Friday, November 28, 2014

New Adze Blade Reproduction

Reproduction adze: the bit is on the right end in the photo
Fresh from the workshop - a new ground slate adze head reproduction.  This is a five inch chipped, pecked, ground, and polished piece destined for a university teaching collection.  I've been working on this set for a while - hopefully I can get the rest of the pieces finished up and sent off next week.  The style of this adze is based on Maritime Archaic artifacts from Newfoundland and Labrador.  It's generally rectangular in cross section, with a slight taper towards the end opposite the cutting bit, so that it would be wedged more tightly into the adze handle and lashings as it it used.

I used a local reddish purple slate for the adze.  I like to find a piece of stone that is already close to the dimensions of the desired end product, so that I have a minimal amount of trimming to do with the hammerstone as I rough out the blank.  Although, I do like having a few big flake scars visible on the finished tool, so that you can see the processes involved in manufacturing these tools.  Those chips help make it look more like the original artifacts as well.  After chipping the rough blank,  I'll start pecking the blank with a hammerstone as early as possible to get rid of rough edges and start smoothing the freshly fractured stone.  If the piece isn't solid, I want to know that early in the process.  Usually if something like this is going to break, it happens when you are hitting it with another rock. during the early chipping and pecking stages. 

As the adze blade starts to take shape there is less chipping and pecking done, and more grinding and polishing.  Most of the effort goes into shaping the polished bit.  On an adze, you want a beveled edge close to one face, rather than having the edge lined up symmetrically down the middle, like an axe head.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A good long day

It was a busy day of busy work.  We had a new washer and dryer set delivered to the house after the transmission went in the old washing machine and covered a load of white laundry with little black grease spots.  The delivery could have meant hours of hanging around and waiting for the Sears truck., but luckily we were one of the first on the list, so after dismantling and remantling the patio door, basement, and laundry room I still had enough time in the day to get an Elfshot order in the mail.  The evening was fun, too.  Lori and I got to hang out with the new Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society Executive Committee at our old pub for the first NLAS exec meeting of the 2014/2015 year.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, November 24, 2014

Another day in the workshop

Palaeoeskimo scraper reproduction in Newfoundland chert
Another day in the workshop is gone.  I've been plugging away at a few simple Palaeoeskimo tools to try to get back into the rhythm of knapping.  Its been so long since I've knapped at production volumes, that I need to turn the blisters on my hands back into calluses.  I spent most of the afternoon preparing tools and materials for an Open Minds session tomorrow.  I'll be helping grade 5 students make ground slate tools at The Rooms for the next three Tuesdays.  I need about a half day worth of preparation time ahead of the half day workshop.  Usually, I do the preparation the day before the workshop, so it always feels like an Open Minds session occupies two days of my work week.  Instead of waiting until next Monday, I'm going to try preparing my kit for next Tuesday when I get home from The Rooms tomorrow afternoon.  If I can get into the routine of finishing an Open Minds day with a fully stocked and ready to go kit, then future sessions should only feel like one day away from my regular workshop schedule, rather than two days.   

I don't think I showed this photo yet.  This the completed obsidian necklace that I was hafting last week.  Right now it's bound for Australia.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, November 21, 2014

Finished Ivory Polar Bear Head Pendants

Dorset Palaeoeskimo Bear
Head Reproductions
I finished the polar bear head amulets that I was working on and have them strung on to simple black leather cords.  Walrus tusks can have natural cracks running their length that are dark brown or black at the surface but that warm to a honey or caramel colour on the inside before they vanish.  The surface of the first two carvings that I worked on had these dark bands running lengthwise along the heads and  I wasn't sure if the client would like the look or not, so I made a third one to give a nice clean, white option.  All three heads are based on Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts found in the High Arctic and Newfoundland and Labrador between about 2000 and 1000 years ago.  I purchased the ivory that I used here from the Co-Op in Cape Dorset, Nunavut.

The head on the left is based on artifacts from Newfoundland and Labrador, while the head on the right are based on Dorset Palaeoeskimo bear head carvings from the High Arctic.  The High Arctic versions are more anatomically natural carvings, with more detailed musculature on the head and muzzles, with more detailed noses and mouths.  The Newfoundland and Labrador version is relatively natural looking for this province, but by comparison, it is still a more stylized form emphasizing the silhouette of the bear head over anatomical accuracy.  

