Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Slotted Antler Points

Microblades in an antler point
Today, I'm working on slotted antler points with inset microblades.  I made most of the microblades a few days ago and now I'm trimming and fitting them into the side slots on antler points.   Two of these points will then be hafted onto arrows.  

Slotted antler points in the foreground and
rejected microblades in the background
 The microblades are all chert, with the exception of a few Texas flint blades.  Despite having a couple hundred microblades to choose from, I'm starting to run low, so I think I'll return to the workshop tomorrow and knock off a few more.  These reproductions are based on artifacts from Alaska.  Microblades are found associated with the antler points, but I've been told that there aren't any in tact examples to get a sense of the arrangement of blades in the slot or adhesives that may have been used to secure them in place.  Slotted points like this begin to appear during the Upper Palaeolithic and composite microlith tools spread around the globe.  Some styles of slotted points or harpoon heads will have blades protruding like jagged barbs that look like shark's teeth with gaps between the microliths.  However, the microblades found associated with this style of point seem to be prepared to create a continuous edge, so I'm trying to arrange the blades to create a leaf shaped blade, with a clean, sinuous cutting edge on each side of the point.  

 
I avoided using mis-matched material types in the beginning, but once I started running low on suitable blades, I began mixing and matching.  I kind of like the look.  I think mis-matched stone gives the pieces a more random, real world look.

To create the initial fits and plan out the positioning of the blades, I worked with soaking wet antler.  Water makes the antler soft and pliable enough that I can press the blades into the slots without crushing the thin, sharp edges.

The base of the points end with a scarf joint.  Two of them will be secured to arrows.

So far, so good.

Microblades will have a platform and small bulb of percussion at the proximal end and curve, like the end of a ski at the distal end.  To get the maximum, straight cutting edge, the distal and proximal end need to be trimmed off.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Alaska Archaeology Month - Shaft Smoother

A pair of sandstone abraders
I'm working on a few shaft smoothers for Alaska Archaeology Month.  These are sandstone abraders, that were likely used to sand arrow or dart shafts smooth.  Based on analogies with such abraders that have been found elsewhere in North America, we are assuming that they were used in pairs.  I'm working the abraders into shape and trying to antique them as I go along.  At the moment, these preforms have the approximate shape roughed out, but I'm continuing to modify and antique them to match the reference artifacts.  
The cut blocks in the ledger stone make ideal
blanks for sandstone abrader
So far, the biggest triumph has been finding a good source of sandstone.  I know of roadcuts and quarries around St. John's where I can collect red or reddish purple sandstone, but I wanted something more neutral or buff coloured for these pieces.  I wound up buying sheets of sandstone wall facade at Home Depot.  In the past, I've had bad luck trying to use this sort of building material as a source of raw material.  I have a box of very poor quality quartzite ledger stone that I picked up at one point hoping that I could knap it.  It didn't work.  However, this particular stone worked perfectly, it is a tough, gritty sandstone that is perfect for this particular project.

Each section of ledge stone has at least a 1/2 dozen good shaft smoother blanks in it. I intend to use the remaining sandstone as abrading stone for other projects.  Later in May, I'll see how it works for grinding slate ulus.

I'm grinding and chipping the blanks down to match the reference photos.

The shallow groove in the middle is used to abrade dart or arrow shafts.

 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Crooked Knife

Crooked knife made from a file like the one
shown beside it
I recently completed a set of reproductions based on artifacts from Newfoundland and Labrador for the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society.  The NLAS is making an exhibit in a suitcase that contains reproductions and activities that can travel around and be used in places like schools to help interpret the Province's archaeological past.  One of the tools in the kit is a crooked knife.  The crooked knife is an historic tool that is still used today by Innu and Mi'kmaq in the Province.  The reproduction that I made is generic enough that it might be at home on the Island or in Labrador, although I primarily used Innu tools as references. My main source was this one in the collections of the Canadian Museum of History.  

The file fits into a slot cut into the side of the handle
Crooked knives were made from re-purposed iron, especially iron files.  I used a file to make this one.  I broke an inch or so off of the end of the file, so that I'd have a 4-5" long blade.  I sharpened it along one edge (and then dulled it again to make it safe to handle).  A bit of heat and a hammer and anvil is enough to curve the tip.  These are a type of draw knife and the crook in the handle is there to support your thumb as you draw the blade towards you.  

A matching wood plug fits into the socket
The tang of the file/knife blade is fit into the wood handle by gouging out an open socket on one side of the handle.  The way the blade is fit into the handle seems to be one of the slight variations in design between the knives made on the Island of Newfoundland and those made in Labrador.   On the Island, the Mi'kmaq would fit the blade in a slot in the middle of the handle or the back edge rather than an open faced socket, like this one, which is modeled after an Innu example.  A matching wooden plug is carved to close the socket and everything is then lashed securely in place.  I used a cotton thread for this lashing.  I've seen reference to rawhide being used here, but I haven't really come across any good ethnographic examples with rawhide.  Rawhide makes good lashing, but on a handle like this, I could imagine the sweat from someone's hand making the binding rubbery and loose on a hot summer's day.  I think something that doesn't expand of loosen with moisture would be more desirable.



The assembled knife, ready for lashing

Finished.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, April 17, 2017

April is Alaska Archaeology Month

Chert microblades and core
Every April, Alaska celebrates Archaeology Month.  This year, I'm making some artifact reproductions from the area, including some pieces that I've never attempted before, so I'm enjoying working on something new.  The first pieces, are slotted antler points.  The body of the points are antler, with long slots running the length of the sides.  These side slots hold microblades, so the first step of the process is to make the microblades.

Pile of blades
It always takes me a while to get into the rhythm of making microblades.   Fortunately, I'll need a lot for this project (and other spring orders), so I was able to dedicate a couple days last week to practicing and building up an inventory.  I tend to use soft hammer percussion or indirect percussion to produce the blades.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Clovis Points

Clovis point, Keokuk chert. Front and back
view of the same point.
2017 has been a busy year so far and I've been a bit lax in keeping track of Elfshot projects on this blog.  I was teaching the Lithic Analysis class at MUN, taking an evening class for interest's sake, working on a report from last summer's field work in Iqaluit, and trying to keep up with Elfshot orders.  It all kept my attention divided and blog posts fell off my weekly to-do list.  I'll try to share a backlog of photos and stories, starting with this look at a pair of Clovis points that I made earlier this year.   

Clovis Point, Obsidian. Front and back view
I find fluting points challenging and since I'm rarely asked to make them, there is always a bit of trial and error to get back into the groove of things.  I have a half dozen failed points on my workshop floor, before I finished two that I was happy with.  The white one is Keokuk chert and the black one is obsidian.

Fluted points and their channel flutes

Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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