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


  1. The re-shaping of the distal portions of these points certainly could have been restricted by hafting technique, but it may also be simply a matter of expediency. If a tip was damaged and was to be repaired - you might only re-shape the damaged portion.

    In the case of the two possibilities, I don't think that there is sufficient evidence to choose one over the other.

    In the case of the higher hafting argument, I would be more inclined to agree with you if you had evidence of grinding along the lateral portions around which lashings were fixed.

  2. Yeah, you're right on all counts - they need a more detailed examination than is possible from photographs. I'll definitely be looking for grinding and differences in flaking patterns around that bend the next time I visit the collections.

    But before seeing photos of these points it hadn't occured to me to even bother looking at that part of the edge.

  3. (Yes, I am commenting again!)
    OK, I read the post and thought I agree with Tim. Then John explained his concerns with the idea and I thought 'well that makes sense too'. But now I've had time to consider what John said and I think I disagree again.
    John I see your point but let me ask you this, if you were resharpening/shaping a point why would you stop at the mid point of the blade? unless you had too as per Tim's idea - hafting material was in the way)
    By stopping you are creating shoulders in the cutting area, basically making the job of penetrating/cutting the animal that much more difficult.

  4. Steve -
    "...why would you stop at the mid point of the blade?"

    My answer: Pure expediency. You fix only what is broken.

    "...By stopping you are creating shoulders in the cutting area, basically making the job of penetrating/cutting the animal that much more difficult".

    Do you really think that a slight shoulder along the lateral edge of a projectile point would make much a difference?

    Don't you think that the wad of sinew wrapped around the shoulder of the point would be more of a detriment to the point's "penetrating / cutting" efficiency?

    I'd argue that in either case, the point would still be functional - and as such is not evidence in support of Tim's original suggestion.

  5. If I have to resharpen something I will resharpen the whole thing, whatever I can get at, not just the tip. I am not going to sharpen the tip and say 'nah, thats good enough'.
    If this were a the result of expediency then we would see it in a lot more cases and throughout various times and cultures.
    The shoulder thing, yeah the wad of sinew wrapped around the shoulder of the point would be a detriment to the point's "penetrating / cutting" efficiency. But I would be willing to take that inefficiency over the loss of time resulting in having to rehaft the whole thing. Oh, but wait a second, in your argument you are creating the inefficiency needlessly because you were to lazy (sorry I meant expedient) to straighten out the edge.
    The more I think about this the more I disagree with you, you're not going to leave lumps/shoulders in a blade for expediency unless you have to.


  6. I don't know, in the Maritime Archaic stemmed points where there is a marked change in the angle, the bend seems to come at a point more or less the same distance up from the base. If the entire blade was exposed, and the change in the angle came from doing the minimum amount of retouch possible, then it seems like there should be more variability in where along the edge the bend happens. Some should bend very close to the tip and some closer to the base, but in fact, it seems like when they bend its about an inch up from the shoulder.

    It isn't that difficult to resharpen a small section of a point without creating a noticeable bend in the angle if there isn't something phsyically blocking your access to the edge.

    Stems and notches were something that people started experimenting with in the archaic period, prior to that all points would have had lashing that covered the lower edges of the point.

    Luckily, I think the evidence, one way or the other, should be visible on the actual artifacts.


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