Monday, June 2, 2014

Assembled Beothuk Arrow Reproductions

Chert and iron arrowheads and Beothuk arrow reproductions
The Beothuk arrow reproductions that I talked about on Friday are assembled now and stained with red ochre and oil.  I've made plenty of these arrows with stone points over the years, but this set includes the first arrow that I've made with a hammered iron arrowhead made from a modified nail.  I have made look-alike arrows for film props in this style, but they weren't hammered out of nails and lashed on in the correct fashion. I left off Friday's post wondering about the change in Beothuk arrows that came with the adoption of arrowheads hammered out of nails.

Pine shafts, goose feathers, chert or iron arrowheads, sinew and hide glue binding, red ochre and oil stain

Stone and iron points. The pointy part
of the arrowhead doesn't change a
great deal, but the hafting area of
the arrowheads are very different.
The iron arrowheads were hafted differently because the body of the nail was used as a long skinny tang that would have been lashed into a channel gouged in the side of the arrow shaft.  In contrast, the chert arrowheads that the Beothuk and their ancestors made were designed to be tied into a slot cut into the end of the arrow shaft.  The process of chipping the corner notches into the stone arrowhead created backward facing barbs, so that when the arrow went in, it wouldn't come back out again.  These barbs disappear on the iron nail arrowheads.  The general size and shape of the cutting and piercing part of the arrowhead isn't much different, but the barbs, which had been part of Beothuk arrowhead design for centuries suddenly vanish on the iron arrowheads.  It would have required a little extra effort, but it would have been possible to cut or grind barbs into the iron arrowheads, however the Beothuk chose not to.

Modified nail arrowhead (left)
Knapped chert arrowhead (right)
One difference between iron and stone would be the durability of the arrowheads.  A stone point is very likely to break if it encounters a bone or hits a stone or root on a missed shot, whereas an iron point is much more durable.  Perhaps the barbless design of the iron points is evidence that iron-tipped arrows were designed to be re-used.  Without the barbs, arrows could easily be withdrawn from the killed animal.  With stone points the chance of the point being re-usable was much lower, so there's no reason to make the design easy to remove from the wound.  The iron would also probably have a little more value associated with it, both because its durable, but also because its new and rare, compared to stone.  Again, this would create more incentive to retrieve and reuse the arrows.

Arrowhead and two feather fletching based on historic descriptions and drawings of Beothuk arrows
The same arrowhead and feathers shown in profile.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

1 comment:

  1. Do you know of any Beothuk jewelry? Contact me through Facebook or email. You can search for Ashley Koepke or my email is I have purchased a silver ring with labradorite song with the name Beothuck (spelled ck). I have searched and searched. There is nothing like it anywhere.


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