Friday, June 23, 2017

Harpoon Heads for Nunavik Sivunitsavut

Nearly 3000 years of
Arctic Harpoon Head evolution
I shipped a large order of harpoon heads and Dorset and Thule artifact reproductions to Nunavik Sivunitsavut, an Inuit post secondary school in Quebec.    The reproductions will be handled by students in their archaeology courses.  The harpoon heads were particularly interesting for me because of the breadth of examples requested; in total there are fourteen harpoon heads in the set composed of seven Dorset and seven Thule examples. 

Assorted Dorset and Thule Artifact reproductions. Chert microblades, knife, and scraper, slate tools, whalebone handles, nephrite Burin-Like Tool. 

A valuable reference
My primary reference for the harpoon heads in this collection is the book Ancient Harpoon Heads of Nunavut: An Illustrated Guide by Robert Park and Douglas Stenton.  I made all of the Dorset harpoon heads illustrated in the book and all of the Thule harpoon heads, except for the large whaling harpoon head.  There are also three Pre-Dorset examples in the book that we didn't cover here, but otherwise I worked through every page of the publication.
The book was extremely useful in selecting the raw material for each example and planning the general size and design of the pieces.
Common raw materials
and sizes are listed
As the reproductions neared completion, I also used sources like the Canadian Museum of History online catalogue to see actual photos of the examples as well as primary reports and archaeological publications.  Several of the harpoon head designs were new to me, and I've never attempted to make so many different styles all at once.  There were days when the rapid switching in the workshop between all of the various designs, materials, and styles kept my head muddled.  But over time the bigger patterns emerged and helped me understand the various stages in the sequence.

Thule Type 1
One of the things that struck me was how continuous the sequence actually is. Early and Middle Dorset contrast sharply with more recent Thule and Inuit harpoon heads where design elements like gouged versus drilled holes and dual versus single basal spurs create very different looking implements.  However, there is a much more grey area during the Late Dorset and early Thule where designs overlap.  In the archaeology of the Eastern Arctic there is a gap between Dorset and Thule and the cultural remains that we usually encounter look very different, but when you look west the differences are a little more subtle.

Thule Harpoon Head Reproductions, (left to right); Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, Type 4, and Type 5
Tyara Sliced - Early Dorset. Walrus ivory and chert
Kingait Closed - Middle Dorset. Walrus ivory and chert

Nanook Wasp Waist - Middle Dorset. Walrus ivory.

Dorset Parallel - Early, Middle and Late Dorset. Antler and Chert.

Dorset Type G - Late Dorset. Antler and Chert

Dorset Type Ha - Late Dorset. Antler
Dorset Type J - Late Dorset. Antler
Thule Type 1 - Classic and Postclassic Thule. Antler

Natchuk - Early Classic Thule. Antler and chert

Thule Type 2 - Classic and Postclassic Thule. Antler

Thule Type 3 - Classic and Postclassic Thule. Antler and copper

Sicco - Early Classic Thule. Ivory and copper

Thule Type 4 - From Classic Thule through Historic times. Whalebone and slate
 
Thule Type 5 - Postclassic Thule into Historic times. Whalebone and steel

The complete Dorset harpoon head set.  Ivory, chert, and antler

The complete Thule harpoon head set. Ivory, antler, whalebone, steel, copper, chert, and slate



Photo Credits: Tim Rast 

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