Page:Firemaking Apparatus in the U.S. National Museum.djvu/33

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FIKE-MAKING APPARATUS. 557 Oil a groove (fig. 34), which collects the ground-off particles and facili- tates ignition, liarely fire is made by working the drill on a plane sur- face, in single, non-connecting holes. The difference between these features is, that it is found to be more difficult to get fire by a single hole without groove, or slot, than when the latter features are added. The powder forms a ring around the edge of the hole, is liable to "be dispersed, and does not get together in sufficient amount to reach the requisite heat for ignition. Of course this is obviated when a second hole is bored connecting with the first, when the latter becomes a receptacle for the powder. It is found that these different ways are due to environmental modi- fication, showing itself as remarkably in fire-making, as in any other Eskimo art. Both the stepped and central-hole hearth are different devices for the same end. The step on the hearth is to keep the pellet of glowing powder from falling off' into the snow, so universal in Es- kimo-land; hence, the simple hearth of primitive times and peoples of warmer climates has received this addition. The same reason caused the Eskimo to bore the holes in the middle of the block. B3^ following the distribution of the center hole method, a clew may perhaps be gotten to the migrations of the Eskimo. From Labrador to Norton Sound, by the collections in the Museum, the center hole is alone used ; south of Norton Sound both methods l)revail, with a i)reponderance of the stepped-hearth species. The step seems to be an addition to the Indian hearth; the center is an inde- pendent invention. The operation of the drill is well told in the oft-quoted description by Sir. E. Belcher. The writer can attest to the additional statement, that the teeth of civilized man can scarcely stand the shock. He says: The tliong of the drill bow being passed twice around the drill, the upper end is steadied by a mouth -piece of wood, having a piece of the same stone imbedded, with a counter-sunk cavity. Tliis, held firmly between the teeth, directs the tool. Any workman would be astonished at the performance of this tool on ivory; but having once tried it myself, I found the jar or vibration on the jaws, head, and brain, quite enough to prevent my repeating it." * The ethnographical study of the Eskimo fire-drill begins with Labra- dor, including Greenland and following the distribution of the people among the islands and around the North American coast to Kadiak Island and the Aleutian chain. The following is an interesting account from Labrador, showing what a man would do in the exigency: He cut a stout stick from a neighboring larch, and taking out the leather thong with which his moccasins were tied, made a short bow and strung it. He then searched for a piece of dry wood, and having found it, cut it into shape, sharpened both ends, and twisted it once around the bowstring; he then took a bit of fungus from his pocket and put it into a little hole which he made in another dry piece of wood with the point of the knife. A third piece of dry wood was fashioned into a handle for his diill.t

  • Trans. Ethnol. Soc. London, 1861. p. 140.

t Hind. — Labrador, i, p. 149.