the fragments that appear rounded (B and F) are probably photographed with the back side up.

Mountain Ash are easy to spot this time of year, thanks to their bright red bunches of berries.

Fir staves on the left, Mountain Ash
saplings on the right
The bows look to be fairly straight limbed, with little to no fading in the width towards the nocks.  I think most of the thinning must have been done in the thickness of the limbs, rather than the width.  There's also the matter of the grooves running down the middle of some of the fragments (A and D above).  I'm still not 100% certain what those are and I had originally thought they were on the back of the bow, but after talking to a bowyer in the spring, I think they are probably on the belly.  I'm thinking that the Beothuk may have been making stick bows from branches or saplings and that the groove in the limbs is actually the pith channel from the middle of the growth rings of the wood.  I think that the Beothuk would have selected long, straight saplings that were not much bigger than the finished bow and thinned the end of each limb flat, down to the middle of the wood, stopping more or less at the pith in the middle of the branch or trunk.  The edges and back of the bow would not have much more shaping done to them than removing the bark.  The grip in the middle of the bow would be left thicker, which explains why the central groove appears to disappear in the middle of the bow (D above) and is only visible on the limbs. (Ok, I know the piece of paper is obscuring that part of the bow, but it does look like the groove is tapering out towards it, doesn't it?)

The pith in the centre of the wood
wants to pop out.  
That's my theory for the day, at any rate.  I don't know if it makes sense in bow-making terms, but I picked up some nice straight Mountain Ash saplings and small trunks today and I intend to work them as I've described above.  I think this is closer to actual Beothuk bow making strategy than working the large quarter staves of fir as I'd started earlier.  Working from a sapling should create all the features of the Beothuk bow with relatively little wood removal, whereas trying to get to the same shape from a split fir log requires a lot more work, produces a lot more waster, and the whole project feels a little more forced. Given the tools available to the Beothuk and after studying the available records, I think that bows made on saplings or branches make the most sense.


Chute, Janet Elizabeth
1976 A Comparative Study of The Bark, Bone, Wood, and Hide Items Made By The Historic Micmac, Montagnais/Nascapi and Beothuk Indians. MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University of Newfoundland. St. John's.

Howley, James P. 1914 The Beothuck or Red Indians: The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A day in the woods

Great Horned Owl came to check on me
I spent part of the day out in the woods today, collecting wood for a Beothuk bow reproduction.  I was hoping to collect mountain ash and spruce or fir.  I did manage to cut a nice straight fir log without too many knots from a wind-fallen tree, but I fell into a bog before I could find a suitable mountain ash trunk.  I saw lots of perfect mountain ashes in people's yards around town, but I don't think harvesting those would be good for business.  I'll head out again tomorrow to keep looking.  In the meantime I have a good fir trunk to split into staves.  I should be able to quarter it and get enough for four bows out of it.  I'm looking for a similar-sized mountain ash trunk, but will probably have to settle for something half the diameter.  I plan to make a few bows side-by-side from different woods in the hopes that one will turn nice.

It didn't look that deep when I tried to walk through it.  In fact, there was so much mud and debris floating in the water, that I didn't even realize I was stepping into a ditch.

There's no shortage of spruce and fir in Newfoundland, but I'd still rather clean up windfall than cut down a standing tree.

The fir log I took is about seven feet long and I plan to split it in half and then into quarters.  

I was barely ten minutes out of town, but the woods were alive with birds.  The Great Horned owl was the highlight, though.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, September 9, 2013

What type of wood were Beothuk bows made from?

Beothuk Bow and Arrows from
a 1773 map by Cartwright 
According to the letters, journals, and interviews compiled by James P. Howley in his book The Beothuck or Red Indians: The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland, the preferred bow woods of the Beothuk were Maple (sycamore), Mountain Ash ("dogwood" in Newfoundland), Spruce, and Fir.  

