Friday, December 31, 2010

I decided to be an Archaeologist in Grade 5

Grade 5 Science Fair materials
This past September, when I was visiting Alberta, I found the first artifact reproductions that I ever made.  My dad helped me make model catapults and ballistae for a science fair project when I was in Grade 5 and they are still in a box in the basement.  This was the point in my school career that first sparked my fascination with archaeology and, apparently, projectile weapons and artifact reproductions.
Stone boat (for the projectiles), Mangonel, Trebuchet, and Battering Ram

How could a 10 year old boy NOT find that cool?

I think I added the battering ram to the collection after the science fair was over.

The mangonel was the most fun, and probably the most accurate, of the models.

Trebuchet.  This is the very first one that dad and I worked on.   I think we took some liberties with the design, but you have to start somewhere.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

September Icebergs, Smith Sound

 I took these photos of ice in Smith Sound, between Ellesmere Island and Greenland in September 2008.


Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, December 27, 2010

Soapstone repaired with Chert Bow Ties

Soapstone Vessel Fragments
 I took these photos last spring of a small display of artifacts in the Great Hall of the Archaeology Department at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  These are soapstone vessel fragments from the Dorset Palaeoeskimo collections from Red Bay, Labrador.  The thing that I love about them is the little chert bow tie, used to mend across a broken pot fragment.  If you didn't have the soapstone and you found one of these things what would you call it?  It kind of looks like a little scraper.  I know they also show up in the soapstone artifacts found at Cape Ray, Newfoundland, reported by Urve Linnamae, but beyond that I'm not sure how widely they were used. 

Knapped chert bow tie embedded into a soapstone vessel fragment
The adjoining piece is missing, but it would have a small indentation carved in it to accept the other end of the bow tie.

A lot of work went into making one of these pots and the soapstone quarry might be a long way away when they broke.  The Dorset Palaeoeskimos came up with lots of clever methods to repair them.

At other sites, I've seen repairs made using cold hammered copper staples and repair holes and grooves, presumably for tying pots back together with some kind of cordage.  But I think the chert bow ties are probably my favourite solution.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, December 24, 2010

You're welcome! We had fun, too!

These are some of the thank you cards that Lori and I got from our neice's Grade Four class after we visited them earlier this fall.  What a great bunch of kids!

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Anthropology, Bushcraft, and Artifact Reproductions

I'm setting up a few scheduled posts for this blog, so that I can get away from the computer for a few days over the holiday.  While Elfshot: Sticks and Stones is on autopilot for a couple weeks, here are some of my new favourite haunts for you to checkout.

Four Stone Hearth:  This is an anthropology blog carnival that has being running bi-weekly since October 2006.  A blog carnival is a collection of blog posts, united by theme, that is hosted by a different blog each issue.  Bloggers who have posted recently on the carnival's theme can submit their link to the upcoming host, who then creates a carnival post that ties together all the separate posts and links back to the submitted articles.  Four Stone Hearth is carnival themed to the big four subdisciplines of Anthropology; Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology, Physical Anthropology, and Linguistics.  The next carnival comes out today, and is hosted by Magnus Reuterdahl, a Swedish archaeologist, osteologist and vinophile who blogs about archaeology at Testimony of the Spade and wine at Aqua vitae – livets vattenThis week's Four Stone Hearth carnival post, #109, contains my first submission to the carnival.

BushcraftUK: BushcraftUK is a massive forum dedicated to bushcraft.  There's a good deal of overlap between some aspects of experimental archaeology and bushcraft.  These days, people are just as likely to get their first taste of flintknapping from a wilderness survival expert as they are from an archaeologist.  BushcraftUK is populated by a lot of experienced outdoor enthusiasts and the occasional archaeologist.  I'm relatively new to the forum, but it seem like a big friendly group.  Archaeologists might find the site useful for two reasons; first, there's good practical advice in there for helping to understand the lifestyles and tools of the people that we are studying, and secondly, there's a lot of outdoor experience there that would be useful to carry in your head or in your pack while doing fieldwork.

