Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Intermediate Period Scraper Reproduction from Labrador

The finished scraper
This is an Intermediate Period scraper reproduction based on an approximately 3000 year old artifact found in Sheshatshiu, Labrador.  The stone artifact will be on display in the Labrador Interpretation Centre and this reproduction will assist in interpreting the small pinkish tan colour scraper, which I mentioned in an earlier post.  The scraper is a relatively innocuous little flake scraper that on its own is not particularly diagnostic.  Most precontact cultures in Newfoundland and Labrador made versions of these small triangular or rectangular end scrapers.  The unique handle tells a different story.

Tools like this would be used to finish cleaning and
scraping a hide. (EDIT: I'm holding the tool wrong in these
photos.  I should be holding the narrow stem.  I'll show the
correct way to hold it in a future blog post.)
The handle is based on ethnographic and historic Innu scrapers.  It will be a familiar form to people in Sheshatshiu, especially older members of the community.  The historic scrapers were fit with a metal or sometimes bone scraper blade, but the reproduction of the small chipped stone endscraper from the archaeological site is a good fit.  Choosing to use an historic Innu style handle on the 3000 year old artifact definitely implies a continuity between the people who live in Sheshatshiu today and the people who lived there 30 centuries ago.  There aren't any scraper handles preserved from this remote time period, so we don't know exactly what Intermediate period handles looked like.  Often when I don't know what the missing organic pieces look like, I'll choose a design that is as simple as possible and fades into the background.  In this case, the handle is front and centre and so is the message of continuity that it conveys.

The small scraper was made unifacially on a flake.  The reproduction is shown hafted onto the wooden handle using spruce gum and red ochre as a glue and gut as a lashing.

The ventral surface of the scraper is a flat, unmodified ventral surface of a flake

Approx. 23 cm long
Red ochre was found within the site, so at the request Scott Neilsen, the archaeologist directing the project, I went with a spruce gum and ochre glue for the scraper.  I used gut lashing to reinforce the bond.  The ethnographic examples tended to use a leather lashing around the bit, but given the smaller hafting area on the archaeological scraper I went with something a little finer, less stretchy and more durable.  The handle is cut from a short fir or spruce log with a diameter of approximately 2 or 2 1/2 inches.  You can see where the bark was removed around the fattest part of the handle.  The small knob on the end opposite the scraper is there to secure a leather loop.  I used caribou skin for this loop on the reproduction.

Intermediate Period Scraper Reproduction: Chert scraper, spruce gum and ochre glue, gut lashing, softwood handle, caribou leather cord
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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