Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Bone spearhead

Here’s a bone spearhead I just finished, hafted into a yew setting with pine pitch and sinew. I can wear it as a pendant, and in a survival situation it can be lashed to a stick with the leather thong to make a spear.

Also known as the USS Voyager!

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A History of the World in 100 Objects

This series, on BBC Radio 4, follows Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, narrating humanity’s history through 100 objects. You can listen again using the BBC iPlayer.

Yesterday’s programme was on a two-million-year-old Olduvai stone chopping tool. Neil goes back to the Rift Valley in Tanzania, where a simple chipped stone marks the emergence of modern humans. He tells the story of the Olduvai stone chopping tool with contributions from flint napper Phil Harding, Sir David Attenborough and African Nobel Prize winner Dr Wangeri Maathai.

Today’s object was an Olduvai hand axe. In the presence of the most widely-used tool humans have created, Neil sees just how vital to our evolution this sharp, ingenious implement was and how it allowed the spread of humans across the globe.

Future episodes include a swimming reindeer carving, a Clovis spear point, and a bird-shaped pestle.

The real Avatar

‘Mine – Story of a Sacred Mountain’ by Survival International.

Warriors of the Plains

On Friday I went to see the Warriors of the Plains exhibition at the British Museum. The exhibition focuses on the material culture of Native North American Indians of the Plains between 1800 and the present, and the importance of the objects in a social and ceremonial context.

Highlights for me were the buffalo skin robe at the entrance to the exhibition, decorated with scenes of warfare and the exploits of the owner/maker, such as horse stealing. The stylistic rendering of the human figures and horses was beautifully simple and evocative and I made a few sketches to influence my own creations.

I’m planning to make a ‘coup stick’, a couple of which were on display in the exhibition. These are short clubs that were used to touch enemies without harming them. To do this without getting caught was a deed of great skill and honour. It reminded me of some of the games we played on Native Skills 1 and 2.

I also viewed the permanent displays of Native American artefacts and was impressed by the delicacy of some of the coil baskets and clay pots and the simplicity and effectiveness of their designs. I was drawn to the creations of some of the Northern-most peoples, including walrus ivory wrist guards, bow drill bows, harpoons and composite bows.

Lots of inspiration and ideas for my next creations! I would recommend the Warriors of the Plains exhibition to anyone who happens to be in London. It runs from 7 January to 5 April 2010 in the exhibition space on level 4.

Staff sling

This is a staff sling I made over the new year break. Staff slings can be made up to two metres long, but this one’s only about 80cm, designed to be used with one hand rather than two. While stalking, it can be held loaded, resting on the shoulder ready to launch.

I took it out with a ‘practice’ sling section made from nylon paracord to get the length right. It worked well, sending plum-sized stones easily over 30m. I’m not sure how fast they were going, but one hit a rock I was aiming for and sent up a satisfying spark! I then came home and then created this more authentic sling section using corded jute and two pieces of soft leather sandwiched with hide glue.

It needs to be bedded in a bit as the pocket’s a bit stiff. I’ll do this by soaking it and leaving it overnight with a weight in it, and then by practicing with it!