Friday, June 28, 2013

Shed Antlers

When we spot bones or antlers on the tundra, we tend to take a look at them.  Many are natural, like this shed caribou antler.  Some are still attached to skulls and may come from animals that died of natural causes.  Other times, they are near hunting blinds or caches and we can tell that the belonged to animals that were hunted.  Unless they are clearly from an archaeological context we leave them where we find them.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Scruffy time of year

Its a scruffy time of year.  
The northern animals are losing their shaggy winter coats.

While the southern ones are starting to grow their's.

 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer on the tundra

Summer on the tundra.  
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, June 21, 2013

Purple Saxifrage

Purple Saxifrage provides one of the first bursts of colour on the tundra once the snow begins to melt.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Seal Breathing hole drains

As the sea ice starts to melt under the 24 hour sunlight in Nunavut, fresh water starts to pool and flow on the surface of the snow and ice.  In places where seals maintain breathing holes, the meltwater drains down the hole, through the ice and into the salt water beneath.

Some of the bays and inlets are full of the holes and channels.

They can be quite stunning from the air on a sunny day.

In this photo, you can see a dot on the ice next to the drain.  That's the seal who maintains the hole, up for a bit of sun lying out on the ice.

This is the same drainage system as the above shot with the seal.  You can see a bit of dirty ice where the seal hauls up and how big of an area drains through the hole.

Not as complex a drainage system, but the hole through the ice is pretty clear in this shot.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, June 17, 2013

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Lithic Artifacts

In this colour plate, take the bluish tinge in the quartz microblades (A,B) with a grain of salt.  They are actually clear, but  they were photographed against a blue background which I removed and replace with plain white in photoshop.  Its misleading in the colour image, but in the black and white version of this plate that will appear in publication, its not an issue.  (A,B) stemmed quartz microblades, (C) chert micorblade core, (D,E,F) Chert microblades, (G) Distal end of a biface, which is probably from an asymmetric knife, (H-L) Stemmed and notched biface bases, (M) sideblade, (N) Asymmetric knife, (O) biface, that may be an endblade, although its is thinned at the base similar to knives, (P-S) Endscrapers - the top one (P) has slight ears, but most of the scrapers found at the site were small and traingular in outline.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, June 14, 2013

Groswater Palaeoeskimo Endblades

Sample of Groswater Palaeoeskimo endblades from the Peat Garden site in Bird Cove on Newfoundland's northern peninsula.  In each pair, the dorsal surface is on the left and the ventral surface is on the right.  These have a "plano-convex" or D-shaped cross section, so the dorsal surface is convex and the ventral surface is flat.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tracking Elfshot Artifact Reproductions, Part 2

Harpoon heads
In an earlier post, I showed a set of artifact reproductions that I was commissioned to make by a design and fabrication company in British Columbia for installation in Nunavut.  The client was the Kitikmeot Heritage Society in Cambridge Bay.  You may recall that Cambridge Bay was in the news last summer because Google was doing street view mapping of the community using a tricked out tricycle with a Google camera mounted on top.

Harpoon heads and art on display in Cambridge Bay
While they were in town, Google did some interior mapping as well, including the inside of the May Hakongak Community Library and Cultural Centre, where there are several exhibit spaces showcasing local history and artifacts.  Many of these artifacts are on loan from the Canadian Museum of Civilization or the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre, but a handful are reproductions that I made in 2011. For example, you can see the harpoon heads in the top photo in the display case in the photo on the left.  Its an interesting tour - especially if you go upstairs and see the kayak and cases full of artifacts.

In this case, I made the whip and the dog muzzle sitting in the lower right foreground.

Photo Credits:
1) Screen capture from 3DS Kitikmeot Portfolio

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tracking Elfshot Artifact Reproductions, Part 1

Sealskin whip with antler handle
Often when I finish an order and send the reproductions out the door, I never see them again.  Other pieces leave more of a trail.  Here are some follow-up images from a contract that I completed a couple years ago.  You may remember that I worked on a large set of Inuit artifact reproductions from the Central Arctic early in 2011.  I was contracted by a fabrication and design company in British Columbia called 3DS to make the pieces for installation in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.  Their portfolio page for the project has some beautiful images of the finished pieces.

From the 3DS portfolio page on the project:
The society commissioned 3DS to replicate a series of ancient tools, once used in everyday life. The resulting “hands-on” experience provides young Inuit visitors with a sense of connection that would be impossible with conventional means. 3DS worked from photographs of the actual items, creating museum-grade replicas of authentic Inuit tools, such as sealskin knives, spears, drums, lamps and harpoons. We made two sets: For the first, displayed in a closed exhibit under protective glass, we used the very same materials used by the Kitikmeot ancestors. This allowed us to create absolutely authentic, completely functional replicas, indistinguishable from the ancient originals. The second set looks identical to the first in every way – until you touch them: we substituted all cutting blades with a hard rubber compound, making everything completely safe for direct handling.
The finished exhibit was extremely well received. Our client said, “it brought tears to my eyes to see young people learning the old ways with real, authentic tools”.

The painted drum
I made many of the "absolutely authentic, completely functional replicas", which are shown in seven of the eight 3DS portfolio photos.  I didn't make the steel-looking ulu in image four, I believe that is one of the rubber, hands-on reproductions, but I did make the steel and musk-ox horn ulu in image five.  I was especially pleased to see the drum, as that was a bit of a team effort and I hadn't seen the finished product.  I constructed the drum and shipped it with white canvas and someone in the 3DS workshop airbrushed and antiqued the canvas to look like old caribou skin.  It looks great.

I haven't visited Cambridge Bay since the pieces were installed, but I did find an unexpected way to tour the installation that I'll share in a future blog post.

