Sunday, December 6, 2015

Arrows done and delivered

Ozark Turkey feathers and hand made steel
The arrows I mentioned in the last blog post are finished and delivered now.  They are going to be used in a movie that is being filmed around St. John's in the coming weeks.  There are other arrows being made and used in the film as well, so I'm not sure how much screen time these will get, but if I hear more or get any images from the set, I'll let you know.

The smaller arrow on the right is the reference arrow.  It's made on a 27" shaft.  The set I made (less the length of the arrowhead) range in length from 30-33" to fit a larger bow and larger actor.  The same arrow-maker who made the original arrow also made a longer set of arrows for the same production, so it'll be tough to tell whose arrows are used in which scene.

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Upsizing Arrows

It's been a while since I've
bought feathers, but I wanted
to match the banded fletching
on the original reference
Now that I've fallen out of practice with blogging, I don't know how I ever managed to put up three blog posts a week for so many years.  It seems like months slip by and I can no longer find an hour or two to share a few words and photos.  I am still around and I am still working, although I have been distracted by some non-Elfshot related work and opportunities so the output from my workshop has been low this fall.  I have some large bifaces started for an overdue set of Alaskan PalaeoIndian spears and this week I have a rush job to up-size some arrows.

I found some inexpensive knives at Canadian tire to create the arrowhead blanks to match the reference arrow.

I need to make 10 copies
I have a reference arrow that is a few inches too small for it's intended purpose, so I'm reproducing it at a larger scale.  Today I found all of the raw materials that I need - Ozark turkey feathers from a fly tying shop for the feathers, suitable wood for the shafts, and a set of stainless steel table knives from Canadian Tire to turn into the metal arrowheads.  The roughed out arrowheads have been coated in muriatic acid to accelarate the antiquing overnight and with any luck I'll be able to begin assembling the 10 arrows tomorrow.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, November 16, 2015

ARCH 4153 Lithic Analysis at Memorial University of Newfoundland

I'll be teaching ARCH 4153 during the winter semester through the Department of Archaeology at MUN.  This course is offered every second year and we will cover many topics that will help archaeology students as they continue on an academic path or look for work in the consulting world.  A strong working knowledge of stone tools, from their manufacture and use to the meaning behind their distribution within a site or across a region, is an important skill for any archaeologist.  Space is limited, register today.

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Alaskan PalaeoIndian Spear Preparation

A resin cast
I received a cool courier package today from Alaska.  It contained a core of chert from the Brooks Range, a long strip of caribou back sinew and a resin cast of a PalaeoIndian spear point.  The objective is for me to make hafted reproductions of the borrowed spear point using the chert and sinew provided.  The chert is remarkably similar to some of the chert that I've collected from the Port au Port Peninsula on Newfoundland's west coast.  It's very fine grained and looks like it might have some fractures in it, which is also similar to the Port au Port chert that I have.  

Using the cast as a reference will help me make a more accurate reproduction. 

 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, August 28, 2015

Inuit Heritage Trust Artifact Reproductions

Slate flakes and finished and
unfinished slate tools
I've finished two sets of Arctic artifact reproductions for Nunavut's Inuit Heritage Trust.  One set is based on Thule Inuit artifacts and the other is Dorset Palaeoeskimo.  In addition to the diagnostic artifacts we need a few miscellaneous pieces of debitage to round out the collections because not every artifact that archaeologists find are complete tools.  These pieces are intended to be buried by teachers and excavated by students to learn about archaeology and past cultures.

The Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifact reproductions.  Ground slate lance, antler harpoon head with tip-fluted endblade, microblades, nephrite burin-like tool, scraper, knife, microblade in side hafted wood handle with antler brace, and stemmed microblade endhafted into a whalebone handle.

Thule Inuit artifact reproductions.  Copper endblade and walrus ivory harpoon head.  Slate arrowhead or endblade, chipped ulu preform and finished ground ulu with whalebone handle.

