Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ikaahuk Artifact Reproductions Completed!

Artifacts (left) and reproductions (right)
It's been a long time coming, but I've finally completed the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project set of artifact reproductions.  The artifacts that they are based on range from Pre-Dorset to historic pieces and are made from stone, bone, antler, wood, iron, and ivory.  I can hand them off to Dr. Lisa Hodgetts, who is in town for the Canadian Archaeological Association conference this week, although I'm hoping she'll let me display them at my table in the NLAS Bookroom for a couple of days first.  After that they will make their way to Sachs Harbour where they will be used in interactive programs with community members of all ages.

The Artifacts (left) and reproductions (right) include a ground slate ulu, a decorated antler harpoon head or lance head, an antler awl that was made on an old foreshaft, a barbed antler harpoon head, an ivory fishing lure, an antler bola weight, an iron offset awl in carved wood handle, and a quartzite scraper.

Ivory fishing lure (left) and reproduction (right)

Thule harpoon head made from antler. 
The reproductions and the artifacts (sitting on their bags) are ready to ship home.

Artifacts on their bags and the reproductions sitting on the table. 
The reproductions as signed and ready to deliver.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, April 27, 2015

Canadian Archaeological Association Conference is happening this week!

This promises to be a very hectic week.  St. John's is hosting the annual meeting of the Canadian Archaeological Association (CAA) at the Sheraton Hotel.  I'm involved to differing degrees with three different presentations; one on the Maritime Archaic at Bird Cove, one on a project that I'm working on with the Inuit Heritage Trust in Nunavut, and one on the Dorset Palaeoeskimo drum research that I've been doing with Chris Wolff.  The Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society is organizing the bookroom and Elfshot will have a table there, so that will keep me busy between the talks.  I intend to set up a tarp and have lots of reproductions on display and for sale, so if you are in St. John's, please stop in and say "Hi!".  There are many social events going on throughout the conference and on Friday afternoon, the various Territorial and Provincial Archaeology Societies are having a meeting to talk about our shared goals and concerns, so I'm looking forward to catching up with old and new friends.

Sadly, I'll say goodbye
 to the Ikaahuk
reproductions over the
conference week as well
If you aren't a member of the CAA, you are still welcome to attend talks throughout the conference for the low daily rate of $40.  As well, there are free public talks all about beer on Saturday afternoon from 1-2:20 PM.  You can learn more about the conference, read abstracts from all of the presentations, and see a schedule of public events at the conference website here.

Photo Credits:
1: Screen Capture from the CAA/ACA 2015 Website
2: Tim Rast

Friday, April 24, 2015

Declawing a Thule Harpoon Head

I spent a good chunk of the day breaking the Ikaahuk artifact
reproductions.  For the most part they broke the way they were supposed to, so it's all good.  The piece that needed the most damage done to it was the Thule barbed harpoon head from Nelson River.  The original artifact has only one remaining barb, but you can see places on the body of the harpoon head where three other barbs broke off, leaving stumps of various sizes.  The plan from the beginning was to make a fully intact version of the harpoon head, photograph it, and then break it to match the original artifact.  Below are some of the last photos of the complete harpoon head before I cracked the three barbs off (right).

The slots cut on either side of the open socket were there so that some sort of lashing (ie. sinew, leather, baleen) could be used to close the socket so that it could fit onto a harpoon foreshaft. 
The original artifact and this reproduction were both oriented in the antler tine so that the hard outer surface of the antler was on the dorsal surface.  The softer, more porous interior of the antler meant it was easier to carve out the open socket at the base. 
The dorsal surface of the harpoon head.  The small hole in the centre was for the harpoon line.  The larger hole below that is part of the gouged channel for the lashing that closes off the open socket.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

So close...

Reproductions (R)
and Artifacts (L)
Every day more and more of the Ikaahuk artifact reproductions are become indistinguishable from the original artifacts.  On each visit now I really need to focus on how I handle the pieces so I don't end up tossing the artifacts in my reproduction box or bagging the reproductions in the artifact bags.  If I absolutely had to, I could probably hand over all the pieces as they are now and be satisfied with the outcome, but I have two more visits scheduled to make last minute adjustments.  I'm mainly working on matching the colour, breakage patterns, and texture of the originals at this point.

