Friday, January 12, 2018

Bone and Antler Games for the Canadian Museum of History

These Bilboquets or pin and cup games are on their way to join the Canadian Museum of History's travelling Kids Celebrate exhibition.  The pins are all antler and the cups are either long bone sections or caribou antler with the porous interior scraped hollow.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Beothuk Gaming Pieces

Beothuk game piece reproductions
Late last year, I worked on a set of bone Beothuk Game Piece reproductions.  They were a birthday present ordered by a friend for her archaeologist husband.  I made 13 pieces in total and we selected seven of the nicest pieces to make the gift set.   This old blog post discusses some of the primary sources and interpretations of how the game pieces may have been used.  The pieces are carved in bone (I primarily use caribou long bones) and decorated with incised lines on one side.  They are covered in red ochre.

Thirteen finished game piece replicas
Like anything, the more time you spend with a project, the more detail that begins to emerge.  All of the known game pieces are either diamond shaped, rectangular, or irregular.  A complete set seems to have been composed of three diamond, three rectangular, and one irregular piece. There also seems to be a different approach to the thickness of the different game pieces.  The irregular and diamond shaped pieces are quite thin and flat, and often have a slight curve to them, probably from the shape of the bone they are made from.  The rectangular pieces are much thicker and blockier.  They aren't cubes like a six-sided die, but they are not simple flat tiles like the diamond shaped pieces either.  I tried to reflect this difference in the reproductions.

Carving the designs is a multi-stage process.  The final designs are quite complex, so I don't carve them all at once.  I begin with the borders and longest lines first and then add progressively more detail in additional carving sessions.  You can see my pencil marks on the blanks in this photo.  The reproductions are sitting on a sheet of paper that is printed with the original artifacts that I used for reference.

This is the final set of game pieces for my friend's birthday.  It has three diamond shaped pieces, three rectangular pieces and one irregular piece.  I'm especially happy with how the ochre took to the bone - they really capture the look and feel of the original artifacts.  
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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