I have recently obtained two old "human artifacts" from the badlands in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada. For one of these, we have no idea what it is. Can you help?
ITEM 1. The object is made of iron and well rusted. It does not appear to have been factory made, but rather, constructed by a blacksmith. From the "front", it is tear-drop shaped and quite symmetrical. When viewed edge-on (from the "side"), it is flat (5 mm thick), except at the bluntly pointed tip where it gradually tapers over a distance of 5 mm. When viewed from the front (so the tear-drop shape can be seen) it can be seen to be hollow in the middle (again with a tear-drop shape); the "sides" or "rim" of the object measure anywhere from 9 mm wide at the bottom of the "drop", to about 6 mm wide near the tapered tip. The pointed end of the artifact is tapered and with a bluntly rounded point. The metal in this pointed area is less rusted for 10-15 mm on both sides (front and back) suggesting it has been tempered differently (?). I don't have a scale, but would guesstimate it weighs about 1 ounce.
So what is it? We are assuming it is in fact something the early paleontologists used in the field as we very rarely find old domestic garbage out in the badlands. It was not found in an old quarry, so its age is problematic. However, the oldest quarries in the vicinity are 1916-1917.
Some ideas we've had:
1. A digging tool. It does fit nicely in the hand, but the crews had plenty of digging tools. There are no indications of the item being hit repeatedly by a hammer as one might expect for a digging tool.
2. A piece of horse harness or similar equipment? Perhaps a rope could be passed through it, or a rope passed through and then knotted. All fine and good, but the pointed end could jab into the horse. And it is of light construction, not something meant to bear a lot of weight.
3. A piece of wagon equipment?
4. A bottle opener?
5. A tool for cleaning horses hooves/metal shoes?
6. A screwdriver? While rusted, the tip does not seem overly affected so it is believed the original shape of the item is unaffected by rust. If true, it would make a poor slot screwdriver. We have lots of evidence for the use of wire and nails in the field by the early expeditions, but not of screws.
7. Part of a handle of another, bigger tool? This seems unlikely as there are no attachment points or threaded areas present.
ITEM 2. As many of you know, I am examining old unidentified quarry sites and the garbage therein (newspaper, glass, tin, etc) to help identify who was in the quarry, what year, what was collected, etc; see: TANKE, D.H. 1999. RELOCATING THE LOST QUARRIES OF DINOSAUR PROVINCIAL PARK, ALBERTA, CANADA. (ABSTRACT). JOURNAL OF VERTEBRATE PALEONTOLOGY, 19(3):80A. I have had great sucess using this methodology in conjunction with old photographs, letters, fieldnotes, etc. In a Levi Sternberg quarry from 1935 I was stunned to find a different kind of paper artifact, in this case the wrapper off of a stick of gum! This artifact is made of wax paper, is bright pink in color and is virtually identical (even with the serrated wrapper edges) to the tinfoil wrappers seen on WRIGLEY'S JUICY FRUIT, etc stick gums found today. The only difference is that the wrapper is a little longer. Would any of the oldtimers on the list have any recollections as to the brand/flavor? This trivia question has come up. I've contacted Wrigley's Gum recently, but still no reply.
I would appreciate any thoughts list members may have. I return to the field soon, so may not be able to reply for some time.
Darren Tanke, Tech. I
Dinosaur Research Program
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology
Drumheller, AB, Canada
Senior Editor, Paleopathology and Recent
Dento-Osteopathology Bibliography; see homepage