Monday, May 25, 2015

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Harpoon with Spare Parts

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Harpoon Heads
This is a fun little set that I just sent off to Mount Royal University in Calgary along with the Northern Plains projectile points that I showed on Friday.  This a Groswater Palaeoeskimo harpoon with three interchangeable harpoon heads.  Two of the harpoon heads (one with a chert endblade and one self-bladed) have braided sinew lanyards and sealskin lines attached to them.  There is a third harpoon head prepared to fit the same foreshaft, ready to attach to a line when needed.  I don't think I've ever made a kit quite like this before and it really made me think about the tools in a new way.  

All three harpoon heads fit
the same whale bone foreshaft.
I think it's very likely that Groswater hunters would have carried sets of spare harpoon heads like this around with them.  Each harpoon head we find archaeologically doesn't have to equate to it's own complete harpoon.  The barbed or endbladed harpoon heads may have been used on different prey or in different conditions, but there is no reason to carry around multiple complete harpoon shafts to fit them all separately.  Similarly, there is no reason to wait until a harpoon head is damaged or lost to prepare backup parts.  I think versatile kits like this were probably much more common in the past than a single harpoon without any spare parts.

The selfbladed antler harpoon head is designed to toggle, but it also has a single barb to help secure it in the prey.

I used softwood for the main body of the harpoon and sealskin for the lines and lashing

A Newfoundland chert endblade lashed to an antler harpoon head with sinew.  The foreshaft is whalebone and the braided line threaded through the harpoon head line hole is sinew.

I suspect Groswater hunters maintained similar spare harpoon heads for inevitably lost or damaged parts or different prey or hunting conditions.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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