Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ikaahuk awl in progress

At this point, I'm shaving off millimetres from the Ikaahuk artifact reproductions to match the originals. I have a few other projects and contracts on the go and I'm also preparing to head somewhere warm for a few days, so Ikaahuk progress will come to a standstill until I'm able to return to the workshop a little later in March.   I'm going to set up a few pre-scheduled blog posts to keep the Monday, Wednesday, Friday publishing cycle going on while I'm away.  I suspect that a portion of the scheduled posts will be photos of the Ikaahuk artifacts and reproductions that I took today.   This is the awl handle.  I've been splashing the metal part of the offset awl with muriatic acid for the past few days so that it will rust to match the original. 
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Monday, February 23, 2015

MUNArch Flintknapping 2015

Obsidian and
chert arrowheads
MUNArch, the archaeology student association at Memorial University of Newfoundland, is once again sponsoring a flintknapping workshop this March.  The event will be held over 3 evenings, March 16, 19, and 23rd in the Great Hall at Queen's College on the MUN campus in St. John's.

March 16: Introduction to Percussion Knapping

In this class, students will learn the basics of using hammerstones and antler billets to strike flakes from cores. By the end of the evening, you will have produced your own hard hammer and soft hammer flakes, a uniface and a biface.

Percussion knapping using hammerstones and antler billets

March 19: Introduction to Pressure Flaking

Learn how to use copper and antler tools to turn flakes into arrowheads and other stone tools by pushing off small, precise flakes.

A copper-tipped pressure flaker, obsidian arrowheads, and a hammerstone

March 23: Special Projects 

Put your new skills to use to make a complete stone tool.  Work with sinew, wood, and natural glues to haft your knapped work.

Hafted stone tools

Start time is 6:30 PM on each evening.

The workshops are open to anyone over age 16 - you do not need to be a MUN student to attend:

Prices: $50 for all three nights, $40 for two, or $25 for one.
Space is limited, so please register early to reserve your spot.  Please contact MUNArch: to register.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, February 20, 2015

And then there are those days...

Yesterday, the quartzite scraper was finished, I just needed to compare it with the original Pre-Dorset artifact one last time before I declared it "done".  I was walking across the parking lot at The Rooms on the way to visit the Ikaahuk collection, when I dropped the box containing the reproductions. The scraper I was making snapped in two when it hit the asphalt.  Usually when I break stuff, its in the workshop as I'm building it.  This is just humiliating.  
Other pieces are slowly taking shape.  On this Thule harpoon head, I need to intentionally break off three of the four barbs in order to match the original.  Hopefully those breaks can happen with a little bit more control than the scraper break.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Did I mention the progress was slow?

I'm visiting the Ikaahuk artifacts in The Rooms every other day and using the days in between to make progress on the reproductions in the workshop.  On reproductions like this the first step is to build the replica and match it to the dimensions of the original artifact.  Then I antique the reproduction to match the look of the original.  In a couple cases I'm nearly ready to move on to the antiquing phase, like the offset awl above.  The handle still needs a bit of carving, but once I confirm that the awl is the right size by comparing it to the original artifact tomorrow, then I can begin rusting it with a muriatic acid wash.

The little bola ball made from antler was cut from a caribou antler beam and then further ground and polished down.  I'm in the process of doing the same with the reproduction on the left.  From talking to Charles Arnold, the archaeologist who found the artifacts shown here on Banks Island, the bolas would have been made several at a time by scoring and then snapping off segments of an antler.  Once the tough cortical exterior of the antler is cut or chopped through, then the spongey interior is relatively easy to snap off.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, February 16, 2015

Old Stone Bridge, Bowring Park

A good weekend to get out and snowshoe.
Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Friday, February 13, 2015

Slow Progress

The Pre-Dorset awl
We had a lot of snow in St. John's yesterday - somewhere around 45 cm - so everything is taking a little bit longer than normal to get done today.  I was able to make it out to my workshop yesterday and then in to The Rooms this afternoon to view the Ikaahuk artifacts again.  My day is still not quite over, so I'll just share a few photos from this afternoon's side-by-side comparisons.  The measurements that I took today will give me work to do in the workshop on Monday.  

Ivory lure

Antler bola weight

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Selecting the Antler and Ivory for Ikaahuk

Finding the perfect pieces to carve
I took a box of antler, ivory, and the in-progress Ikaahuk artifact reproductions in to The Rooms this afternoon to compare side-by-side with the originals.  Most pieces are on track.  After getting more familiar with the artifacts, I decided to restart the Thule harpoon head with a fresh piece of antler.  I'd started it with a solid piece of antler, but upon review, that's not the most appropriate option.  Both the Thule harpoon head and the Pre-Dorset harpoon head (or lance head) were made on split caribou antler beams.  The hard, outer cortical layers of the antler formed the dorsal surface of both artifacts, while the porous inner trabecular layer was used to carve out the open sockets and other details on the ventral surface.  

Some reproductions, like this awl, are on track and the visit gave me a chance to plan out the next sequence of cuts to get it closer to the final shape.

All of these artifacts were found on Banks Island, NWT on archaeology projects led by Charles Arnold (Adjunct Professor with the University of Calgary and former director of the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre).  I called this artifact a harpoon head in a previous blog post, but Dr. Arnold suggested that it may actually be a lance, because it lacks a line hole even though it appears to be complete.  That seems plausible to me.  In this photo, the artifact is lying on a caribou antler beam that I'll work into the reproduction.  I selected this piece of antler because it gives me a good layer of hard antler to carve to match the contours of the original artifact and a tight core of porous antler that will match the ventral surface of the lance.

Here you can see the porous underside of the Pre-Dorset lance/harpoon head.  Aside from some smoothing and the incised decoration on the dorsal surface, I don't think there was a lot of work done to that side.  The belly was cut and ground flat and then sockets for the endblade and foreshaft were carved out of the spongey interior of the antler.  If you work the antler while it is wet, these sockets would be relatively easy to carve out with stone tools.
The same strategy was employed by the Thule people to make this harpoon head a couple thousand years later.  The dorsal surface of the harpoon head follows the contours of the outer cortical layer of antler and the porous interior was used to carve out a similar open socket.  The barbs are placed entirely within the cortical antler for strength.

A side view, again, the upper surface of the reproduction will follow the natural contours of the antler, which will be split in the middle so that the porous interior forms the belly.  
I didn't recognize the importance of the porous underside of this artifact during my first visit, but I believe the split antler is a crucial part of how this artifact is made.  I should mention that whalebone looks and works the same way.  I'm using antler because I can get a good match with the original artifacts, but it is possible that these artifacts are made from whalebone.  A beluga rib would give the right combination of hard and porous bone and would look virtually identical to antler.  The holes in whalebone can be larger and more open, but I work with both materials routinely and have a very difficult time telling them apart.

So far, so good on the broken slate ulu.  I have most of the flaked surface matching the original artifact (lower left) and will now add the ground ulu edge.

The fishing lure has a large crack in one surface. I want to suggest that crack in the reproduction without actually recreating it, so I found a small walrus tusk that has a very similar stain.  It's possible that the crack in the original artifact began as an identical streak in the tusk or tooth that it was carved from.  These streaks are common in walrus tusks, especially near the tip.  They don't usually extend very deep into the ivory so if I want to maintain the dark streak in the reproduction I'll have to do most of the carving from the other side.  
Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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