Monday, April 21, 2014

Sheshatshiu, Labrador Intermediate Period Collection

A 3000 year old toolkit
Here's a final look at the Intermediate Period reproductions that I've been talking about for the past few weeks.  They are based on artifacts recovered in Sheshatshiu, Labrador under the direction of Scott Neilsen.  The site is dated to around 3000 years ago and will be the focus of a new exhibit in the Labrador Interpretation Centre in North West River.  Aside from the two cobble tools (the quartzite hammerstone and the coarse pestle) I've documented most of these pieces in previous posts, which are indexed here:

If you would like to learn more about the archaeological site that these reproductions are illustrating, you can visit the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society's YouTube channel and watch Scott's April 2, 2014 talk at The Rooms called "Archaeology in Sheshatshiu: A Review". 

These are the artifacts that the reproductions are based on.  Only one of the three side-notched projectile points was reproduced (the top one) and the large reddish quartzite biface was used as the reference for both a spear point and adze blade.

For this quartzite hammerstone, I went through my bag of hammerstones and found one that had a similar size and shape to the Sheshatshiu artifact.   If you've attended a MUNArch flintknapping workshop in the past few years, there is a pretty good chance that you used this hammerstone and therefore you helped make this reproduction.

This is a little rougher looking cobble that is meant to represent a possible pestle in the collection.  Its a softer rock that probably wouldn't last long as a hammerstone, but it may have been used for grinding ochre or pulverizing other materials at the site.  Mostly unmodified rocks like this present their own problems when trying to reproduce them.  Finding a cobble that matches the artifact is kind of like finding a perfect match for a specific snowflake.
All of the pieces.  Quartzite, chert, charcoal, softwood, spruce, tamarack, rawhide, gut, sinew, hide glue, spruce gum, red ochre, caribou skin, beach cobble, caribou antler

The quartzite biface hafted as a spear point is one of my favourite pieces in the collection.  It has a nice weight to it.

Seeing this coming at you would suck, if you were a caribou.

The scraper, hafted in an Innu style handle.

A side-notched point hafted with red ochre and spruce gum into a wood foreshaft with sinew lashing.

A grey banded chert knife hafted in a caribou antler handle.  The handle is designed to fit into the spear as a short foreshaft.

The red quartzite biface is shown here hafted as an adze blade in an antler socket lashed to a wood handle with rawhide.

The Sheshatshiu Intermediate Period Set
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. These are beautiful! Apart from the scraper, is there evidence for what I would categorize as domestic implements rather than hunting equipment?

    1. That's a good question. I haven't seen all the artifacts from the site, but as far as a I know, the artifacts that Scott and his crew found were stone tools and debris that represent hunting, processing game, and tool manufacture and repair. The features at the site are generally related to processing hides and meat, although the density of the features would seem to imply that people were living there or very nearby. When we only find stone tools at a site then hunting and processing will tend to be over represented. Things like sewing kits, bowls, baskets, combs, clothing, etc tend to be made from organic materials that are rarely preserved.

      Given the scale of the site and the diversity of the features that Scott has found I get the impression that this was more than a temporary hunting spot and so there must have been domestic spaces and artifacts on the site, but they haven't been preserved or found yet. Perhaps the most tantalizing clue of everyday activities on the site are the red ochre stains. Red ochre can be related to hide processing and used in glues for tool manufacture and repair, but it can also be used in paint for decorating people and objects.

  2. I'm not a caribou, but I think having that spear coming at me would suck equally as much!


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