Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hafting Stemmed Quartz Microblades

End hafted quartz microblade reproductions
Quartz crystals are a relatively common geological find in Newfoundland and Labrador.  To the Palaeoeskimos who lived here several thousand years ago, a well formed, hexagonal quartz crystal made a neat, natural microblade core.    The long parallel ridges and natural angles of the crystals help guide the first microblades detached from the core.  Quartz microblades are common at Groswater and Dorset Palaeoeskimo sites within the Province.

Dorset Microblades from Bird Cove
On average, quartz microblades are smaller than chert microblades.  This was probably beyond the control of the Palaeoeskimo knappers, because quartz crystals tend to be small to begin with.  However, quartz microblades are also frequently retouched at one end to create a small stem, which suggests that Palaeoeskimo knappers preferred to end haft them in small handles.  The stems are quite narrow, so the handles must have been equally slight.

I think that the small stemmed quartz microblades found at Dorset and Groswater Palaeoeskimo sites in Newfoundland and Labrador woud have been hafted into handles similar to these antler handles.
Delicate, but very sharp tool
I'm working on a large order of reproductions for the Port au Choix National Historic Site which needs to be completed before the end of March.  There are two hafted microblades in the order.  One of them is a side hafted chert microblade, but the other is an end-hafted quartz microblade.   I know that I've seen at least one bone or antler handle that would fit these little microblades.  I can't put my finger on it right now, but I'm sure it was in a collection from the Province, although I can't recall exactly which site it was from. It was probably from Port au Choix, but I'm not certain.  I searched through my archives and couldn't find a photo of it, so I'm working from memory.  If I recall correctly, it had round or perhaps slightly squarish cross-section and had a slight curve to it.

Side-hafted chert microblade (top)
End-hafted quartz microblade (bottom)

Hafted Quartz Microblade
I made the handles from antler and tied the microblades in with sinew and hide glue.  I made a couple extras to choose from.  I tried to build slight differences into the handles by giving them different lengths and cross-sections.  I gouged holes into two of the handles and antiqued two, just to experiment with different looks.  So far, I'm leaning towards sending the one with the natural, light coloured handle to Port au Choix, because I think it compliments the side hafted microblade in the wood handle (above).

Photo Credits: 
1, 3-6: Tim Rast
2: From Hartery and Rast 2002, Bird Cove Archaeology Project 2001 Field Season: Final Report. manuscript in possession of the author. St. John's.


  1. My experience with quartz crystal has generally been quite the opposite to Meg's comment.

    Whether I'm attempting to work it as a flintknapper, find it on an archaeological site, or simply cataloguing the tools made from it, it usually ends up causing me some level of pain - as it's remarkably sharp and durable edges often result in cuts to my fingers and subsequent loss of blood.

    On the upside, the cuts are usually very fine and heal quickly, so maybe there's something to quartz crystal's healing qualities after all ;)

  2. Microblades typically weren't used as knives at all. they were primarily used in 2 sided grain or barley dehusker the yield would go into a sifter type tool and a worker would swing the sifter back and forth causing the blades to run over outside cleaning and eventually Breaking down to the desired part of the grai.
    Also continuing to produce this quality of imitations will continue the flow of fakes the the unsuspecting public. they are very nice and on point.
    Thank you


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