Friday, July 30, 2010

Musk Ox on Devon Island, Nunavut

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dorset Palaeoeskimo Snow Goggles

One of the Dorset goggle eyepieces
One of the things that I like about making artifact reproductions is that it often shows that people in the past weren't so different from people today.  By making and using the same tools from the same materials you feel connected to the individuals who made the originals hundreds or thousands of years ago.  But sometimes an artifact comes up that reminds you of the differences, too.  These snow goggles were like that.  They are based on artifacts from a cave site in Port au Choix, Newfoundland and Labrador and I love the look of them.  They aren't like later Thule or Inuit snow goggles and I don't know of any other snow goggles from this culture or time period.  When The Rooms asked me to make a pair to use in hands-on programming I was happy at the prospect of seeing the world through Palaeoeskimo goggles.   I copied the original artifacts exactly and laced them together like the larger Inuit goggles shown below.  But when I tried them on, they didn't fit at all.  Imagine my disappointment when they didn't work on my face.  Instead of sitting comfortably on my nose and temples, the rested firmly on my eyeballs.  There might be missing pieces that would make them fit correctly, but I don't think so.  I think the problem is the shape of my skull.  They may have fit comfortably on a Palaeoeskimo person, but they don't work at all on my narrow, pointy Caucasian face.

Dorset Palaeoeskimo snow goggles in the middle, bone reproductions above and below

Inuit snow goggles above the Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts

Notice how flat the Dorset goggles are compared to the Inuit goggles

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Beechey Island, Nunavut

John Hartnell's grave on Beechey Island, Nunavut.  Hartnell was one of the first of Sir John Franklin's crew to die on his ill-fated quest for the Northwest Passage
Beechey Island, with the Franklin era graves in the foreground

Northumberland House, Beechey Island. A small supply depot built by Franklin searchers.

If you'd like to know more about Sir John Franklin, I recommend Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie and John Geiger.  You should also check out Ken McGoogan's blog and if you'd like to visit Beechey Island for yourself, book a trip with Adventure Canada.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kobo eReader Review

Kobo is an anagram of Book
The last time I was in the field was 2008 and I wanted to try lightening my fieldgear then by taking an eReader.  However, at that time, the Kindle was the only one on the market and it wasn’t available in Canada.  Since then, there have been a few new eReaders released and I picked up the Kobo, which is available from Chapters for $149 Cdn. 
I like it.  I wanted something to replace a pile of paperback novels and so far I’m very happy with the Kobo.   It came preloaded with 100 classic novels and I’ve been working my way through “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”.   The Kobo screen is 6” and the whole thing is very compact and slim – there’s not a lot of wasted space.  I still don’t like reading off of computer screens, but the matte look on eReader screens seems so much like paper that I forget almost instantly that I’m reading from an electronic device and not paper.
The thickness of a pencil
Kobo handles ePub and .pdf files quite nicely.  The ePub format is a little easier to read, because the font can be scaled up and down.  That’s the format that most books are released in.  I haven’t bought too many books, but the digital versions seem to be about ½ to 1/3 of the normal cover price.

Landscape mode works well for .pdf articles
The ability to save .pdfs to the device means that I can take a tonne of articles and reference books into the field that I wouldn’t normally bother with.  With .pdfs, the page elements are all locked in place so you need to zoom in and click up and down the page to read, but there is a landscape mode which makes them easier to navigate.  Still, they can be a little slow when you are dealing with documents or articles that have multiple columns on a single page.  Book length documents in the .pdf format are extremely slow to navigate, because you can only advance through a book or document one page at a time.  There is no search or find function to jump quickly around a document.  You can read them from front to back, no problem, but they aren’t convenient to extract information from quickly.  A 20-30 page article is fine to navigate, and the 8 level grey scale still produces a clearer image than a photocopy.   I have a couple banker’s boxes worth of articles with me that I would normally not have access to. 
6" is a good size screen for a small eReader
The battery life is supposed to be 2 weeks and we’re only one week into the project, so I can’t say too much about that, other than its still running.
Overall, the Kobo is a great substitute to taking paperbacks into the field, especially if you have access to electricity, or don’t plan on being gone more than 2 weeks.  It’s slow to find and retrieve information from long .pdfs, so I wouldn’t want to depend on it for that purpose, but for travel and end of day tent reading, its ideal.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stepping Back in Time: Ferryland

