Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Intermediate Period Spear Reproduction

The hafted reproduction
alongside a 1:1 photo of the
original artifact
This is a hafted reproduction of an Intermediate Period spear or dart point based on an artifact found in an approximately 3000 year old archaeology site in Sheshatshiu, Labrador.  It is hafted in to a foreshaft with spruce gum and red ochre glue and sinew lashing.  The foreshaft is fit into a main shaft that is based on historic Innu caribou hunting spears.  The historic period spears had permanently fixed iron spear heads and were used for spearing caribou in close quarters, especially from canoes while the caribou were swimming.  

The foreshaft and socket
The recorded lengths of Innu spears range from 4 feet to well over 7 and a half feet long, although most of the references I've come across are in the 4 to 6 foot range.  For this reproduction I used a main shaft that is just over a five feet long and the total length of the spear is around six or six and a half feet, depending on which of the foreshafts is mounted in it.  Like the historic spears, the socket of the main shaft is reinforced with lashing to prevent splitting.  I used gut for this lashing and spruce for the mainshaft.  Other details borrowed from the historic Innu spears is the straight, non-tapering shaft with a consistent circular cross-section of a little over 2 cm.  There is also a small knob on the butt end of the spear, presumably this was there to assist in thrusting and retrieving the spear.

Spruce mainshaft, softwood foreshaft, gut and sinew lashing, red ochre and spruce gum binding. The mainshaft is 5 feet 1 inch long and when fitted with this foreshaft, the complete spear is 6 feet long. (click to enlarge)

The antler knife handle is tapered at
the end so it will also fit into the
spear mainshaft.
The interchangeable foreshafts will allow the interpreters to change the character of the spear by swapping out different foreshafts mounted with different point styles.  In total, there will be three different foreshafts, each mounted with a different biface or projectile point, including the knife that I mentioned in the last blog post.  The one limit will be the mainshaft itself.  Its a very good representation of a handheld thrusting spear, but it is not an aerodynamic design and doesn't easily lend itself to the interpretation of many of the notched bifaces as projectile points, perhaps fitted onto darts that were launched with a spear thrower.  Imagine a slighter shaft, with more of a barrel shape, lacking a knob on the butt end and perhaps outfitted with feathers to create drag and spin.  Again, that's one of the benefits of the detachable foreshaft technology.  The same foreshaft that could be fit onto this thrusting mainshaft could also be used on a light dart designed to be hurled at prey with a throwing stick or atlatl.

I had a choice of projectile points to use on this reproduction.  I went with the point with the tip damage over the more complete examples because I found a stone that was a very good match to the original artifact.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, April 14, 2014

Intermediate Period Chert Knife Reproduction

A small knife like this was lost in
Labrador about 3000 years ago.
This is another reproduction in the Intermediate Period set based on artifacts found by Scott Neilsen's crew in Sheshatshiu, Labrador.  Like all the other pieces in this set, only the lithic component of the tool was preserved, so the organic handle and binding materials are educated guesses.  For this particular biface we went with red ochre and spruce gum glue and sinew for the lashing.  The red ochre is based on the abundance of ochre staining found in the site.  We also used antler for the handle to bring caribou into the story.  Caribou hunting would have been very important to the Intermediate Period people living in the area of North West River and Sheshatshiu 3000 years ago, so we want to reflect that in the artifact reproductions.

Intermediate Period Knife Reproduction.  Banded chert blade, red ochre and spruce gum glue, sinew lashing, antler handle
The banded chert
is not a bad match
for the original.
The design of the handle is quite simple, although we purposefully kept it long and narrow so that it could double as a foreshaft for a spear or dart.  Making the handle serve a dual purpose keeps the interpretation of the biface as a knife a little more flexible as well as demonstrating that tools could serve multiple purposes across their lifetime.  The same projectile point that was used to hunt a caribou, could be used as a small knife to butcher the animal.  I'm still working on the mainshaft that will fit this knife and a couple other hafted bifaces, so I might have to do a small bit of shaping on the end, but I think its finished enough now for you to get the idea.

This piece will be used in support of an exhibit on the archaeology at Sheshatshiu that is being developed for the Labrador Interpretation Centre.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quartzite Biface

I had a bit of trouble getting my hands on red quartzite for a couple of important artifact reproductions in the Sheshatshiu Intermediate Period set, but my luck recently changed.  This is one of two copies of a particular biface (below) that I need to make and haft.

This photo shows the original artifact.  There are a couple different interpretations of what this tool might have been used for and I'm going to make two versions and haft them in two different ways to illustrate the different theories.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Half Mast

Flags at The Rooms and Memorial University of Newfoundland were flying today at Half Mast in honour of Priscilla Renouf, a professor at MUN and the first chair of The Rooms board.  The Rooms is shown above and the church in the lower left distance is The Basilica Cathedral.  
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, April 7, 2014

Beothuk Triangular Biface Knife Reproduction

Beothuk reproduction scrapers, knife,
and harpoon head
There were a few smaller tools included in the set of Beothuk reproductions that I recently completed for The Mary March Museum, including a hafted knife and scraper.  The scraper was a relatively simple flake scraper hafted in a nondescript wood handle with sinew and covered in red ochre.  In the photo on the right, the two tools in the left half of the frame are scrapers.  The knife next to them is based on a couple of different sources.  I used a Little Passage triangular biface from Inspector Island as the main reference for the blade and a wood handle illustrated in Howley 1915 for the handle.