As student's excavate the artifact reproductions, some of them will fit together like puzzle pieces.  Here are the composite tools exploded into their component parts.  I stained the Dorset pieces darker and left the Thule reproductions lighter coloured.  Dark staining on the older artifacts was one of the clues that Diamond Jenness used to identify the original Cape Dorset artifacts in the first half of the 20th Century. 
The composite tools assembled.  The ulu is a similar style to the ones that the students will make in the artifact replication part of the experience.  This set of tools also shows some of the cultural differences between the seal hunting tools (the harpoon heads) and cutting tools (ulu and microblade knives) used by the Thule Inuit and the Dorset.

Miscellaneous bits of antler, flakes of slate, flakes of chert, and scraps of sealskin with stitching holes along the edge.  These sorts of artifacts don't necessarily have right or wrong interpretations.  They represent human activity and it will be up to the young archaeologists to come up with their own stories and ideas about what they might have been.

Some of the chert flakes came from the tip-fluted endblade.  Chert is so uncommon in Thule Inuit contexts in the Canadian Arctic that one or two pieces of chert debitage is often enough to determine that a site is Palaeoeskimo in origin.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Elfshot and NLAS

Pieces for a sandbox dig
I've been splitting my time over the past week in a few different places.  I should be spending the bulk of my time on Elfshot, as that is what pays the bills these days, but volunteering with the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society is a lot of fun, too.  I'm not often home in August, so I guess this is all bonus time anyhow.  

Tim Rast (President, NLAS), Darin King (Minister
 of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural 
Development), John Riche (Chair, Admiralty 
House Museum), Steve Kent (Deputy Premier)
Last week, the Minister of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, Darin King, announced $1.2 Million Dollars in support of the heritage sector in Newfoundland and Labrador.  The NLAS receives a small part of that money to deliver the Community Collections Archaeology Research Project and I was invited to speak briefly at the announcement about our project.  It was good exposure for the NLAS and I was happy to attend the event held at Admiralty House and Museum in Mount Pearl.

"The Great Wall" at
Hant's Harbour
On Saturday, the NLAS held it's first field trip.  In total, 17 people toured the curious stone features at Hant's Harbour.  Local tradition suggests that some of the features have an aboriginal origin, although numerous archaeological examinations of the features suggest a more recent early-mid 19th Century European context for the stone walls, rock piles, and cobble paths.  We had beautiful weather and a walk through the woods always does a person good.  You can read more about the trip and see more photos on the NLAS Blog: Hant's Harbour Field Trip 2015.

Discussing the origins of the rock pile
A walrus ivory and copper Thule Inuit harpoon
head reproduction and an antler and chert
Dorset Palaeoeskimo harpoon head.
Back in the workshop, I've been finishing up the Dorset Palaeoeskimo and Thule Inuit sets of artifact reproductions for use in a travelling sandbox dig for students in Nunavut.  The pieces are all finished now, except for a bit of antiquing.  I should be able to do the final photography on them tomorrow and move on to some other aspects of the project.  We want to include a hands-on artifact replication component to the travelling kit, so I'll need to construct a few bow drills and think about the logistics of keeping the kit resupplied between uses.

Photo Credits:
1,5: Tim Rast
2-4: Lori White

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Arctic Artifact Reproductions

I'm working on two sets of artifact reproductions for a traveling mock archaeology dig initiated by Nunavut's Inuit Heritage Trust to be used by school groups across the territory.  One set represents the early Inuit, or Thule culture, and the other illustrates the preceding Dorset Palaeoeskimo culture.  We want to include a few finished, diagnostic tools as well as some debitage, broken pieces, and bones to represent the range of materials commonly found in an archaeological assemblage.

The plan is to include artifacts with similar functions, like harpoon heads, within both sets so that the similarities and differences can be discussed.  Different manufacturing methods between the two cultures will also be highlighted, like the drilled holes in the Thule/Inuit slate, whalebone, and ivory tools and the gouged holes in the Dorset antler, slate, and wood artifacts.
A Dorset harpoon head and tip fluted endblade.  The earlier chipped stone endblade will be contrasted with more recent ground slate and copper versions.