Here are a few shots from a trip to Ferryland, Newfoundland and Labrador last summer.  Lori and I visited the 17th century archeology site with family visiting from Alberta. Ferryland is about an hour south of St. John's and well worth the drive!



Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, July 16, 2010


Metal bladed ulus in the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa
Iron, copper and horn ulu in the Canadian Museum of Civilization collected by Diamond Jenness
Slate with bone and metal with wood ulus in Pond Inlet

The Rooms, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

King's Point Whale Pavilion Photos

 This is the first scheduled post of the summer.  If you are anywhere near central Newfoundland this summer you have to check out the Humpback Whale Pavilion in King's Point.

A 50 foot skeleton of a female humpback whale is housed within the pavilion

Imagine rows of baleen hanging from the roof of her mouth

Looking up her nose

Her right scapula and humerus
Those three little bones hanging from the vertebrae are all that remain of the whale's hind legs
There are bones for legs she didn't have, but nothing in the wide, flat tail fins.
Those ribs (and mandibles) are big enough to build a house from.
David Hayashida and Linda Yates were two of the driving forces behind the project

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, July 12, 2010

Final Packing

We had a very hot and humid weekend here in St. John's.  I should have been packing and doing last minute odds and ends, but I mostly hunkered down in the basement out of the heat.  There's a small pile of clothes and equipment growing on the living room floor.  I mentioned how quickly CRM archaeology can move in Friday's post.  Since then, Lori has heard about a job in southern Labrador, put together a budget and assembled a crew.  We'll both be flying out to work on Wednesday morning.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer Plans

Surveying in Nunavut
This week, I've been winding down Elfshot for the summer and gearing up for fieldwork.  Next Wednesday, I'll be leaving for 6 weeks of fieldwork in Nunavut.  I'd love to post updates to this blog while I'm away, but there are logistical and confidentiality reasons why that won't be possible.  If I do manage to post some pictures and stories from the field, they won't be as regular or detailed as usual.  That said, I've gone through my photo folders and have set up a series of pre-scheduled posts to cover the period that I'm away.

Arctic Hare
The work in Nunavut is a consulting job, or Cultural Resource Management (CRM), and its up to the project archaeologist, the client, and the Nunavut government's Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth to decide how information about the project is disseminated.  In a nutshell, there is a large project proposed in Nunavut which will have an impact on the land.  The company proposing the work needs to hire a suite of environmental scientists to determine the impact that the project will have on all the plants, animals, land, water and cultural resources within the project's footprint.  The archaeologist's job is to deal with the cultural resources.  We need to create an inventory of all the archaeological and historic sites within the boundaries of the proposed development and monitor any activities that may impact on those sites.  Based on that information, the client, working with the territorial government and the archaeologists will determine how best to avoid those resources.  If they can't avoid the sites, then the client needs to pay to have them systematically recorded and excavated so that as much information as possible is preserved.  This process is called mitigation in archaeology-speak.

Mapping with mosquitoes
Cultural Resource Management can be very fast paced and stressful.  I'd love to be able to talk about all the cool stuff we're doing and finding, but a good day for the archaeology crew isn't necessarily a good day for the client who has to adjust their plans and budget accordingly.  Its also not necessarily going to excite the investors who are required for the next stage of the project to proceed.  So even though the camp we're working out of may have intermittent internet access and I may manage to make occasional blog posts this summer, they'll be quite vague about where I am, what we're finding and who I'm working for.

