Friday, April 26, 2019

Groswater and Beothuk Artifact Reproductions

Reproduction Beothuk
I dropped off two sets of Newfoundland and Labrador artifact reproductions to Memorial University of Newfoundland's Archaeology Department this morning.  One set is Beothuk and the other is Groswater.  They will be used in sandbox digs to give archaeology students a taste of excavation prior to attending field school.  The sets include a few diagnostic chert, bone, and iron artifacts, along with broken or incomplete tools, cores, and debitage.  I break plenty of tools when I'm working on reproductions, and these sorts of orders provide a forever home for broken or failed attempts.  

Assemblage of Groswater artifact reproductions.  Includes diagnostic artifacts, broken tools, microblades, and lithic debitage. 
Reproductions tools and microblades in chert

Top Row: Groswater endblade, asymmetric knife, earred endscraper, chipped and ground chert burin-like tool. Bottom Row: Various broken tools (mostly the bases of box based endblades that broke during notching)
Groswater assemblage

Beothuk assemblage.  Reproductions representing the post-contact Beothuk period and their archaeologically known ancestors (Beaches and Little Passage complexes).  The bottom pieces are a hammerstone, flakes, and chert core fragments.

Left: Beaches side notched projectile point (top), Little Passage corner-notched projectile point (bottom). Middle: Beothuk iron arrowhead hammered out of a square forged nail. Right: Triangular Biface (top), Beothuk arrowhead (middle), Flake scraper (bottom).

Diagnostic Beothuk tools, including a bone comb and gaming piece.  The chert pieces on the right are abandoned or broken preforms.

 Photos: Tim Rast

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

Friday, November 30, 2018

Stocking The Rooms in time for Christmas!

I'm just back from dropping off a big Christmas restocking order for The Rooms Gift Shop here in St. John's.  The order included a few flintknapping kits and a selection of handmade reproductions of Dorset, Groswater, and Beothuk endblades and arrowheads.  Everything is made from Newfoundland chert and the knapped stone tools have been mounted as necklaces, earrings, lapel pins, and tie tacs.  For this Christmas season, The Rooms gift shop currently has the best selection of Elfshot jewelry available.  

Groswater lapel pins and Dorset earrings.

Beothuk necklaces and earrings.

Groswater earrings.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Thursday, November 29, 2018

PalaeoIndian Reproductions

A foreshaft assembly with a
Folsom point based on
a theoretical reconstruction
I'm still around.  Although you might not realize that if you follow this blog.  I've been plugging away in the studio on reproductions throughout the year and travelling a lot for work.  Some of the projects I've worked on have embargoes on them until exhibits are opened or programs aired, which has given me an excuse to be extra lazy on this blog.  I'll try to use the end of the year as an incentive to document some of the projects that I've participated in during 2018.  

Here is a look at some pieces that are fresh out the door.  These are for a museum exhibit in the US and represent PalaeoIndian artifacts.  The reproductions include a fluted Folsom point made from chert, hafted in an antler foreshaft that fits into an antler socket which is glued and lashed to a wooden mainshaft.  The mainshaft is cut short for dispaly purposes.  Three bone needles, sinew, and a bone thimble (based on an Inuit design) make up part of a sewing kit.

A progress shot of the stone point, antler foreshaft and antler socket pieces.  The most important piece for the museum was the foreshaft, so I tried to match that as exactly as possible to the reference drawing.  The stone point came out a few millimetres larger than the reference point.  I find fluted points very difficult to make and this was my fourth attempt at this spear point and I didn't dare try to work it any more after both flutes came off reasonably well.   The socket needed to be a bit longer than the drawing for functional reasons, but overall the final assembly was within a couple centimetres of the illustration.

Bone needles and thimble.  The bone needles are based on PalaeoIndian artifacts and are made on long bones.  The thimble is based on Inuit thimbles in the Canadian Museum of History Collection.  
The complete set included some sinew thread to go along with the needles in the sewing kit.  All of the pieces are antiqued and the spear shaft was cut short because the storyline of the display focuses on the foreshaft assembly.

The museum requested that the sinew lashing be left off of the spear point and foreshaft.  Fortunately, the flutes on the Folsom point allow the spear point to be gripped fairly snugly by the foreshaft even without lashing or glues.  I don't think I'd trust it for hunting, but in a display and normal handling it is a good, secure fit.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Repairs for The Rooms

Earlier this winter I completed a few repairs and replacement pieces of toys and games used in programming at The Rooms.  These pieces included replacement counting sticks and dice for waltes games, new artificial sinew and antler sticks for pin and cup games, and new artificial sinew on 22 rawhide buzzers.  

Wooden waltes discs with ink designs and wood counting sticks with lightly ochre stained ends.  These were replacement pieces from existing sets with missing pieces.  I didn't make the original sets, but I worked from photos and reference pieces to match the intact pieces.

Antler pin and cup games with artificial sinew cords.  The previous antler sticks were broken or lost.

Rawhide buzzers.  I replaced the worn artificial sinew and added the wood sticks to make them easier to pull.

The rawhide is very hard wearing and durable.  I made these quite a few years ago for The Rooms and even though the old cord wore out there is no wear on the discs.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bone and Antler Games for the Canadian Museum of History

These Bilboquets or pin and cup games are on their way to join the Canadian Museum of History's travelling Kids Celebrate exhibition.  The pins are all antler and the cups are either long bone sections or caribou antler with the porous interior scraped hollow.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Beothuk Gaming Pieces

Beothuk game piece reproductions
Late last year, I worked on a set of bone Beothuk Game Piece reproductions.  They were a birthday present ordered by a friend for her archaeologist husband.  I made 13 pieces in total and we selected seven of the nicest pieces to make the gift set.   This old blog post discusses some of the primary sources and interpretations of how the game pieces may have been used.  The pieces are carved in bone (I primarily use caribou long bones) and decorated with incised lines on one side.  They are covered in red ochre.

Thirteen finished game piece replicas
Like anything, the more time you spend with a project, the more detail that begins to emerge.  All of the known game pieces are either diamond shaped, rectangular, or irregular.  A complete set seems to have been composed of three diamond, three rectangular, and one irregular piece. There also seems to be a different approach to the thickness of the different game pieces.  The irregular and diamond shaped pieces are quite thin and flat, and often have a slight curve to them, probably from the shape of the bone they are made from.  The rectangular pieces are much thicker and blockier.  They aren't cubes like a six-sided die, but they are not simple flat tiles like the diamond shaped pieces either.  I tried to reflect this difference in the reproductions.

Carving the designs is a multi-stage process.  The final designs are quite complex, so I don't carve them all at once.  I begin with the borders and longest lines first and then add progressively more detail in additional carving sessions.  You can see my pencil marks on the blanks in this photo.  The reproductions are sitting on a sheet of paper that is printed with the original artifacts that I used for reference.

This is the final set of game pieces for my friend's birthday.  It has three diamond shaped pieces, three rectangular pieces and one irregular piece.  I'm especially happy with how the ochre took to the bone - they really capture the look and feel of the original artifacts.  
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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