Monday, December 30, 2013

Home from Cuba

We spent an evening in Havana,
 taking in the Tropicana show.
Lori and I usually go away for Christmas at the Cabin with our friends John and Elaine.  Originally, a cabin just outside of St. John's was enough of a retreat from the holiday hustle.  Lately we've been finding cabins farther and farther afield.  This year we took "Christmas at the Cabin" to Cuba.  It was my first time in the country.  In fact, it was my first sun vacation ever.  I tried snorkeling for the first time, we made a couple trips to Havana, I bought a hat from a blind weaver and his wife who sews them, we picked up a couple pieces of art, I had the best Pina Colada's in Cuba, and read four books.

I don't know what kind of fish this is, but we called them "Banana Biters", because they went crazy for bananas.  They could smell the bananas on you fingers and would swarm all over you nipping at your fingers.  They were pretty intimidating at first because they are the size of footballs and a a dozen or more will appear out of nowhere and start a banana feeding frenzy.

The Tropicana, Havana

Our resort was about an hour east of Havana in a beautiful rural area.  A lot of the small farms were worked with cattle or horses or by hand.  This man would greet the tourists with fresh coconuts and sugar cane from his fields.

This was my first time snorkeling and I think I'm hooked.  It was incredible, I have hundreds and hundreds of photos to sort through just from the underwater camera, never mind all the pictures from Havana and the countryside.  I'm sure I'll put up more photos from the trip over the next few weeks as I get back into my workshop and office routine.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, December 27, 2013

Resolute Bay Raven

Big black ravens populate Resolute Bay, Nunavut.

They don't seem to sit still for long.  They are always on the look out for their next meal.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Dog Sled, Grise Fiord, Nunavut.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Monday, December 23, 2013

Beothuk Birch Bark Containers

A pair of red ochre stained Beothuk birch bark containers on display in the Mary March Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor.  I have a Beothuk birch bark reproduction on the horizon, but it will have to wait until later next year because I've missed the window for harvesting bark for this year.  The best time to harvest the bark is late spring or early summer.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, December 20, 2013

Grise Fiord Monument

Overlooking Grise Fiord is a life-sized monument to the first Inuit brought to the community in 1953 and 1955.

You can read about the creation of the communities of Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord by the Canadian government in the 1950s on Wikipedia: High Arctic Relocation.

They came to these desolate shores to pursue the Government's promise of a more prosperous life. They endured and overcame great hardship, and dedicated their lives to Canada's sovereignty in these lands and waters.
Sculptor: Looty Pijamini
Assistant Sculptor: Matthew Pijamini
Commissioned by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.
Unveiled September 2010
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Heading to the hills...

I'm putting the blog on autopilot for a couple of weeks so that I can enjoy a computer free Christmas. This is a reconstruction of a Neolithic Pastoralist found in the tourist information centre and community museum in Laguardia, Spain.  Obviously we've made a lot of advances in toupee technology since then.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Monday, December 16, 2013

A bit of snow on the ground

Snow in front of the house
 We've had some cold and snowy weather in St. John's over the past couple
of weeks. The storm last night only left 15-20 cm of snow in the city, but its a damp heavy snow. It feels like winter has caught up to us now.

The city is halfway through a major sewer upgrade along our street and there has been a construction zone in front of our house for most of the fall.  We've had a combination of related and unrelated plumbing problems in our basement since last spring and have been waiting for the upgrade to get to our house so that we could put the basement back together and finally be done with it all.  Of course, the contractors stopped one house short of us, so we get to be the first house hooked up in the spring, but we can't really make the basement livable again until that work is done.  It feels like it could be a long winter.

Our street has been put back together just in time for winter.  

The backyard is peaceful, though.  I hope to use the downstairs deck through the winter. It looks like it should be easy to keep clear.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, December 13, 2013

Blogging Archaeology; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Screen grab from editing this post
December's Blogging Archaeology carnival question asks us to ponder the good, the bad, and the ugly of our blogging experiences.  From my perspective the good far outweighs the bad and ugly, or I wouldn't still be doing this, but its not all roses.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Blogging Archaeology Carnival, you can check out the details on Doug's Archaeology.  Here is a link to all of the responses from the November Carnival (there are more than 60!) and at the bottom of the post in the link you'll find December's questions and details on how you can get involved.