Graham's Potted History: Graham Taylor is a craftsperson and experimental archaeologist from Rothbury, Northumberland who specializes in ceramics; both his own contemporary designs and meticulous artifact reproductions that span thousands of years.  You can see his contemporary work in his Crown Studio Gallery, peruse his artifact reproductions at Potted History, and read about his current projects on his blog; Graham's Potted History.  I've especially enjoyed following his twitterfeed and checking out all his behind the scenes twitpics from inside his studio.  It looks like Northumberland can expect a white Christmas this year!

Photo Credits: Screen grabs from the sites linked in this post.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rising Sea Levels on Google Earth for Archaeologists

Link to Google Earth Gadget
I found this handy Google Earth gadget by Zoltán Büki that can be used to show the effects of rising sea level for any coastline in the world; Rising Sea Level Animation.  Its meant to show the effects of rising sea level from melting polar ice, but in the parts of the world that have experienced falling relative sea levels since the end of the last ice age, like much of northern Canada, it can be used to reconstruct past shorelines.

The pink overlay is the coastline 4 meters higher than present. I'm trying to show that Maritime Archaic Indian sites located in the red circle in the middle of the map would have been on an island when they were occupied 4500-3400 B.P.
Its simple to use and its accuracy seems fairly sharp, especially if you are looking at an area with hi resolution Google Earth coverage and a relatively simple coastline.  When you first download it, by clicking on the "Open in Google Earth" link, it is set up to run as an animation, but each frame is a layer showing the coastline in 1 m intervals from 1 masl to 100 masl.  If you don't have Google Earth, it will help you download and install it.  Once its downloaded and the Google Earth program has opened, check your side bar and look in this folder;

  • Temporary Places 
  • > Rising Sea Level Animation 
  • >> Changing Sea Level by 1 m by BZoltan Hungary 
  • >>> Data 1-100m

Google Earth Sidebar
Unclick the check box in front of the "Data 1-100m" folder.  Then you can click each layer individually.  I'm interested in mapping the coastline around some Maritime Archaic Indian sites at Bird Cove on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula.  They were occupied when sea level was 4-5 meters higher than it is today, so by clicking those layers on one at a time, I can get a quick glimpse of the Maritime Archaic Indian coastline.  The app doesn't tell you what past sea levels were, so if you are going to look at it to reconstruct ancient coastlines, you would need to know the rate of emergence for the area that you are interested in.

Each level in the application is a sphere wrapping around the entire globe.  The lowest level is a sphere 1 metre higher than present sea level and the largest sphere is 100 metres higher, so it allows you to visualize coastlines anywhere from 1m to 100m higher than present.  Unfortunately, it doesn't help with lowering sea levels and mapping coastlines that were lower than present.  The default colour of the spheres is pink.  I'd love to be able to change that if some knows what button to click.
The same area, using Canadian Digital Elevation Data from Toporama.  I think the shape of this Island (with the red circle) is more correct than the one generated by Google Earth, although it took a little more work to make this map.
For comparison, the map above is one I made of the same area using the Canadian Digital Elevation Data available on Toporama.  I traced the 4 meter contour interval by hand on screen to make this map.  There's a little bit of labour involved, but I couldn't do it automatically because the part of the map that I'm most interested in connects the ocean coastline to a freshwater pond to create an island.  Incorporating freshwater features into sea level models is something that these programs seem to have trouble doing on their own.  I feel a little more confident about the results from the Toporama map, because it matches my memory of the actual lay of the land a little better.  For this map, I'm trying to illustrate how Maritime Archaic sites located in the red circle would have actually been sitting on a small island when they were occupied.  Today they are on the mainland.  Generally, both maps illustrate that point, although the Google Earth app distorts the shape of the island a bit.  Interestingly, the maps generated in Google Earth for 2-3m above sea level match the 4m map from Toporama more closely than the 4m map it produced.  If Toporama and Google Earth are out of sync by 1 or 2 metres, but otherwise the same, then it might just be that they use a slightly different definition of sea level.

Edit: I forgot to mention - you can improve the results of the Google Earth gadget by opening Tools >> Options and dragging the Terrain Quality slider all the way to the right to create higher terrain quality.  Also, you can try increasing the Elevation Exaggeration in the same window.

Photo Credits:
1-3,5: screen grabs from Google Earth.
4: map based on data from Toporama.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Maybe the Maritime Archaic Hafted Stemmed Points like this...