Ivory fishing lure reproduction (L), almost done

The Pre-Dorset Lance Heads and the awls made from old foreshafts are now completely interchangeable between reproductions (bottom) and the orignals (top) 
I'm happy with the colour and texture of the underside of the antler lance head/harpoon head.  Reproduction (bottom) and Artifact (top)
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, April 20, 2015

Alberta Spear Points

Reproduction Alberta
Projectile Point
I've returned to knapping a bit more in the workshop this week.  This afternoon I took a stab at a couple Alberta spear points for a set of plains projectile points. I'm satisfied with both of them although I only need one.  One looks better in person and one looks better in photos.  I'll see how the rest of the set turns out before I decide which (if either) will be included in the box.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Pre-Dorset awl reproduction

Pre-Dorset awl reproduction (top) and artifact
(below), refit with a lance head from the same
The Pre-Dorset awl is the next finished reproduction in the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project set to check off the list.  The reproduction is made from antler and the antiquing includes tea staining, scorching and hand-carved root etching.  This is the artifact that I believe was made from an old foreshaft, so part of the check to determine the accuracy of the reproduction was to match it with the slot on the Pre-Dorset lance head.  I wanted  the spatulate end of the reproduction awl to fit the original lance head as precisely as the artifact awl.  When those two pieces fit together, I felt like I could call the piece finished.  I may continue to tweak the colour and staining over the next few days, but I think this piece is done.

Artifact (left) and reproduction (right)

Other pieces, like this harpoon head are still a couple visits away from being complete.  This one has so many complex angles and symmetries, that its hard to plan too many cuts at once.  Shaving the wrong millimetre at this point could throw off the whole piece. 

 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One down, seven to go...

The offset awl from the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project set of artifact reproductions is now complete.  At this point I have to think twice about which is the artifact (top) and which is the reproduction (bottom) when I have them out on the table together.  Given that the reproduction is made from the same materials and using the same methods as the original, I think for most people it would be very difficult to tell which is the real thing and which is the copy.  The easiest way that I have to tell them apart at the moment is that the wood handle on the reproduction is a little shinier and darker than the artifact because of the oil that I applied to bring out the shine of the iron awl and to help preserve the wood.  As that oil is absorbed by the wood, even that slight difference in colour and texture should vanish.

At this point, other reproductions are a little easier to distinguish from the originals, but once the design goes on to this antler lance head and I antique it, I expect that it will be just as difficult to tell them apart.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, April 13, 2015

Final touch-ups to the Offset Awl

I was putting the final touches on the offset awl today.  I scorched the wood a little with the blowtorch to antique the handle, applied some ochre staining where the awl meets the wood to match some rust on the original artifact and applied a bit of oil to try to match the gloss of the treated iron.  Hopefully it is a good match with the original when I compare them tomorrow.  As the pieces in this set are completed I'll have more time in my workshop to begin new projects.  I have a few projectile points from Western Canada and the Western Arctic to knap next. 
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, April 10, 2015

The end is in sight...

Offset Awl,
Reproduction above and artifact below
I'm very close to finishing the Ikaahuk artifact reproductions.  I suspect that starting with the next visit I'll be able to finish at least one of the eight reproductions every day.  The first one should be the offset awl.  The shaping is all done and I've fit the awl into the handle.  At this point I just need to scorch the handle with a flame a bit more to antique it and apply some ochre staining to really bring out the rust in a couple places.  If all goes well, it will be done by Tuesday. 

Bola, reproduction on the left
 and artifact on the right
 The bola and the ivory lure should be the next ones done after that.  They are very close to being done, but I may need a couple more visits to work out all of the final contours and to match the holes exactly.  On pieces like this I usually drill small pilot holes and then expand them to match the exact size and location of the holes on the artifact.

