Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Onondaga Points for The Canadian Museum of History

Knapped arrowheads
As is often the case, I had a flurry of potential customers contact me early in the summer just as I was heading out the door for a summer of arctic fieldwork.  Thankfully, everyone was understanding of my schedule and now that I'm home, I'm getting back into the workshop and getting caught up on orders.

I shipped the first small order last week; a set of knapped arrowheads made from Onondaga chert to be used in programming this fall at the Canadian Museum of History.

The order was for arrowheads based on the look of the larger dart points shown in the background plate.

Signed and ready for shipping.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, July 17, 2017

Provincial Historic Sites Reproductions and Games

Red Ochre stained Beothuk
knife reproduction
Last week, I delivered an order of artifact reproductions and games to the folks at Provincial Historic Sites to use in interpretive programming.  One set was a collection of Beothuk hunting tools, including a knife, scraper, deer spear, harpoon, and three arrows.  A second batch of games included rawhide buzzers, a waltes set, and pin-and-cup games.
The harpoon and deer spear (lance) are
very hard to photograph because of
their length.
Some of these pieces are new to me, including the Beothuk lance.  I used the archaeology site at Russell's Point as the reference collection for the lithics in the collection.  The knife blade, end scraper,  arrowheads, and lance head are all based on artifacts found by Bill Gilbert in his MA research at Russell's Point.  I used a metal endblade on the harpoon because I've only seen metal endblades on Beothuk examples of that implement.  It's possible that some of the lithic artifacts that we find in Beothuk sites and classify as arrowheads or triangular bifaces were used to tip harpoon heads, but no one has found one in association with a harpoon head to prove it.  Here's a link to a blog post from 2014 where I discuss the references available for Beothuk harpoons and deer spears.

Beothuk harpoon and lance reproductions

The point of this lance is based on a large bi-pointed artifact found at Russell's Point.  It's possible that it was an unhafted bifacial knife, but it was symetrical enough that it's possible that it tipped a long deer spear, similar to the long iron tipped deer spears of the later historic period.

An antler harpoon head with a steel endblade and sinew lashing.  Like all of the Beothuk reproductions that I make, it is covered in red ochre.  The harpoon head has a line attached and is designed to slip off the end of the long wooden harpoon shaft when it is stabbed into a seal.

The complete harpoon and lance.

According to historic observations and drawings by Shanawdithit, the harpoon and dear spear were very long.  The deer spears were reported to be 12 feet long, while harpoons were variously reported as 12-14 feet long.  The one shown here is 13 feet long and the deer spear is 12 feet long.  These tools are so lengthy, that I make them in two pieces with a hard raw hide socket to join them together.  The can be taken apart for transportation and storage and reassembled for interpretation.

Beothuk style chert knife in a wood handle with sinew lashing and red ochre staining.

Hafted endscraper.  The endscrapers at Russell's Point were primarily made on flakes and had very rounded scraping edges, especially when compared to similar Palaeoeskimo artifacts from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Wood artifacts are very rare form Beothuk archaeological sites.  There are a handful of pieces from ethnographic contexts, but things like tool handles are very hard to come by.  When I don't have archaeological references to use, I try to fill in the blanks as simply as possible.

Beothuk arrow reproductions.  Chert, sinew, pine, goose feathers, red ochre

The Beothuk reproductions together.

Raw hide buzzer game
A buzzer in action. You can do the same thing with a big button twisted on a string.  It sounds like the wind when it whirs.

Bone and antler pin and cup games.


Waltes.  This is a Mi'kmaq game.  There are many examples of this game in the Maritimes and it's becoming popular among the Mi'kmaq of Newfoundland.  The game is played with a shallow wooden bowl and six game pieces.  The game pieces are blank on one side and incised with a design on the other and the game is scored based on the combination of face-up and face-down dice when they are flipped in the bowl.  The sticks are used for scoring.  Provincial Historic Sites tried unsuccessfully to find a Mi'kmaq craftsperson in the Province to make this game set before coming to me.  It would be good to see someone from the Mi'kmaq community making these.

Photo Credits: 
1-6, 8-10, 13, 15-17: Tim Rast
7, 11, 12, 14: Lori White

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 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dorset and Thule Harpoon Head Update

Seven Dorset Harpoon Head reproductions.
They aren't all finished yet.
 I'm slowly wrapping up a set of 14 arctic harpoon head reproductions.  This is the most complete set of Dorset and Thule harpoon heads that I've ever attempted at one time, so I'm excited to see them all finished.  I've been working on the whole set at the same time and it's been tough keeping them all straight in my head.  On the other hand, it's an interesting opportunity to see first hand the similarities and differences over time and between the cultures.  

Seven Thule Inuit harpoon head reproductions.  All of the pieces are there, I just need to finish the details and do some assembly.
The full set, plus a Beothuk harpoon head (lower left) from a seperate order.

These four are more-or-less complete.  They may need a little bit of dry sanding and maybe one or two slight adjustments, but I don't need to cart them back and forth from the workshop with all the others for the time being.  Twelve o'clock is a Middle Dorset Kingait Closed harpoon head made from walrus ivory with a chert endblade.  Three o'clock is a Thule Type 2 harpoon head made from antler.  Six o'clock is a Middle Dorset Nanook Wasp Waist selfbladed harpoon head made from ivory.  Nine o'clock is a Late Dorset Type G harpoon head made from antler with a chert endblade.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Thursday, May 25, 2017

King's Point Pottery

Fibre Optic Jewellery
We stopped at King's Point Pottery on the way to Port au Choix for this weekend's flintknapping workshop to delivery an order of colourful fibre optic knapped jewellery.  King's Point Pottery is open year round and the shop has grown a lot since I last visited with new products from tonnes of new crafts people. The ice is still in the harbour and we enjoyed the fresh air and sights around town during our brief stop on our way west.

King's Point Gallery
The ice is still in the harbour at King's Point.

Fibre Optic necklaces and earrings.

Photo Credits: 
1,4: Tim Rast
2,3: Lori White

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