The underside of the bears differ as well.  The original Dorset Palaeoeskimo bear heads were often carved with suspension holes or holes running from their mouths down their throats.  The two smaller carvings here have simple holes carved at the base of the head and the original artifacts were likely suspended from a cord, much like these necklaces.  The larger head in the lower right corner of this photo is based on the Newfounldand and Labrador artifacts that have the linear channel running the length of the head, with one hole in the mouth and one hole in the throat.  If a cord was threaded through them originally, then it seems like it was probably running lengthwise through the head, rather than suspended at one end as shown here.

Three little bears.  I have my favourite, but they all turned out well. I have a lot of respect for the Dorset Palaeoeskimo crafts-people who made the originals with stone tools.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pendants in progress

I have a few pendants in progress in the workshop.  The wood shaft on the obsidian arrowhead will be trimmed down and drilled so that it can be strung on a leather cord.  The walrus ivory bear head above it is one of two that I'm working on at the moment.  The one shown here is inspired by Dorset Palaeoeskimo artifacts from the High Arctic.  Its coming along nicely, so far, although I want to leave the finishing for at least one more day.  I don't like carving too quickly.  I think slower carvings turn out better.  It takes time to plan each cut.
 Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ground Slate Lance heads

Slate lances and ivory polar bear
head preforms
I finally have something from the workshop to share.  I finished a pair of Dorset Palaeoeskimo slate lance heads today.  I need one for an upcoming order and the other will be a spare to keep in my display collection that I tote around to demonstrations and talks.  While I was in the cutting, carving, and grinding mode, I started a couple small ivory bear heads.  Again, I need one for an order and the other will go into my collection.

Dorset Palaeoeskimo ground slate lance heads.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, November 14, 2014

Slow return to the workshop

I'm slowly returning to the workshop after what seems like months away.  I did spend a bit of time working on projects in September, but between travel, office work, and NLAS responsibilities since then, its been impossible for me to schedule any time in the workshop, let alone put in a full day's work.  Hopefully that will change next week and I can get some orders filled before Christmas.  Its going to be a busy winter season making reproductions, if I can just make the time to get back into my studio.  I'm very grateful to have such patient clients.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

French Archaeology in Newfoundland and the NLAS AGM

Dr. Amanda Crompton speaking at The Rooms
To cap off a busy day, the NLAS helped organize a talk this evening at The Rooms followed by our 2nd Annual General Meeting.  Amanda Crompton spoke about her research into understanding the French history of the region of Newfoundland called the Chapeau Rouge. This prominent landmark, which looks a little like a squashed hat, has an interesting, but poorly understood history.  With at least 50 people in the room, this was the best attended NLAS event to date.  You can view Amanda's talk on the NLAS youtube channel here.

Immediately following the talk, the NLAS held a brief AGM where we presented the results of our last year's activities and talked a little bit about our future plans.  You can view the AGM on our Youtube Channel here.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, November 10, 2014


Herculaneum is the smaller, better preserved, sister site to Pompeii.  Both were simultaneously destroyed and preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.  I've heard many people suggest that if you only visit one, then Herculaneum is the site to see.  I think you should see them both - Pompeii is sprawling and massive.  The scale of the site is tremendous and you can literally get lost among the ruins.  Herculaneum was covered by hot ash and gases, not by tonnes of rubble, so the buildings are more complete, often with second and third stories in tact and the extreme heat charred and preserved a lot of wood as well.  

Considering it was destroyed nearly 2000 years ago, it's remarkably easy to picture Herculaneum as a living vibrant port city.

The blackened timbers are original wood.  The painted figures and advertising on the walls are original, too.

Mosaic floors were everywhere and tended to be more complete than what we saw in Pompeii.

A glimpse inside a second story room. 
These blackened doors are the original charred wood remains.

I've seen houses listed for sale in worse condition.

Another tile floor

Metal grates in the windows are still in place.

Wooden shutters, lintels, and doors all preserved.

I think he's using the knife to pry out the spear.  He obviously studied medicine at the University of Talladega Nights.

On the way out of the town you can catch glimpses of the bodies of the townspeople killed in AD 79.  People were trapped by the sea as they tried to escape and only their bones remain.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, November 7, 2014

NLAS AGM and Talks, November 12&13

The Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society is holding its Annual General Meeting on the evening of November 12 at The Rooms.  The AGM follows a talk by Amanda Crompton.  The next day, members of the Coastal Archaeological Resource Risk Assessment (CARRA) Project will be speaking at the Rooms about their work.