The most detailed references to Beothuk bow construction cover the period from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century and they suggest a number of different tree species were used during that time.  Interestingly, the earliest account from 1768 by John Cartwright suggests that hardwood from sycamore or maple was the only wood fit for bow construction and he described a peculiar asymmetric bow design with one bow edge being thicker than the other.  Cormack's observations from the early 19th century suggest that Mountain Ash or Dogwood was preferred although sometimes spruce or fir would be acceptable.  When the elderly George Wells was interviewed about his recollections of the Beothuk in 1886 he only mentions softwood spruce and fir bows.   The later observers do not mention any asymmetry in the bows and the few bow fragments that survived into the 20th century showed no evidence of this design element (Chute 1976).  It may be a coincidence that the earliest observers recorded seeing hardwood bows and the later observers happened to record the softwood bows, but its also possible that there was an evolution in Beothuk bow design over the people's last 100 years of existence.  The Beothuk population was in terrible decline at this time and perhaps the shift from the peculiar hardwood bows to comparatively simpler softwood bows was a reflection of more time being spent on survival with less time available for crafting bows from hard woods.

All of the quotes below are taken from Howley (1914):
The bows are all sycamore, which being very scarce in this country, and the only wood it produces which is fit for this use, thence becomes valuable. The sticks are not selected with any great nicety, some of them being knotty, and of very rude appearance; but under this simple rustic guise they carry very great perfection; and to those who examine them with due attention admirable skill is shown in their construction. Except in the grasp the inside of them is cut flat, but so obliquely, and with so much art, that the string will vibrate in a direction coinciding exactly with the thicker edge of the bow. This seems to be essential to the true delivery of the arrow, but is a principle that appears not to be generally understood among archers. The bow is full five and a half feet long. The arrow is made of well seasoned pine, slender, light, and perfectly straight. Its head is a two-edged lance, about six inches long, and the stock is about three feet more. Like the famous arrow that pierced the heart of Douglas, it was feathered with the "Grey goose wing." -  Lieutenant John Cartwright 1768

These whether offensive or defensive, or for killing game were simply the bow and arrow, spear and club. The arrow heads were of two kinds viz. -- stone, bone or iron, the latter material being derived from Europeans, and the blunt arrow, the point being a knob continuous with the shaft. The former of these was used for killing quadrupeds and large birds. Two strips of goose feathers were tied on to balance the arrow, and it has been remarked by many persons who have seen the Red Indian arrows, that they have invariably been a yard long; the reason of this would seem to be that their measure for the arrow was the arm's length, that is from the centre of the chest to the tip of the middle finger, that being the proper length to draw the bow; -- the latter was about five feet long, generally made of mountain ash, but sometimes of spruce. - W.E. Cormack 1829
The bow is about five feet long, made of the Mountain Ash (Dogwood), but sometimes of spruce and fir, seasoned over fire. - W.E. Cormack undated 
Plate XXXIII from Howley 1914. #3 are bow parts,
#4 are miniature bows and arrows from a child's grave
Their bows were fully 6 feet long made of spruce or fir and were very powerful. They were thick in the central part but flattened away towards either end, where the spring chiefly lay. The string was of plaited (twisted)(?) deer skin. There was a strip of skin fastened along the outer, or flat side of this bow. The hand grasping the bow passed inside this strip, with the arrow placed between the fingers to guide it. So dexterous were they in the use of this weapon, that they could arrange five or six arrows at a time between the fingers, and shoot them off, one after the other, with great rapidity, and unerring aim. The point or spear of the arrow was made of iron, and was fully 6 inches long. - George Wells, aged 76, interviewed 1886


Chute, Janet Elizabeth
1976  A Comparative Study of The Bark, Bone, Wood, and Hide Items Made By The Historic Micmac, Montagnais/Nascapi and Beothuk Indians. MA Thesis, Anthropology, Memorial University of Newfoundland. St. John's.

