Friday, May 29, 2015

Happy 2nd Birthday NLAS!

The Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society was incorporated two years ago today - on May 29, 2013.  Happy Birthday and congratulations to all the volunteers who've been working to make the organization grow!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Splitting Birch and Knapping Glass

Splitting the birch
I continued working on the ice patch inspired Northern Archaic darts today by splitting a birch log into long blanks for the darts.  The complete darts will be somewhere around a metre and a half or two metres long and less than a centimetre and a half in diameter.  The birch split well enough using chisels and wedges (I've misplaced the hatchet that I normally use for wood splitting).
Fibre Optic Glass
At the same time I need to pull together a wholesale order for the Heritage Shop at Port au Choix, so I started making fibre optic glass blanks for jewellery.  I'll probably work on both projects in tandem and try finish the work within the next week or two.  It will be a hectic couple of weeks wrapping up Elfshot work before heading out for a brief field season.

I need at least three darts.  I'm hoping that I can find them somwhere in these five staves.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, May 25, 2015

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Harpoon with Spare Parts

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Harpoon Heads
This is a fun little set that I just sent off to Mount Royal University in Calgary along with the Northern Plains projectile points that I showed on Friday.  This a Groswater Palaeoeskimo harpoon with three interchangeable harpoon heads.  Two of the harpoon heads (one with a chert endblade and one self-bladed) have braided sinew lanyards and sealskin lines attached to them.  There is a third harpoon head prepared to fit the same foreshaft, ready to attach to a line when needed.  I don't think I've ever made a kit quite like this before and it really made me think about the tools in a new way.  

All three harpoon heads fit
the same whale bone foreshaft.
I think it's very likely that Groswater hunters would have carried sets of spare harpoon heads like this around with them.  Each harpoon head we find archaeologically doesn't have to equate to it's own complete harpoon.  The barbed or endbladed harpoon heads may have been used on different prey or in different conditions, but there is no reason to carry around multiple complete harpoon shafts to fit them all separately.  Similarly, there is no reason to wait until a harpoon head is damaged or lost to prepare backup parts.  I think versatile kits like this were probably much more common in the past than a single harpoon without any spare parts.

The selfbladed antler harpoon head is designed to toggle, but it also has a single barb to help secure it in the prey.

I used softwood for the main body of the harpoon and sealskin for the lines and lashing

A Newfoundland chert endblade lashed to an antler harpoon head with sinew.  The foreshaft is whalebone and the braided line threaded through the harpoon head line hole is sinew.

I suspect Groswater hunters maintained similar spare harpoon heads for inevitably lost or damaged parts or different prey or hunting conditions.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, May 22, 2015

Northern Plains Projectile Points

Record in Stone and
Here is the finished set of Northern Plains projectile points.  This sequence of reproductions spans about 10,000 years of prehistory.   I've attempted some of these point styles in the past, while others were new to me.  Either way, I relied heavily on the Archaeological Society of Alberta's publication "Record in Stone: Familiar Projectile Points from Alberta".  This book has been periodically updated over the years and remains an extremely useful publication.

I don't want all the points in a set like this to look like they were made by one person at one time.   If very different tools or techniques were used to make the original artifacts, I'll try to mimic those as best that I can.  I also made each projectile point from a different type of stone to try to build variety into the set.

The complete set of reproductions arranged in chronological order from top to bottom

Spot the reproduction...
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Groswater harpoon progress

Un-notched Groswater
I have a few goals in the workshop this week and several orders that I'm trying to fill all at once, but my main focus is to get a Groswater harpoon and assorted Northern Plain's projectile points finished and in the mail by Friday.  The clock is ticking and I need the harpoon to be dry before shipping, so my priority today was working the sealskin so that the lashing can go on to the wood shaft as soon as possible so that it can dry while I work on the other unfinished pieces in the order.