The handle is based on a wood artifact illustrated in this plate from James P. Howley's 1915 book; The Beothucks or Red Indians: The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Newfoundland The two items labeled  #5 are a knife and knife handle.  I used the top one as my main reference for this reproduction.


Beothuk or Little Passage reproduction knife.  Chert blade, softwood handle, gut lashing, pitch glue, red ochre stain


Here are the knife and scraper with the bow and arrow included in the set.

Photo Credits:
1,3-4: Tim Rast
2: Plate from Howley 1915 from Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Website


Friday, April 4, 2014

Dr. Priscilla Renouf

It's a terribly sad day here.  I woke up to word that Dr. Priscilla Renouf passed away early this morning.  Priscilla was one of my MA thesis supervisors at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  The opportunity to learn from Priscilla was one of the biggest reasons that I came to Newfoundland and Labrador to study.  The experience that I had at MUN under her guidance and the opportunities that she provided to me after I graduated convinced me to stay.

When I entered the program at MUN, it was a little different than today.  The Archaeology Unit was part of the Anthropology Department and was composed of faculty from anthropology, geography, history, and folklore.  There was no PhD program and the year I started, 1996, there were only three other graduate students starting their MA, and I was Priscilla's only new student.  I can still remember my first visits to her office in the Ingstad Building where she would open up drawer after drawer full of incredible Palaeoeskimo artifacts from her work at Port au Choix.  Priscilla invested a lot of time and guidance into her students.  Her MA students would compare notes with each other after our meetings and often it seemed like we were supervised by completely different people.  She knew what each of her students needed and gave us the guidance, or patience, or criticism that we needed when we needed it.  She didn't try to fit us into her mold, she tailored her supervisory style to fit our personalities and challenges.  The relationship that develops between a student and supervisor is something that stays with you throughout your life.  Priscilla followed all of her students with pride throughout their careers and in turn, we graduate student siblings, celebrated with her during her many academic and personal triumphs.

I always meant to tell a story about Priscilla from the field when she retired, but she passed too early, before she could savour the sort of retirement that archaeologists enjoy, working on the problems and papers that they never had the time to explore earlier.  In 1997, when I did my fieldwork in Burgeo, Priscilla was the sponsor on my permit application from the Provincial Archaeology Office.  I had to check in with her midway through the season, so I took everything that I had found and drove up to see her on the northern peninsula.  I stayed for a week and when I got there she was looking through the local paper, the Northern Pen, at a story they had just been published on her field season at Port au Choix.  It was accompanied by a terrible photo of her.  A really, really bad photo, like she was caught in the middle of a sneeze or something.  She, like anyone, was mortified and probably would have thrown out all the copies she could find, save for the fact that the incorrect name was printed in the caption.  She was unrecognizable in the picture and misidentified in the caption, so the plan became to just say nothing about it for the week and hope that no one outside the crew would even realize who the crazy person in the photo was.  She endured the week.  I helped out around the site and she gave me the feedback I needed on my own project and just as I was about to leave town, the new Northern Pen arrived. It was full of new photos and new stories and no one would ever remember that horrid old photo.  Except... the paper had caught the error in the caption and reprinted the photo, now with sincere and bold apologies to Dr. Priscilla Renouf for their mistake in misidentifying her the first time around.

I so wanted to find those two editions of the paper and bring them out at her retirement.  This just isn't the same.  I'm going to miss her greatly and I know that all her former and current students, colleagues, friends, and family will too.


Inside Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeology, April 14, 2014: Dr. Priscilla Renouf

Government of Canada SSHRC Press Release, April 7, 2014: Passing of Council Member Priscilla Renouf

Canadian Press (MetroNews): Respected Newfoundland Archaeologist Dies

VOCM News: Celebrated Archaeologist Passes Away

House of Assembly; Statement by the Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation, April 7, 2014 Renowned Archaeologist Remembered for her Outstanding Contributions:

The Telegram, April 4, 2014: MUN Mourns Loss of Archaeologist Priscilla Renouf

MUN.CA: This week I was going to write about other things, but I am sadly distracted today by the passing of a colleague, Dr. Priscilla Renouf by Dr. Noreen Golfman

In Memorium: Priscilla Renouf

Caul's Funeral Home: Dr. Priscilla Renouf

Photo Credit: https://www.mun.ca/research/explore/chairs/renouf.php

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Archaeology Talks at The Rooms: Archaeology in Sheshatshiu and The Beothuk along the Exploits River

 The Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society and The Rooms are presenting a pair of talks this evening (April 2, 2014) and tomorrow afternoon (April 3, 2014).


Scott Neilsen of MUN's Archaeology Department will be introducing the archaeology of Sheshatshiu, Labrador. Scott has been working closely with the community to uncover an important Intermediate Period site, which is providing new clues to a poorly understood time period in Labrador archaeology.



When: 7PM, Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Where: In the theatre at The Rooms, St. John's



Laurie McLean, an archaeological consultant in the Province, will summarize the results of his recent surveys of Beothuk sites located along the Exploits River and shores of Red Indian Lake. He'll talk about the condition of the sites, their significance, and the threats they face.






When: 2:30PM, Thursday, April 3, 2014
Where: In the theatre at The Rooms, St. John's


If you are in the St. John's area, be sure to come out for these talks.  If you are unable to attend in person, the NLAS will be live-streaming and archiving the talks on the NLAS Arch Youtube Channel. If you would like to view the talks live, simply visit the youtube channel at the scheduled start time and enjoy the live stream. The talks will remain archived there, so you can tune in at a later date as well.

Photo Credits: The Rooms


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