Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Maritime Archaic Reproductions for Port au Choix

Bird headed pins made from caribou long bones
and needles made from bird bones and caribou ribs.
This is a set of reproductions that I recently completed for Port au Choix National Historic Site on Newfoundland's northern peninsula.  The set includes a hafted ground stone axe, slate lance, barbed harpoon, bird headed pins and bone needles.  Some of these are newly made and others are pieces that I've had in stock and that I've shown on this blog before.

The pins and needles have been slightly antiqued to take off the fresh white bone sheen.
Some of the needles have flat cross-sections and are made from bird bones and others have round cross-sections and are made from caribou ribs.  All of them have gouged eyes and they range in length from 5-11 cm.

Often when I make these pins, they are intended to be used as hair pins with sealskin barrettes.  However, the ones in this photo are intended to be used in display and public programming, so I was able to show more of the variety in the actual pins and pendants and not just the long pointy pin versions.  Many of the bird headed bone carvings at Port au Choix adorned shorter pendants, with gouged holes in the shaft opposite the bird head.  Presumably these were used as pendants or hung from clothing.
The larger, hafted pieces in this set include a ground slate (or argillite) axe hafted into a wooden handle. The axe head is secured with pitch in the hole in the wood which was burned out with hot coals.  The rawhide lashing is there to reinforce the handle and prevent it from splitting in use.  The harpoon in the middle has a barbed antler harpoon head with a whalebone foreshaft and spruce main shaft.  The slate lance is hafted to a wood shaft with spruce pitch glue and gut lashing.

Ground slate lance head.  The lancehead is about 22 cm long, which is on the large end of the spectrum for Port au Choix.

The harpoon is covered in red ochre. The Maritime Archaic certainly covered their bodies and tools with red ochre as part of their burial ceremony, but it is unclear if they used ochre as frequently in day-to-day life as the later (and unrelated) Beothuk.

This style of harpoon head is not designed to toggle, although the Maritime Archaic did also make toggling harpoon heads.  The barbs would have secured the harpoon head and line to the prey animal - most likely seals.

The harpoon line is braided sealskin.  The harpoon is about 72" fully assembled and the lance is about 92".  I don't know how long the main shafts of the Maritime Archaic versions of these tools would have been.  Generally the tool components are larger than the later Dorset and Groswater Pre-Inuit who lived in Newfoundland, so I tend to make the overall reproductions larger and longer as well.
The lance is fixed to the wood shaft.  I envision these long straight sided lances as close range piercing tools, especially for penetrating the thick blubber layers of marine mammals.  A fixed lance head could be stabbed and pulled out repeatedly.  The harpoon head, on the other hand, is designed to detach and stay in the animal with a line attached.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Love your work. Do you still make the chert necklaces?

    1. Thanks Shawn! Yes, I do still make chert necklaces. I focus more on one-of-a-kind artifact reproductions, but I do still fill the occasional order for jewellery. In Newfoundland, the biggest selection of chert necklaces can be found in The Rooms gift shop in St. John's and in the Heritage Shop at Port au Choix.


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