Maritime Archaic Reproductions
I've been plugging away at my sections in the Bird Cove Groswater and Maritime Archaic papers which are technically due today.  Hopefully I can at least get my parts written by Monday morning.  Its tough getting back into peer reviewed writing.  Blog writing is pretty forgiving by comparison, although I'm sure I'm much more likely to make mistakes here.  If you see an error here, please correct me.

Beaches Maritime Archaic Points
While researching the papers, I was looking through reports at the Provincial Archaeology Office yesterday and came across something kind of interesting in Paul Carignan's Mercury Series volume, The Beaches: A Multi Component Habitation Site in Bonavista Bay.  In the 1970s, he found several stemmed Maritime Archaic points from this Newfoundland site that appear to have been resharpened while they were hafted.  In the photo on the left, you can see that the widest part of the point, just above the stem is straight and parallel sided, but then halfway to the tip they take a sharp turn and become pointed.  You resharpen a point by removing flakes from the edge, but you can't remove flakes from the part of the tool hidden under hafting material, so the shape of the point changes as it is resharpened.  I think the parallel-sided part of the point and the stem were hidden under hafting material and only the small triangular tip was exposed and available to be resharpened.

I've only been wrapping the stem
 They got me thinking that maybe I've been hafting stemmed Maritime Archaic Indian points incorrectly.   I haven't seen the actual artifacts, but the photos in Carignan's reports make me think that the points were covered with lashings partway up the blade.  When I've been hafting stemmed Maritime Archaic points I've only been wrapping the binding material around the wood and stem, but now I believe that the wrapping should extend much higher.

I think they were hafted like this
The Maritime Archaic Indian stemmed points recovered at the Beaches site all seem to have significant resharpening around the tip.  The big change in the angle that takes place partway up the blade is most likely due to the points being resharpened in the haft, meaning that the wider part of the base of the blade was covered by wrapping.  Its such a large area, that it probably also helps narrow down the hafting material to something like rawhide, or perhaps some sort of vegetable cordage or spruce root.  Sinew seems unlikely to me now, because its such a fine thread that it would take a lot of wrapping to cover such a large area.

Saglek Bay Maritime Archaic Point
The stemmed points that I 've been making are a little different from these and I've been using Ramah chert artifacts from Saglek Bay in Labrador as my references.  The Maritime Archaic stemmed points from Labrador have a little more sharply defined shoulders than the points from the Beaches, which have a softer transition from the stem to the blade, perhaps another clue that they were designed to accomodate lashing all the way from the stem, up the shoulders and onto the blade.  I haven't noticed obvious resharpening on the stemmed points from Labrador, but there is sometimes a subtle change in the edge angle at about the same point.  Going back and looking at my reproductions, I realize that I've been building that angle change into the points, but never actually making the connection that it might indicate a hafting area.

I think the hafting should extend higher.
 Since I can't sell Ramah chert, I've been saving the Ramah stemmed points that I make in public flintknapping demonstrations and hafting them in a set of foreshafts.  The idea was to haft every one with a different binding material, to try to show the variability that's possible and illustrate as many options as possible.  I won't undo the ones that I've already done, because they still demonstrate that point, but I will start hafting more stemmed points with lashings that cover the base of the blade.  What do you think? Are their other options or explanations?

Photo Credits:
1,3,6: Tim Rast
2,4: Modified images from Paul Carignan 1973, Prehistoric Cultural Traditions at The Beaches Site, DeAk-1 Bonavista Bay. MA Thesis, Anthropology Memorial University of Newfoundland.
5: Photo from Museum Notes - The Maritime Archaic Tradition by James Tuck

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Newfoundland and Labrador Palaeoeskimo Harpoon Heads

Groswater (L) and Dorset (R) Harpoon Heads
I finished up the Groswater and Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon head reproductions.  The harpoon heads are all made from antler and antiqued in tea to better match the colour of artifacts that have been preserved in Newfoundland's peaty soil.  I used artifacts from the decades of research at Port au Choix on Newfoundland's northern peninsula as the reference pieces for these reproductions.

Groswater endblades are tied onto the ends of their harpoon heads, while the Dorset Endblades fit into a slot.  A sinew lashing around the open socket would help close the opening off and prevent the foreshaft from popping out as well as keep the harpoon line from becoming entangled in the opening.