Photo Credits: NLAS

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Elfshot News

Flintknapping for Arch 2480
Earlier this week I did a flintknapping demo at Memorial University of Newfoundland for the Archaeology 2480 students.  The instructor, Amanda Crompton, took this photo and submitted a brief write-up to the department website, which you can view here: Archaeologist Tim Rast demonstrates flintknapping techniques to students.  If you're in St. John's you may recognize Amanda's name because she is giving an NLAS talk at The Rooms next Wednesday evening (Nov 12, 7PM) called "FINDING THE CHAPEAU ROUGE: THE HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY OF FRENCH SETTLEMENT IN PLACENTIA BAY BEFORE 1720", and if you're a member of the Canadian Archaeological Association, then you may recognize Amanda's name as the Conference Chair of the 2015 CAA Conference being held in St. John's at the end of April.  

Me and my camera
Speaking of the CAA conference, I have some overdue news to report from the 2014 Conference held in London, Ontario.  I won a Canadian Archaeology Association YouTube Award! Its for the video clips that I made last spring talking about the Dorset Palaeoeskimo drum reproductions and the sequence of markings that adorn the drum frame.  I was nominated by Matt Betts and the award was sponsored by the Canadian Museum of History.  I wasn't able to attend the conference for the announcement or to receive the prize, which was waiting for me in a pile of post-fieldwork and post-Italy mail.  The awards committee let me know about the prize shortly before the conference, which was when I was gearing up for the field, so I pre-emptively spent the prize money on a new camera.  It seemed appropriate, since my last camera died while I was visiting the Canadian Museum of History in the spring to research the Dorset drums.  I bought a Nikon Coolpix P600 and I've used it to take almost all of the photos shown on this blog since June. 

Photo Credits:
1: Amanda Crompton
2: Lori White

Monday, November 3, 2014

I bought a wallet in Florence and lost all my money.

Our merry band of travelers at the arena in Verona
We're finally back home after our three weeks in Italy.  It was a great trip.  We spent the first ten days on the Amalfi Coast in a fantastic villa in Atrani.  After that, we traveled by train to Pompeii, Herculaneum, Florence, Bolzano, Venice, and Verona.  On our last night in Verona, I checked my bank account and was shocked to see that for about a week someone had been taking cash out of my account.  Apparently, when I tried to withdraw cash in Florence, I put my card into an ATM with a device that copied my card and recorded my pin code.   I tried three machines that day and I got errors from all of them when I tried to use my bank cards.  I didn't think much of it at the time because I was in another country trying to access funds in Canada, so I expected hiccups.  Finally I had success with taking money out of a machine using my VISA, rather than a debit card. Three days later someone in Peru started making ATM cash withdrawals from my CIBC chequing account.  They got about $1300 before I noticed it.  My account was almost empty and the withdrawls would have ended soon on their own, but I just happened to have a GIC cashed and deposited into the account that day that would have given the thieves access to thousands of dollars more.  In our hotel room in Verona, I called the International CIBC number on the back of my bank card and cancelled the card.

At least one of the ATMs that I tried
in Florence was in this square. Ironically,
my souvenir from Florence was a new
leather wallet.  Not that I have any money
left to put in it.
CIBC launched an investigation and within about 24 hours the money was returned to my account.  The customer service was fantastic, and ten minutes after realizing that I'd been robbed, I was confident that I'd get my money back and we enjoyed our last night out on the town.  I had checked my other accounts at the time and the CIBC account appeared to be the only one affected.  However, when I got home to St. John's my Soctiabank account was suddenly showing a negative balance.  I checked with a teller in the branch and sure enough, the Peruvian bandits had my Scotiabank info too and had emptied out another $1000.  Scotiabank deals with fraud on a debit card different than CIBC, so I'm still waiting to have those funds reimbursed.   To be safe, CIBC suggested that I preemptively cancel my VISA, just in case it was compromised.  Scotiabank investigates fraudulent transactions at the branch level, while CIBC has a special national unit dedicated to exactly this sort of theft.  I'm glad I dealt with CIBC first.  I have less confidence in the Scotiabank system, although I'm sure it will all work out fine in the end.

Verona at night.  (Click to Enlarge)
Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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