Photo Credits:
1: Ainslie Cogswell
2-3: Lori White

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Future and Current Archaeology Students

Shad Valley Flintknapping Demonstration
Yesterday, I had a chance to work with a dozen high school students from across Canada who are visiting Memorial University of Newfoundland for 4 weeks as part of the Shad Valley summer enrichment program.  The students will spend the month of July living and learning on the campus, getting immersive introductions to many of the departments and opportunities offered at each of the participating universities.  It seems like a pretty cool way to give students in Grade 10,11, and 12 a jump start on planning their academic path..

Tossing darts with an Atlatl (in the rain)
Some of the students participating in the program at MUN were given an introduction to Archaeology yesterday afternoon.  Joy Hopley organized a pretty fun programme for them which included a 45 minute talk introducing archaeology, a flintknapping demonstration and atlatl toss.  Joy gave the introductory talk, I brought in a bunch of reproductions and did the flintknapping demo and two grad students in the Archaeology Department, Josh and Eric, provided the atlatls and instruction.  I think the students had a good time, I know I certainly enjoyed it.

A classroom introduction to archaeology
Maybe some of those students will catch the bug and make their way onto an archaeology field school in a few years.  Not all archaeology is done in the field, but almost everything that we study was originally excavated and collected by a field archaeologist.  A practical understanding of fieldwork is a big benefit to any archaeology student, regardless of their intended career path. Whether or not a field school is required by your school to graduate, it will certainly give you an advantage when employers are deciding who to hire.  (In fact, on my way in to set up yesterday, there was literally an archaeologist roaming the hallways in the department looking for someone with field experience to hire for a week.)

Amanda Crompton is currently leading Memorial University of Newfoundland's archaeology field school on an historic military site at the top of Signal Hill in St. John's.  You can tune in for her updates from the field on the project blog; Archaeology at Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada.  This is the third year that the field school has been on Signal Hill and its the second year that Amanda, her students, and staff have been keeping the blog, so there is already a lot of fascinating content online from their previous work.  And, of course, if you visit Signal Hill this month you can check out their progress in person.

Photo Credits:
1: Joy Hopley
2-3: Tim Rast
4: Screen capture from Archaeology at Signal Hill, Newfoundland, Canada

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beaches Point Jewelry

Beaches rhyolite jewelry
The flintknapped rhyolite jewelry is heading out to the gift shop in the Burnside Archaeology Centre.  Given the Centre's proximity to both the Bloody Bay Cove rhyolite quarry and the Beaches site, the lead archaeologist, Laurie McLean, asked that I include some Beaches complex reproductions in the set.  The rhyolite that I use comes from Bloody Bay Cove and the cores are carefully selected by Laurie to ensure that they are not archaeological artifacts.  Each year, I'll be producing a small quantity of rhyolite jewelry exclusively for sale through the Burnside Archaeology Centre, located in the town of Burnside in beautiful Bonavista Bay.

The Beaches Site
The Beaches complex, which was named for The Beaches site, is the earliest link in the Recent Indian continuum on the Island of Newfoundland that leads to the Little Passage complex and ultimately the historic Beothuk.  The most diagnostic artifact of the Beaches complex are their side-notched projectile points.  These side-notched points tend to be larger than the later corner-notched Little Passage points and seem likely to have been used on atlatls, while the corner-notched Little Passage points represent the introduction of the bow and arrow to the Island.  In this case, the change in material culture seems to represent the introduction of a new technology, rather than the migration of a new people.
Bloody Bay cove rhyolite flakes at the quarry
Rhyolite is a tough stone to work.  That probably means that its durable, but I think that the biggest advantage that the Bloody Bay cove quarry had going for it was the size of the cores that could be found there.  There is lots of high quality, fine grained chert around the province, but it tends to have a lot of internal fractures and for the folks who wanted to make large stone tools the massive, solid pieces of rhyolite that can be found at Bloody Bay cove would have been one of the few options available.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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