Howley, James P.
1914 The Beothuck or Red Indians: The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge

Photo Credits:
Plates from Howley 1914

Friday, September 6, 2013

Arctic Artifact Reproductions for Piqqusilirivvik

Ulu and other finished pieces.
The order for the Piqqusilirivvik Inuit Cultural Learning facility in Clyde River, Nunavut is completed and ready to ship.  The full order includes a 13 piece Dorset Palaeoeskimo set and four Thule/Inuit reproductions.  Its a good collection of pieces to compare and contrast the differences in technology between the earlier and later Arctic cultures.  The small, knapped stone pieces in the Dorset Palaeoeskimo set stand out against the ground stone and metal bladed tools that dominate the Thule/Inuit tradition.

 Dorset Palaeoeskimo Reproductions:

A) Complete Dorset Palaeoeskimo Harpoon.  Chert endblade, antler harpoon head, whalebone foreshaft, tamrack main shaft, braided sinew lanyard, sealskin line and lashing.  This is the aged Dorset harpoon from the previous post.

B) Tip-fluted endblade. Knapped from chert using percussion and pressure flaking.

C) Self-bladed harpoon head. Carved from antler and antiqued with tea and charcoal.

D) Lance head.  Ground and polished slate.

E) Side-scraper. Knapped from chert using percussion and pressure flaking.

F) Knife.  A small side-notched knife knapped from chert using percussion and pressure flaking.

G) Microblade core.  This small lump of jasper is the core that the 6 microblades (F) were struck from.

H) Microblades. Knapped from jasper using pressure to prepare the platforms and percussion to detach the blades.  The six blades refit on to the core (G).  Usually I try to get five blades in a sequence to refit, but the very skinny one is actually an accidental blade removal that came off with the first blade and then one of the blades in the middle got kind of wide on me, so its more like four microblades and two half-microblades.

You can see the difference in size and scale in this photo between the Thule harpoon and the earlier Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon. (click to enlarge)

Thule/Inuit Reproductions:

Ulu (lower left), Thule Harpoon (pointing to the left),
two Copper Inuit Arrows (pointing down)
Ulu: Ground slate, whalebone and sinew lashings.  The holes in the slate were drilled with a bow drill and the ulu edge is sharpened on one side only to create a sharp, strong multipurpose cutting and scraping edge.

Thule Harpoon: Nephrite endblade, walrus ivory harpoon head, whalebone foreshaft, spruce main shaft, sealkin bindings and line, ivory finger rest, whalebone tension piece and tension piece knob, walrus ivory butt and pin. For an explanation of how a harpoon like this is assembled and functions, check out this blog post called; "How does a Thule harpoon work?"

Copper Inuit Arrows: Copper endblade and rivet, antler foreshaft, pine main shaft, ptarmigan and gull feathers, sinew lashings.

Dorset Palaeoeskimo and Thule/Inuit Reproductions for Piqqusilirivvik
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Aged Dorset Harpoon

Antiqued Dorset Palaeoeskimo
Harpoon Reproduction
Here is a look at the finished Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon for the Clyde River order.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to antique the Dorset reproductions in this set so that they would contrast with the reproductions representing the more recent Inuit and Thule cultures.  A harpoon stained this dark would probably look a little out of place in a Dorset camp 2000 years ago, but if an archaeologist dug up a perfectly preserved one, it might look something like this, once it was conserved and put on display.

Fully assembled, the harpoon is 140 cm long.

I'm happy with the lines and colouring on this piece. It is a
good hands-on piece.  A lot of handling and time are the best
 ways to age a reproduction naturally.
The tip-fluted endblade is knapped from chert and the toggling harpoon head is antler.  The foreshaft is whalebone and the main shaft is tamarack.  The designs for all of these pieces are based on Palaeoeskimo artifacts found throughout the Eastern Arctic, although I am heavily influenced by collections from Newfoundland and Labrador - especially sites on the northern peninsula, like Port au Choix and L'Anse aux Meadows. The lanyard attached to the harpoon head is braided sinew and the harpoon line is hooded sealskin.  The lashings on the main shaft are also hooded sealskin.  For the most part the pieces are held together by friction, although hide glue is used to strengthen the bonds in several places.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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