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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Port au Choix Workshop and Deliveries

Dorset seal processing tools from Port au Choix
Preparation for this weekend's workshop in Port au Choix is well under way.  I have a radio interview this morning and I'll be packing the car today with all of the rock and materials that we'll need for the two day course.  The gift shop in Port au Choix has been stocking my artifact reproductions and jewellery for more than 15 years and I have a small top up order of earrings to delivery for the upcoming season.  Parks Canada also ordered a few new reproductions to illustrate Dorset Palaeoeskimo seal processing at the site.

Side hafted microblade, bevelled edged tabular slate scraper, chert knife, and endscraper, 

This was my first time making a hafted tabular slate scraper like this.  Over the years an assortment of slate tools have been recovered from Dorset Palaeoeskimo contexts at Port au Choix.  Rebecca Knapp studied these tools for her MA thesis at MUN:
An analysis of tabular slate tools from Phillip's Garden (EeBi-1), a Dorset Palaeoeskimo site in Northwestern Newfoundland.  
This particular class of slate tools, tends to have a straight unifacially beveled distal end.  The sides may be square or slightly taper and are often bifacially bevelled, with an additional third abrading pass to blunt the bifacial lateral bevels.  The bases have long, narrow, tapering stems.  
To the best of my knowledge there haven't been any handles found associated with this style of slate scraper. I chose to haft it similar to a large endscraper, perhaps the larger size of the slate scrapers indicate that they were used in a two handed fashion.  It's also possible that they would have been hafted to a more complex handle at a 90 degree angle, like an adze.  This is possible, but I think that the relatively weak stem would function better inline with the handle and direction of force, like this reproduction.

Chert knife in an antler handle, with twisted sinew lashing.
Chert microblade, side-hafted into a wood handle with a whalebone brace tied in place with twisted sinew.
Chert endscraper in a wood handle with twisted sinew lashing.

Lately, I've been using more twisted sinew for Dorset reproductions because that is how most preserved sinew in Dorset contexts has been found.  If the reproductions are display pieces or if they are for my own collection, then I keep the sinew dry.  It is possible to wrap and tie off the dry sinew very snuggly without the use of any adhesives.  In this case I've added a layer of hide glue.  The glue isn't necessary to keep the tools together, but it will protect the sinew and make them more durable in a hands on setting.
A few pairs of glass an stone earrings for the Heritage Shop in Port au Choix.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Flintknapping Workshop, May 27 & 28, Port au Choix, NL

Please join me at Port au Choix National Historic site for a two day Flintknapping Workshop on May 27 and 28th.  Parks Canada is sponsoring this event and it is FREE to anyone over the age of 16, with all materials and lunch provided.  On Saturday, you will learn the basics of flintknapping and on Sunday you will be hafting your stone tools into wooden hafts using traditional techniques and materials.

Space is limited and interest is high, so prior registration is mandatory.  Please contact Loretta Decker to register: or call 709-623-2797

Thursday, May 4, 2017

You want how many?

Ancient Harpoons of Nunavut provides a
reference illustration, the size range, and
the most common material types for the
most common harpoon heads found in the
Canadian Arctic.
I started a fun new order today for Nunavik Sivunitsavut.  I'm making 14 harpoon heads from ivory, antler and whalebone to represent much of the variability that is found in Dorset and Thule culture artifacts from the Canadian Arctic.  In 1998, Doug Stenton and Robert Park published a book called Ancient Harpoon Heads of Nunavut: An Illustrated Guide.  I've used this publication as a reference many times in the past, but this is the first time that someone has asked me to make ALL of the harpoon heads in the book.  The only pieces that I won't be making are the Pre-Dorset examples and one whaling harpoon head.  Other than that, I'm making every harpoon head on every page in the book.  I started the reproductions this morning and they they are coming along quickly, although I'm sure that Paretto's Law is at play;  I've put in the 20% of effort that produces 80% of the results.  Finishing these pieces and their accompanying endblades will take at least another week.

The seven harpoon heads in the upper left hand corner are all Dorset Palaeoeskimo styles.  The seven running through the middle are all Thule Inuit.  The loner in the lower right hand corner is a Beothuk reproduction for another order.  This will be the most diverse collection of harpoon heads that I have every produced at one time.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Alaska Archaeology Month Reproductions

Hafted and unhafted antler slotted points
 Here's a look at the completed reproductions that I made for Alaska Archaeology Month.  The set included six slotted antler projectile points (two of which were hafted onto arrows) and 4 pairs of sandstone shaft smoothers.  It should be noted that the antler points may or may not have been hafted onto arrows.  These artifacts have not been found in a complete state, so it's possible that they tipped other tools like lances or darts.  
Sandstone shaft smoothers.  The arrow shafts gave me a chance to use the shaft smoothers and they worked well for smoothing, polishing, and burnishing the arrows.  You can see the brownish discoloured plant residue collecting in the channels of the stones.

Every year, the Alaska Anthropological Associations Public Education Group coordinates the production of a themed poster for archaeology month.  This year's theme was Paleoarctic.  You can view and download these posters from their website.

Arrow points
The complete set - four unhafted slotted points, two arrows, and four pairs of shaft smoothers

The arrow design was speculative, so I made each arrow a diffent length and gave one two feathers and the other three.  When I'm reproducing a specific artifact, I try to follow the original piece to the nearest millimetre, but when I'm speculating or filling in gaps, then I try to build in as much variability as possible.  I don't want to give people the impression that I know exactly what the missing pieces looked like and if I make every reproduction the same, then my own personal style may become confused with a meaningful representation of actual artifacts.

Antler slotted points with chert microblade
I think I like this one the best.  It certainly photographs well.
Photo Credits:
1-2, 4-8:  Tim Rast

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