These are all Groswater Palaeoeskimo harpoon head reproductions based on harpoon heads found at Port au Choix.  The one in the middle is fitted with an endblade based on artifacts from L'Anse aux Meadows.

Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon head (antler) reproduction with tip-fluted endblade (chert).

Streamlining the nose of the harpoon head helps it penetrate better into the seal.

Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon head (Left), Groswater harpoon head (Right)

Groswater Harpoon head (antler) with endblade (chert) and lashings (sinew)

The harpoon heads ranged in size, most of these ones in this set are probably on the larger end of the spectrum for Newfoundland and Labrador.

The plano-convex, boxed based endblades fit into a shelf cut into the antler harpoon head and are tied in place.

The Dorset Palaeoeskimo who lived in Newfoundland are Middle Dorset.  The harpoon heads in the background are reproductions based on other Palaeoeskimo and Thule groups.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, December 13, 2010

Palaeoeskimo Endblades; Groswater and Dorset Style

Harpoon head blanks and endblades
I guess everyone has a lot of things on there to-do list at this time of year.  I'm no exception.  We did get a parcel full of cards and presents sent out west on the weekend, which might seem ahead of schedule, but some of that is for my Dad's birthday on Saturday, so its still cutting it kind of close.  I also sent off the Quttinarpaaq reproductions last Friday.  They didn't take up much physical space, but having that job done, does clear up a big space in the work schedule, so I'm back to working on pieces from a little closer to home this week; Groswater and Dorset harpoon heads.  And then there's those two papers that I've been half-heartedly working on all fall due at the end of the week.

Groswater Triangular Endblades
I've got the endblades for some Groswater and Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon heads more-or-less ready to go.  The Groswater Palaeoeskimo finished their endblades with side notches.  At the moment I have a pair of unnotched triangular endblades, that are a little larger than they need to be, but that I can trim down as I work on their matching antler harpoon heads.  Interestingly, these triangular endblades frequently show up in Groswater Palaeoeskimo assemblages and a friend of mine, Steve Hull, did an archaeology honours thesis at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1997 checking them for usewear.  He found it - the triangular endblades seem to have been used just as frequently as the notched versions.  Notched endblades have to pass through an unnotched triangular phase, but Steve found that they might hang out at that unnotched stage for a while and be used as cutting or scraping tools.  Perhaps the unnotched triangular endblades were even the intended final product in some cases.  (I can't find Steve's thesis online, but I have a .pdf version that I don't think he'd mind me sharing if you want to e-mail me.)

This is the flake used to make the grey endblade
The Groswater endblades have a flattened, D-shaped cross section, sometimes called plano-convex by archaeologists.  I find them fascinating, because although they have strong left-right symmetry, they don't have a symmetrical cross-section, which is very unusual for a knapped projectile point.  The dorsal surface is convex and the ventral surface is flat.  They're not too tricky to make if you start with a large microblade or flake with one or two pronounced ridges running down the middle.  In addition, the Groswater Palaeoeskimos ground a lot of their tools during the manufacturing process, which I'll do several times throughout the process to help get rid of problem spots or set up the surface for the neat parallel pressure flakes that they liked to finish their tools with.

Tip-flute (L), Dorsal surface (R)
The Dorset Palaeoeskimos, who overlapped with the tail end of the Groswater Palaeoeskimo occupation, and survived after they disappeared in Newfoundland and Labrador, also made endblades with an asymmetrical cross section.  They tip-fluted their endblades, which gives their tools a pretty distinctive appearance.  Tip-fluting is in the same family of knapping skills as making burins and microblades.  Long, linear flakes are driven off the endblade on the ventral face, starting form the tip.  Ideally, the last two tip-flutes removed are places evenly on the left and right side, with a ridge running exactly down the middle of the endblade.  They should remove a tiny bit of each edge, creating a sharp cutting edge.  On Dorset endblades the dorsal face isn't tip-fluted, although I've seen photos of similar projectile points from Mongolia that are tip-fluted on the dorsal surface as well, creating a diamond shaped tip, with 4 burin or tip-flute facets meeting in a single point.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast
Related Posts with Thumbnails