Blogging Archaeology

The Good

Click to view posts with the label "Reproductions"
If the internet caught fire and I could only save one thing from this blog, I guess it would be all the posts tagged with the label "Reproductions".  Originally, I was going to say posts tagged with "Portfolio", but I tend to reserve that label for final posts in a series, the ones that show a completed piece or set of  reproductions.  Portfolio posts tend to have nice photos and summaries, but for me, the real value of this blog is it's record of trial and error and the processes and techniques used to make the Reproductions.  Large orders usually take me several days or weeks to complete and as I work on them and post progress updates, I generally tag those blog posts with the label "Reproductions".  I think those are Good posts because they are often the easiest to write and have interesting photographs to illustrate them, they document useful information for my future self, and perhaps, on occasion, help archaeologists or other people reading this blog see some small aspect of the archaeological record in a new or different way.

The Bad

This is a hard question to deal with, because I generally try to avoid negativity on this blog.  I know that I whine about work and everyone has ups and downs in their life, but I try not to dwell on those things here.  On the other hand, I have definitely discussed Bad News stories on this blog.  Perhaps the most notable being the posts documenting the cuts to Parks Canada archaeology by the Federal Government which peaked in the spring of 2012.  I've really tried to restrict my rants on this topic, because Parks Canada does a lot of very good archaeology and the archaeologists left with the Agency do outstanding work.  Of course, the dozens of archaeologists laid off in 2012 also did excellent work and its not their fault that Canadians somehow elected one of the most aggressively anti-science and anti-environment federal governments that any developed nation has ever had to cope with.

The Ugly


Originally, I was going to answer this literally - I've occasionally covered some ugly topics.  The insides of dead animals can be pretty graphic and some of the defleshing or degreasing photos that you can find here are not too pretty to look at.  The same could be said of the wolfkiller blog post, which deals with a particularly gruesome way to die, but remains this site's all time most popular post.  However, from a blogging point of view, my pick for ugliest post is one that I made showing off a new business card design a little over a year ago.  The reason that I find it so ugly is that it has a trail of business card spam hanging off the end of it that continues to fester and drip longer.  At first I deleted the spam comments from that post, as I still do from all other posts, but now I just leave them there.  My hope is that the dangling trail of unsolicited sales pitches will attract spammers from posting elsewhere, like hanging one of those ugly amber sticky strips of flypaper up to catch flies.

Photo Credits:
1,2: Tim Rast
3: Screen Capture from Parks Canada's Archaeology webpage4: Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Boxing up Flintkapping Kits

Each kit has a copper pressure flaker,
leather palm pad and an instruction
During the winter semester, a friend is teaching a Lithic Analysis course in the Archaeology Department at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the students will be expected to try flintknapping for themselves.  I don't think you have to be a master flintknapper in order to study stone tools, but knowing the basics will help put everything into context.  I've spent a few hours this week packaging up some knapping kits for the students.  I've been invited to make a couple classroom visits where I'll help them get started and in the meantime they will have some of the basic tools to practice with.  It also looks like I'll be doing some workshops, talks, or demos in western Canada again this winter or early spring.  I'll post more when the details are sorted out, but it looks promising and will probably include some cities that I haven't knapped in before.

Ready to Deliver
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, December 9, 2013

The NLAS has a Board of Directors

NLAS President, Tim Rast, and Vice-President,
Catherine Jalbert, at the 2013 AGM
The Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society had its first board meeting this past weekend.  Looking back through the blog posts from the last month and I'm just realizing now that I haven't mentioned anything here about the outcome of the NLAS Annual General Meeting back on November 4th.  James Lyttleton gave an excellent talk on last summer's archaeology field school at Admiralty House in Mount Pearl and on World War I archaeology in general.  During the AGM we voted to accept our constitution and we also announced our new Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

The NLAS Executive Committee is:

Tim Rast: President
Catherine Jalbert: Vice-President
Lori White: Treasurer
Sarah Ingram: Secretary

The NLAS Board of Directors for 2013-2014 is:

John Erwin
Chris Wolff
Corey Hutchings
Scott Neilsen

Screen capture from
James Lyttleton's talk
At the board meeting this past weekend we struck a few committees responsible for specific tasks, like preparing a 3-5 year business plan, applying for funding, planning events, and developing a website.  One of the things that we'll be putting up on the website are links to videos of NLAS talks and public meetings, including the AGM and James Lyttleton's talk.  In the meantime, you can continue to follow the NLAS Facebook page, where you'll find membership forms and information on how to get more involved.

Photo Credits: Screen Captures from NLAS videos

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nunavut News/North Article

I know how it looks, but replicating stone
 tools really has nothing to do with the
"Failing on education" headline. 
I'm wrapping up a week filled with a lot of office and computer work.  I had a final report to prepare for Parks Canada on the High Arctic workshops as well as a few last minute jobs that I want to get done before Christmas and the end of the year.  I'm planning to step away from the computer over the holidays and put the blog on autopilot for a few posts.  But in order to get that little break I'm doing double duty now creating a small cache of photo posts to go up during the last half of the month.

