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Author Archives: Kevin Brownlee

Tracking Atlatls in Manitoba

You may ask yourself what is an atlatl? An atlatl is a hunting tool that is in two parts, a dart or very thin spear and a throwing board which is used to propel the dart. In most of North America it was the hunting tool of choice for many thousands of years. Archaeologists often use the size of projectile points as indication of which hunting tool was used. To…

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Testament to the Past

This past fall I had the fortune to visit the Brockinton Site, located just south of Melita, Manitoba. The site is slowly eroding into the Souris River; each year a little more of the site is lost. We know a good deal about this site thanks to E. Leigh Syms who excavated this site in the late 1960s and early 1970s. While no excavations have occurred for 40 years, Leigh Syms continues to…

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Birch Bark Canoe Video

For those of you who have enjoyed my blogs on the creation of the Birch Bark Canoe you will be interested in seeing the video of how it was made. During the intensive 7 days we spent making the canoe Lakeland Public Television documented the construction of the birch bark canoe step by step. Scott Knudson filmed much of the activity and interviewed each of us about the canoe and what it meant…

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Step 5 Birch Bark Canoe

On day 7 Myra and I awoke to another beautiful day.  We decided that we would complete all the sewing, attaching the gunwale caps and final triming but would not pitch the canoe. Grant had offered to complete this last stage after we returned to Winnipeg.    We all marvelled at the beauty of the canoe now that it has the final shape. It is amazing that in one week we could…

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Step 4 Birch Bark Canoe

On Sunday we started to insert the planking and ribs into the canoe. We started at the end and worked towards the middle. The pairs of ribs are for either end, keeping the shape identical front to back. A finished birch bark canoe can technically be paddled with either end as the stern or bow. We decided to use two different colours of spruce roots at each end to differentiate, the bow…

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More Pictures of Canoe Building

Assembling the wood frame

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The Birch Bark Canoe Step 3

Over the course of the next 6 days all efforts were on completing the Birch Bark canoe. Each morning I would get up at 6:00 and review my notes and look at the canoe in order to see if they were complete. Once I updated my notes and had coffee and breakfast work would start on the canoe. All photographs from this post are the property of Kevin Brownlee (personal…

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The Birch Bark Canoe Step 2

I woke up at 6:00 AM to get a good start on the day. Grant was already up and we decided to get out to the spruce bog early to gather roots. We needed to gather 250 feet of roots to make 500 feet of finished split roots. The estimate was 5 feet of roots for each rib, 40 ribs require 200 feet and the seams to be sewn would…

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The Birch Bark Canoe: Step 1

The best way to understand any skill or expertise is by trying it out. Experimental archaeology attempts to replicate past activities to improve our understanding and interpretation of archaeological material. My interest in experimental archaeology is broad since I am interested in all aspects of past technology, working stone, clay, bone, antler, wood, bark and hides. In some cases I am replicating tools that I have recovered or items from…

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Looking for the Invisible

I have long marveled at the beautiful stone woodworking tools that are in the archaeology collection at The Manitoba Museum and wondered what they were used for. It may seem like an odd question as these tools were obviously used for working wood. I wonder what past peoples made with these tools. Since understanding how all tools were used in the past is important for archaeologists, we are often searching…

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