Photo Credits: Screen captures from 3DS Kitikmeot Portfolio

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rhyolite Knapping for Burnside

My production knapping kit
I'm finishing up my last order of the spring before heading to Nunavut next week for field work. I'm working on a few pieces made from Bloody Bay Cove Rhyolite for the gift shop run by the Burnside Heritage Foundation on Newfoundland's Eastport Peninsula.   The Beaches Site is a stones throw from the rhyolite quarry, so I'm filling half the order with side-notched Beaches style points and the other half with triangular Dorset Palaeoeskimo endblades.  It seems like all of the different aboriginal groups who lived in Newfoundland made use of rhyolite that they collected from Bloody Bay Cove.

Rhyolite has a bit more of a gritty texture to it than chert, but in Newfoundland, where most of our fine grain chert has a lot of small internal fractures, its possible to find very large, solid pieces of rhyolite.

Future necklaces and earrings
Laurie McLean, the archaeologist who found the quarry and has worked in the Burnside area for decades, hand picks the cores that I use for these reproductions.  He ensures that the rhyolite collected are not artifacts, which is no small task considering knappers have been visiting the area, testing and collecting rock for 5000 years, but its critical that we do not damage the site or collect worked cores or flakes for these reproductions.  I make the rhyolite jewellery exclusively for sale through the gift shop in the Burnside Museum, so if you'd like to own a Bloody Bay Cove Rhyolite necklace or earrings, you'll need to plan a trip to the Burnside Museum on the Eastport Peninsula.  While you are in the area, take the time to do the boat tour to visit the actual quarry site and the Beaches site, its well worth your time.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society, Inc.

Follow @NLArchSociety on Twitter!
Last week we incorporated the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society, Inc (NLAS).  This is a not for profit organization that members of the public and professional archaeologists will be able to join. We are still working out the nuts and bolts of the society's structure and long term plans, so we aren't yet ready to offer formal memberships into the society. However, as of Monday, we do have a public face through a Facebook page and Twitter account, where you can learn about what is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador archaeology and share your stories, suggestions, photos, and feedback with the Society's directors and volunteers to help shape the organization into something that will benefit the whole archaeological community, both public and professional. You don't have to have any formal training or experience to be a part of it, just an interest in the archaeological past.

Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society Mission Statement:
To promote an understanding of archaeology in Newfoundland and Labrador and protect archaeological resources by fostering research, stewardship, education, and the exchange of ideas and information between professionals and the public.

Share and view photos of artifacts and sites in Newfoundland and Labrador on Facebook.

Browse the photo albums on Facebook
The founding directors are Tim Rast, Catherine Jalbert, Lori White, Stewart Wilson, and Corey Hutchings.   There is a core group of 20 volunteers who are contributing time, energy and funds to get the society up and running and, of course, more are always welcome.  Over the course of our first three planning meetings and e-mail and facebook conversations in between, we've developed a plan for the next 12 months:

  • Summer 2013: Develop and approve an NLAS Constitution and Code of Ethics
  • Fall 2013: Hold elections, public planning meetings and begin a membership drive
  • Winter 2014: Seek Charitable status
  • Spring 2014: Apply for Cultural Economic Development Program (CEDP) funding from the Provincial Government.  

As we progress through the dry mechanics of creating the society, we will be developing interesting content and services for members along the lines of public lectures, workshops, demonstrations, newsletters, education campaigns, etc, so look for those to start rolling out over the fall and winter as well.  At this point we invite you to Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and give us your suggestions on how a Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society can help you.  What services or events would you like to see the NLAS offer?

What sites will you visit this summer?

Follow NLAS on Twitter:

Photo Credits: Screen Captures from the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society Facebook Page.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ralph Pastore Pioneers Scholarship 2013

Dr. Ralph Pastore
The Amina Anthropological Resources Association (AARA) is announcing a new scholarship for archaeology graduate students studying Newfoundland and Labrador topics. The Pioneers Scholarship is an occasional scholarship and this year it is named to honour Ralph Pastore and is valued at $1400.  Amina is an non-profit organization started by archaeologist Latonia Hartery to raise "funds to research, preserve, protect and promote cultural, natural heritage and artistic resources in northern locations, and to inform the public about those resources through educational and public-relations programs."

In 2007, Amina awarded its first Pioneers Scholarship, which was named in honour of Elmer Harp to Matthew Walls, a graduate student who completed an MA at the University of Calgary and moved on to a PhD at the University of Toronto where he is studying qayaqs in Northern Canada and Greenland.  The Amina directors are working towards making the Pioneers Scholarship an annual award which will be named to recognize researchers who have made important contributions in the field of archaeology and distribute those funds to new archaeologists at the start of their careers. The current scholarship recognizes Ralph Pastore, a Historian and Archaeologist dedicated to uncovering the story of Newfoundland's Beothuk people.  The funds for the Pastore Scholarship were raised through contributions from Ralph’s brother John, sisters Kathleen Miller and Mary Ann McClain, as well as Tom Campbell and Mary Mogford of Newcastle, Ontario, Amina Anthropological Resources Association, and Adventure Canada.

Ralph Pastore at Boyd's Cove, NL
Ralph was an inspiration to many archaeologists in Newfoundland.  He was drawn to the Beothuk people as a historian, but soon exhausted the written sources documenting the Beothuk.  He found that his curiousity was not satisfied by the historic record alone, so he turned to archaeology and went out and dug for new information to answer his questions.

The deadline for application for the scholarship is September 15, 2013 and the $1400 award will be dispersed to the successful applicant in December.  Applicants must be MA or PhD students researching a topic in Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeology.  Application details are available on the Amina website here.

Photo Credits:
1,3: Photos from courtesy of Laurel Doucette
2: Screen capture from

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