I suppose by now you are tired of hearing me go on and on about the trip to Resolute and Grise Fiord.  I feel your pain.  So to spare you, here is someone else writing about the trip:

Click to enlarge.
 Photo Credits: Nunavut News/North

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Independence I Driftwood Arrow - Completed.

I didn't have a proper bow with me, but this young
fellow was kind enough to demonstrate his technique
for musk-ox hunting with the bow from the bow drill.
This is a reproduction of an Independence I arrow that I made for Umimmak School in Grise Fiord on my recent trip there.  It is a different arrow than the one that I started in Resolute Bay, which I still haven't completed, but it is similarly constructed.  I was able to finish this one because a teacher at the school donated a raven feather to the project.  It was a large enough feather that I was able to split it down the middle and use each half for the fletching.  I don't think it will spin quite right, but it looks fine for a display piece and I like that its finished with local materials.  Arrows like this would have been used by Independence I hunters as early as 4500 years ago to hunt muskox in the High Arctic.

Raven feathers for the fletching.  I'm sure there are more birds in Grise Fiord in the summer, but the whole time I was there, I only saw ravens.
Its fairly straight here, but I found that even dry old driftwood likes to warp after you whittle it.  I needed to go back and readjust the angles on the scarf joints after a couple days of drying to straighten it out again.

The foreshaft was probably important
in adding weight to the front of the
arrow to compensate for the tiny
Its spliced together from three pieces of driftwood and measures about 70 cm or so in length.  For the point, I used Independence I artifacts from Quttinirpaaq National Park as my reference.  The general dimensions, notch style and specifics of the scarf joints are based on Saqqaq driftwood arrows recovered from sites in Greenland and detailed in Grønnow (2012).  The two feather fletching style is based on more recent Inuit arrows while the twisted sinew lashing and glueless design is representative of both Inuit and Palaeoeskimo hafting techniques.  I was inspired to attempt the glueless, twisted sinew lashings by recent conversations on this blog with Marcus Lepola.  It's taken me a long time to realize that sinew and glue lashings in the Arctic are probably the exception to the rule and that binding with twisted threads of sinew were probably much more commonly used in the area than I'd previously thought.

Ignore all the random tools in the top of this photo.  Across the middle you can see two arrows in progress.  The tops one has the point and three sections of driftwood all lashed together while the bottom one is exploded into its separate elements.

The completed arrow. Chert, driftwood, sinew, feather.  The biggest license I took in making this arrow was using arrow diameter driftwood twigs for the shaft rather than working from larger split driftwood logs.  The evidence from the Greenland Saqqaq sites indicate that split logs were the starting point for the wood used in arrows like this.


Grønnow, Bjarne
2012 An archaeological reconstruction of Saqqaq bows, darts, harpoons, and lances in Études/Inuit/Studies, Volume 36(1), 2012, p. 23-48

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, December 2, 2013

How Tall Were The Maritime Archaic Indians?

Maritime Archaic Indian artifact reproductions used in
 the sand box dig at The Rooms.
I got stumped by a question during a flintknapping demonstration today.  I was talking about archaeology and the Maritime Archaic artifact reproductions used in public programming at The Rooms with volunteers and Front of House staff.  One of the volunteers asked an excellent question that has a good Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeology answer, but I didn't know the correct answer off the top of my head, so I looked it up as soon as I got home:

Q: How tall were the Maritime Archaic Indians?

A: The average Maritime Archaic man was 5' 6" tall, and men ranged in height from 5' 3" to 5' 8 1/2" (mean = 167.2 cm, range = 159.4 cm to 174.0 cm).  Women averaged 5' 3" and ranged from 4' 11" to 5' 5" (mean = 160.6 cm, range = 150.7 cm to 165.5 cm). 

Maritime Archaic skeleton drawing from Tuck 1976.
This man was buried with the beaks from 200 great auks.
In life, he would have stood about 5' 7".
Or at least those are the figures based on the adult skeletons from the 100 Maritime Archaic burials at Port au Choix (4400 to 3300 BP) that were complete enough for the detailed skeletal measurements recorded by J.E. Anderson in the mid-1970s.  Its rare to know so much about the physical appearance of a population from so long ago, but the Maritime Archaic Indians in Newfoundland and Labrador are often the exception to the rule when it comes to Archaeology.


Anderson, J.E.
1976 Appendix A: The Human Skeleton. in Ancient People of Port au Choix by James A. Tuck. Newfoundland Social and Economic Studies No. 17, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial Univesrit of Newfoundland, St. John's. pp. 124-131

Photo Credits:
1: Tim Rast
2: from Tuck 1976, reference above.

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