Monday, 4 April 2016

Four Knapped Points from the UCL Ethnography Collections

Object V.0178: Four Knapped Points from Australia
Assessment and Significance

Figure 1: Object V.0178 four knapped points from Australia.

            Object V.0178 consists of four knapped points from early 20th century Australia. They appear to be knapped using the Solutrean technique of European Upper Palaeolithic (Figure 1). All four points are finely worked, bifacial-flaked point, knapped on both the dorsal and ventral sides.  The green point is 98mm long, 28mm wide at its widest point, and 3mm thick at its centre and base and has a serrated edge (Figure 2). The clear point is 88mm long, 30mm wide at its widest point, and 3mm thick at its centre and base (Figure 3). The point shape resembles an elongated triangle, with straight base and slightly curved sides. The purple point is 11mm long, 31mm wide, and 5mm thick at its centre and base (Figure 4). The sherd is a cleaver shape with the base’s width being almost equal to the rounded top’s width and straight sides. The porcelain point is 12mm long, 26mm wide, and 5mm thick at its centre and base (Figure 5). The point is triangular in shape, with an angled base and curved sides ending in a point with moderately serrated edges.
Figure 2: Green point.
Figure 3: Clear point.


Figure 4: Purple point.
Figure 5: Porcelain point.

            Dr. Phyllis M. Kaberry, Reader in Anthropology at UCL, donated the knapped points to UCL’s Anthropology department. 
            Indigenous peoples of Australia began knapping glass following the colonisation of the continent after 1788 by the British (Harrison 2003, 312). The colonists brought a variety of glass bottles and constructed telegraph lines, bringing new, previously unknown materials to the indigenous people of Australia for tool production (Cooper & Bowdler 1998, 75). The points are a representation of Australia’s indigenous people’s adaption of colonial materials while maintaining their traditional cultural identity (Cooper & Bowdler 1998, 74).

Figure 6: Old storage of points.
Figure 7: New Mount for points.


Figure 8: Mount with lid.

 Assessment of condition:
          All four points are in good condition. They have been transferred from being stored stacked and wrapped in tissue paper in a small box (Figure 6), to a new mount that allows personnel to view the points without removing them from the mount (Figure 7).  The mount includes a lid for further protection (Figure 8).  The green point appears to be missing its pointed tip and a few of teeth of the serrated edge (Figures 9 and 10). Both the clear and purple points are intact with only some minor surface dirt. Adhesive is beginning to seep from under the label on the clear point (Figure 11). The porcelain point’s surface is discoloured and has an orange/red speckling on its surface (Figure 12).

Figure 9: Missing tip of green point.
Figure 10: Missing teeth of serrated edge of green point.
Figure 11:Adhesive seepage on clear point.
Figure 12: discoloured surface and orange/red speckling on porcelain point.
Cooper, Z., & Bowdler, S., 1998. Flaked Glass Tools from the Andaman Islands and Australia. Asian Perspectives, 37(1), 74.

Harrison, R., 2003. 'The Magical Virtue of These Sharp Things': Colonialism, Mimesis and Knapped Bottle Glass Artefacts in Australia. Journal of Material Culture, 8(3), 311-36.
 *Images by author.

This post refers to coursework done for ARCLG142 (2015-16), one of the core courses of the UCL MA  Principles of Conservation. As part of their assessed work for this course, students were asked to investigate objects from the UCL Ethnography Collections at the UCL Department of Anthropology. Here they present a summary of their main conclusions. We hope you enjoy our work! Comments are most welcome.

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