The sets are coming together.  I'll probably do a bit of antiquing on the artifacts to help them look more like lost tools that have been buried for hundreds of years.  The act of burying and retrieving them will further help age the materials.  

One of these walrus ivory harpoon head blanks will be finished and included in the kit, along with a matching copper or slate endblade.  The other one will be used in an upcoming reproduction of a compete Thule harpoon.

We want to include a cold hammered copper endblade in the Thule/Inuit set, along with the slate endblade.  Only one will fit the slot in the matching harpoon.  I haven't decided which yet, but I'm leaning towards the copper blade.  That leaves the possibility of the slate point being an arrowhead or lancehead open for the students to ponder. 
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Few New Dorset Reproductions

Chert, slate, and nephrite tools
I'm back in the workshop after being away for several weeks.  After a bit of clean-up last week, I'm slowly working my way back into production.  I've lost the calluses on my hands for pressure flaking, so I worked on a bit of ground stone after finishing a pair of simple Dorset Palaeoeskimo chipped stone artifact reproductions.  When the set is complete, these pieces will go into a mock dig kit that I'm helping the Inuit Heritage Trust assemble.  There are a few more Dorset and Thule Inuit pieces to construct for the kit over the next week or two.

A little Dorset knife blade (chert), endscraper (chert), and burin-like tool bit (nephrite).

Edge view of the knife

Knapped chert scraper and knife blade.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Participate in Archaeology Blogging Research

Fleur Schinning is currently writing her master’s thesis as a part of a specialisation in Heritage Management at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Her research will focus on the use of blogs and social media and how they contribute to the accessibility of archaeology in the Netherlands.

For her research she will be looking at several blogs from the UK, USA, and Canada to explore how blogging in archaeology contributes to public archaeology. She has set up a brief questionnaire to ask blog visitors about their motives for visiting archaeology blogs.  If you are reading this, then you are qualified to participate!

If you'd like to help Fleur with her research, the questionnaire can be viewed here: All participants also have a chance to win a small prize; 6 issues of Archaeology Magazine!

Image Credit:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Life on the Tundra

Young Arctic Hare
Many of the baby animals on the tundra have instincts to freeze and blend with the boulders and vegetation.
Overflowing nest of Lapland Longspur chicks.
Perfectly mute.  They'd be easy prey for a fox if they made a peep.
We saw this thing swimming in the river and didn't know what it was at first.  It looked like a seal, but we were 35 km inland.

It turned out it was a fox.  Not even the water is safe from this little jerks anymore.  Stay vigilant.

 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wrapping up the summer

Drilled slate point 
It was a brief field season this year in Nunavut and it's all over now but the packing.  The weather is a big factor in the successes and set-backs of fieldwork and this year the rain and snow clouds cooperated with us.  We lost an hour here and there, but we didn't lose a single day to inclement weather.  The interior travel and caribou hunting sites that we worked at are notoriously shy of artifacts because they were very briefly occupied and people traveled lightly.  Still, we found a sampling of stone, bone, wood, antler, and metal artifacts to give us a glimpse of Inuit life in the area over the past few hundred years.

Taking Notes
The relentlessly pleasant weather and long field days meant there was little quiet time around camp or in the lab to reflect on the weeks as they flew by.  I haven't sorted through the photos I took and this is my first blog post since the first day in the field a month ago.  Here are a few of my favourite photos of sites and artifacts from this season.

Excavating tent rings

A small piece of worked wood, about the diameter of a pencil, resting on sphagnum moss

There were at least four tent rings at this site.

A longer piece of wood on sphagnum moss.  This site has lots of wood fragments about the right size to be arrowshafts, but nothing terribly diagnostic, so it's possible that they had other functions.

A small antler artifact with a scarfed end.

Recording a tent ring in front of a blind. 

This slate point was found at a location that would have been good for caribou hunting.  It's probably an arrowhead or small lance tip.

 Photo Credits: 
1, 3-9: Tim Rast
2: Lori White

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