Stretching and drying sealskin for the harpoon line and lashings.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ptarmigan Feathers

I need a few ptarmigan feathers for a set of atlatl darts.  A friend from Labrador managed to find a half dozen wings in his freezer and popped them in the mail for me last week.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, May 15, 2015

Start of the long weekend

If I had made it out to the workshop today, I would have finished these Groswater harpoon heads.  But I didn't make it to the workshop today.  I got distracted by office work, photo editing, and the first lunchtime pina coladas of the season.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


 The bilboquets or pin-and-cup games I showed boiling on Monday are dried and ready to ship now.  I discussed it with the client and given the way these toys are intended to be used, we decided to go with braided artificial sinew instead of real sinew.  It looks the same, but it should last a little longer, with less maintenance than real sinew.  The bone targets, pins, and cords range in size and therefore difficulty.  The pins are primarily ribs and the targets are cut from caribou long bones and whale ribs.
Set of nine bilboquets

The different sizes and hole diameters make some of the toys more challenging than others.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, May 11, 2015

You want what?

Bone pin and cup games, minus the sinew string
that will connect the two parts together.
I learned a new word from this order; bilboquet.  I've made these sort of bone pin-and-cup games before, but I've never come across the French name for them until the Canadian Museum of History requested nine such toys for a hands-on travelling exhibit called "Kids Celebrate".  I spent today roughing out the caribou and whale bone cylinders and pins in the workshop and boiling out the residual grease in them in the kitchen.  It won't take long to add the braided sinew cord to bind the pins to the cups.  I should be able to get them in the mail within the next day or two.

Boiling out the grease and marrow
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, May 8, 2015

Northern Archaic Reproductions made from Alaskan Obsidian

Obsidian dart point and reference drawing
 I'm working on a series of knapped obsidian and chert dart points for archaeologists in Alaska and the Yukon.  The Alaskan set is made from obsidian from Wiki Peak, which has been a real pleasure to work.  The stone has nice grey and black flow banding, although the grey doesn't really show up in these photos.  Two of the finished projectile points will be hafted in split birch shafts based on ice patch darts from the Yukon.  The other three pieces show the progression of making a dart point from a hard hammered flake, through a soft hammered preform, and on to a pressure flaked complete point.  I wanted to save the corresponding flakes for each stage, which is why I needed to clean up the winter's mess and lay out a fresh tarp in the workshop.

A flintknapping reduction sequence from a hard hammer flake (left) to a soft hammered biface (middle) to a projectile point finished with pressure flaking.

In this photo, the knapped obsidian is resting on the reference photos and drawing used to model the points.  I primarily used the line drawing in the upper right hand corner to guide the size and stem style for the three completed dart points.  Looking at the photo here, I may trim the ears slightly on one or two of the points before I haft them.  There is a fine line between a wide side-notch and an expanding stem and I think my points might have more of a side-notched than stemmed feel to them at the moment.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring Cleaning

With the Canadian Archaeological Association conference over and the Ikaahuk artifact reproductions delivered, it is time to take a deep breath and move into the final phase of filling spring orders.  To begin, I desperately needed to clear the winter's dust out of the workshop and lay out a fresh tarp to work on.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, May 4, 2015

Emulating Independence I Tool Makers

The current issue of Above&Beyond, Canada's Arctic Journal contains an article that I wrote about the Quttinirpaaq National Park reproductions that I made a couple years back.  If you've ever visited the Canadian Arctic, you might recognize Above&Beyond as the inflight magazine of First Air.  Here is a link to the full issue and my article called "Emulating Independence I Tool Makers: Quttinirpaaq National Park's Oldest Artifacts".

Link to story

Photo Credits: Screen Captures from Above&Beyond

Friday, May 1, 2015

Chocolate harpoon heads

Check out the awesome NLAS Chocolate Harpoon Heads at the CAA conference bookroom.  Available in Solid Dark Chocolate, Solid Milk Chocolate, Half Dark and Half White Chocolate, and Half Milk and Half White chocolate. $4 each or $15 for a set of 4.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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