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

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