Monday, April 14, 2014

Intermediate Period Chert Knife Reproduction

A small knife like this was lost in
Labrador about 3000 years ago.
This is another reproduction in the Intermediate Period set based on artifacts found by Scott Neilsen's crew in Sheshatshiu, Labrador.  Like all the other pieces in this set, only the lithic component of the tool was preserved, so the organic handle and binding materials are educated guesses.  For this particular biface we went with red ochre and spruce gum glue and sinew for the lashing.  The red ochre is based on the abundance of ochre staining found in the site.  We also used antler for the handle to bring caribou into the story.  Caribou hunting would have been very important to the Intermediate Period people living in the area of North West River and Sheshatshiu 3000 years ago, so we want to reflect that in the artifact reproductions.

Intermediate Period Knife Reproduction.  Banded chert blade, red ochre and spruce gum glue, sinew lashing, antler handle
The banded chert
is not a bad match
for the original.
The design of the handle is quite simple, although we purposefully kept it long and narrow so that it could double as a foreshaft for a spear or dart.  Making the handle serve a dual purpose keeps the interpretation of the biface as a knife a little more flexible as well as demonstrating that tools could serve multiple purposes across their lifetime.  The same projectile point that was used to hunt a caribou, could be used as a small knife to butcher the animal.  I'm still working on the mainshaft that will fit this knife and a couple other hafted bifaces, so I might have to do a small bit of shaping on the end, but I think its finished enough now for you to get the idea.

This piece will be used in support of an exhibit on the archaeology at Sheshatshiu that is being developed for the Labrador Interpretation Centre.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. How long does a stone edge like that last? And if it goes dull, how long does it take to "reflint" to sharpen it as opposed to the time it takes to attach it to the handle?

    1. Those are very good questions. The lifespan of a stone edge before it becomes dull or polished depends a great deal on the way it is used and the material that it is used to cut. They can stay sharp for days or weeks in light use, but can be dulled in a matter of minutes on tougher materials. I suppose on average you could expect your knife to stay sharp for a few hours of careful, but continuous use. However, resharpening only takes a few seconds. Its as simple as pressure flaking off a new series of flakes along the edge. The knife will shrink a little bit after each resharpening, but resharpening takes no time at all.

      To completely replace the blade if it becomes too small to use or broken could be done in about an hour if you have all of the materials handy, from core to finished biface, glued and tied in place. The glue sets almost instantly, but the sinew lashing will need to dry overnight to be secure. Compared to the hours of work to craft a new handle, making a replacement stone blade is relatively quick and easy.


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