Friday, March 28, 2014

Intermediate Period Scraper and Beothuk Collection Update

The correct way to hold and
use this style of scraper.
After posting the photos of the Intermediate Period scraper reproduction on Wednesday, I've got some important feedback from folks in Labrador explaining the proper way to use the Innu style handle that I used to mount the stone endscraper.  I included a photo in that post showing two different ways to hold the scraper and they were both incorrect.  The scraper should be held vertically, with your hand holding the stem and the heavy bulb at the top to add weight to the downward scraping action.  Scott Neilsen sent me a link to a fantastic video clip showing this style of scraper in use: you can view it here, Skimming the Fat and Removing the Hair.

I carved a bit more of the bulb to
create a longer stem for holding the
As I mentioned previously, all that was preserved at the 3000 year old archaeological site in Sheshatshiu were small end scrapers made on flakes.  The handle is an historic Innu design.  Until an Intermediate Period site with organic preservation is found, we don't know for sure what kind of handles were in use 3000 years ago.  However, if we are going to use the analogy of an historic Innu style handle for the reproduction, then I should at least show the correct way to use it.  There were several ethnographic examples that I used as inspiration for the handle.  This one on the Tipatshimuna website was my primary source for the overall shape and construction and I used the measurements for several pieces in the collection of the Canadian Museum of History to guide the handle's size, like this one and this one.  The examples in the CMH online collection range in length from 21 to 29 cm long.  The handle that I made is meant to fit a relatively small stone scraper, so I went with a 23 cm long handle which places it in the smaller range of the ethnographic examples.  My hands are a little big for this particular handle, but I carved it to fit Lori's hand.

Beothuk harpoon head, scraper, and knife lying on a
caribou skin harpoon line.  Everything is there, except for
the ochre.
In other news, I'm wrapping up a large order of Beothuk reproductions this weekend and have several other pieces in the Sheshatshiu Intermediate period collection to complete.  Its going to be a busy few days.  The Beothuk set includes a bow and arrow, harpoon, knife, scraper, and flintknapping kit.  I can draw on existing inventory for a couple of those pieces, like the bow and arrow, but the rest needed to be built from scratch.  Everything is done now except for staining them with red ochre, which is a very important step.  Hopefully on Monday I'll have some photos of the fully assembled and ochre stained Beothuk harpoon.  At 12 feet long, its one of the larger reproductions I've ever done.  Its drying on the floor downstairs, where it starts in the living room and ends in the dining room.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. In archaeological parlance the word scraper is a many splendoured thing but the mitshikun you have built and illustrated so well is struck against the skin rather than scraped. The "Tshik,Tshik,Tshik" voiced by the Uiskatshan/Grey Jay in the Fall is said to be encouragement to those engaged in this work and mimics almost exactly the sound of the implement striking the skin while it gradually disattaches the membrane and meat. Anthony Jenkinson, Sheshatshit.

    1. That's very cool. It would be fun to make a set of stone bladed tools based on local archaeological collections and ask people in the community to experiment with them in butchering a caribou. I think everyone involved would learn a lot.


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