Ivory fishing lure, reproduction (left) and artifact (right) The pencil marks indicate the next places to cut.

The Slate ulu is coming along rapidly.  I had a different one started but it broke, so I had to begin again.  I'm building the reproduction around the large flake scar on the left side of the ulu.  When the shape is complete, I intend to stain it to better approach the dark grey or black stone that the original was made on.  The dark one on the bottom is the artifact, the lighter one on the right is a 1:1 printed pattern and the grey stone on the top is the reproduction in progress.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

An Aha Moment with the Pre-Dorset Awl

Now an awl, but once a foreshaft?
Earlier this week I was working on the reproduction of the Pre-Dorset awl from the Lagoon Site for the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project and realized that it might not have always been an awl.  I think it may have started out it's life as a foreshaft that later had one end reworked into an awl point.

I feel like I've finally bonded with this collection
I was having a problem with the antler reproduction that I'm making (it started to bend) and I got to thinking "If this awl can't be salvaged, then what is the quickest way to make a new one and get it to this stage again?"  Thinking about my workshop and the tools that I have on hand, it occurred to me that a Pre-Dorset foreshaft would be the ideal blank.  It even has one flattened end, just like the original artifact.  Exactly like the original artifact, in fact. What if the person who made the original artifact had the same idea?  What if they grabbed an old foreshaft and turned it into an awl?  One way to check would be to try to refit the awl/foreshaft with a harpoon head from the same site.
The flattened end of the awl is a perfect fit in to the open socket of the Pre-Dorset harpoon head or lance head found at the same site.

Too precise of a fit to be a coincidence.  These two
artifacts seem to have been carved to fit each other.
Fortunately, there is a harpoon head (or lance head) in the collection from the same site (The Lagoon Site) and same culture (Pre-Dorset) so I could see how the awl head would fit into a contemporary socket.   I couldn't wait to get into the archaeology lab at The Rooms today to see if the two artifacts would fit together.  As you can see in the pictures, they fit perfectly. The fit is so exact that they almost snap together.  I'm confident now that the awl was once a foreshaft.  What's more, it is such a precise fit with the lance head in the collection that I think it is quite likely that they were once used together.

Now it is possible that the flattened end on the Ikaahuk awl was intentionally made to serve another purpose, like creasing leather, and that it's resemblance to a foreshaft is purely coincidental, but I don't think so. A combination awl and boot creaser would be a handy and efficient dual-purpose tool and I think the only way to make it better would be if you could make it in a few minutes using an old foreshaft that you had lying around the tent.  Re-purposing an old tool is easier than making the same thing entirely from scratch.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dr. Barry Gaulton talks about Ferryland on Youtube

Dr. Barry Gaulton's Coffee and Culture talk entitled George Calvert, David Kirke, and Jim Tuck: three visionaries and their impact on Ferryland, Newfoundland is now on the Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society's YouTube channel.  Thanks to The Rooms for hosting this talk.  You can watch it here.

Photo Credit: Screen Capture from NLAS Arch Youtube Channel

Friday, April 3, 2015

The lure of Ikaahuk

Between it all, I look forward to the quiet moments when I can spend time working with the Ikaahuk artifacts. At this point I'm shaving off millimetres and working on the placement and size of the holes in the ivory lure.

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

NLAS Talks at The Rooms

Dr. Moro speaking at The Rooms
I'm getting in the door now after attending Dr. Oscar Moro Abadia's suberb talk at The Rooms on the history of Palaeolithic art.  Dr. Moro talked about the earliest attempts by scholars to understand the complexity of artistic images from the Palaeolithic as they were first discovered in the late 19th century.  He went on to explore the subsequent evolution of our understanding of Palaeolithic art during the 20th century and the diversification of the discipline that has taken place in the past 30 years or so.  It was fascinating to journey to follow.

You can check out the complete talk on the NLAS Youtube channel .

Tomorrow afternoon, Dr. Barry Gaulton will be speaking about the history and archaeology of Ferryland.  I hope to see you there!

Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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