A shameless attempt to ‘drive traffic’ or vaguely on topic?

I have just produced my own website! It is a tool to promote a formalised version of a ‘beginners’ knapping workshop as discussed in this blog previously  My university teaching quota has now officially finished and making a website has been on my list of things to do for a while now. My sister in law, Sue Lorkins, set me on the path by producing a prototype and introducing me to the free Weebly website software.


However, because of the teaching I didn’t do anything with it. Sue also pointed me in the direction of a free training workshop designed for social enterprises and individuals wanting to be self employed. That sort of describes me and it started one week after my marking finished so the timing was perfect. It ran over five days and was facilitated by Simon Paine from the Pop Up Business School. It was excellent and made me feel as though wanting to teach people about how to make stone tools in 2018 is not such a mad idea!


Anyway, learning through making, to stay on topic. One day of the workshop was devoted to using Weebly to build a website and getting it online. The technical support was provided by Jack Aling and with him to hold my hand (metaphorically) it was surprisingly easy. It has taken a week or so of messing about with different versions to get to something I am happy with, but all in all I am happy with it. The course was good for keeping a focus and this distillation process has been difficult but really useful. They pointed out, and so should I, that there are many free website platforms available, but in their experience Weebly is the easiest to use for non-techies (like me).

Arrowhead 1

I also learned that having a website is not enough, and the following days session was devoted to using social media to ‘drive traffic’ (as I now say!) to your website. My overall professional function is being an ‘educator’ within the University sector, and I have qualifications and feedback which tells me I am good at my role. I observed and experienced really good teaching on this five day course. Simon has a good depth of experience and is a great communicator, Jack has strong technical knowledge and a sense of humour. The sessions were delivered with warmth and patience, and the occasional dollop of inspiration and/or confidence building as necessary. I hadn’t planned on going to all five days, but I did in the end and it was all worth it. The five days is useful for getting people to work through all aspects of their ideas, and in my instance getting a website online. I would recommend this organisation and course to anyone who has a business idea, but especially if it is a left-field idea, and double especially if they have no money to start it up with and no clue how to go about it. And now in a shameless attempt to ‘drive traffic’, this is a link to my website 😮 https://johnpiprani.weebly.com/




Guest post by Sunny Lum on his first experience of glass knapping

In October last year I attended John’s experimental workshop for creating Kimberley Points. As a complete novice knapper, I only had a vague idea of what would be involved, and had only prepared myself by watching a couple of quick flint knapping tutorials on Youtube beforehand, although these turned out to be almost completely irrelevant to what we ended up doing! At the start, John introduced us to what Kimberley points were and we had a short talk about the origins, uses and evolution of their creation, and also discussed the overall aim of the workshop, which was to try to end up with our own points after about 4 hours of work. He also showed us the tools the Australian aborigines originally used, namely a piece of number 8 wire, which was commonly used by the Australian sheep farming community to fence in their sheep. He also introduced us to our tools which we’d be using, which he’d created himself, adapting the wire by adding a wooden birch handle to allow better control. Other necessary equipment; huge tarpaulin to cover the floor and collect up all the glass shards, glass bottle blanks (rough cut to manageable size), a section of deep pile carpet (to protect our legs from self-inflicted damage) which was very thoughtful, protective goggles / glasses (plus coffee and plasters!)

Glass, plasters and coffee
Then there was the introduction to the process we would be using to create these points. This was explained very clearly through the use of a series of diagrams drawn onto the whiteboard, showing 2 distinct methods that created 2 different effects.
Sunny ignoring the view
The first step was to create a platform, which involved applying pressure with the wire almost orthogonal to the glass shard then changing the angle to create a pressure point, which breaks off a piece of the glass at an angle. This technique was used to create an angled platform on the side of the glass, which is used for the next step. Additionally, this step also is used to shape the glass into the correct shape.

Sunny, Rob and Rob

The second step was to use the platform created to apply pressure along the breadth of the glass shard in order to thin the edges. The process then repeats itself until you have reached the desired shape and thickness. John demonstrated the technique for the first step, and we tried to replicate it. It took about 50 mins or so before I became comfortable in creating a platform consistently. This was down to several factors; time to develop a feel for the correct angle and pressure required both to apply to the glass and also to hold the glass and tool in place to exert it, time to develop trust in the carpet to protect me from stabbing myself in the thigh, time to understand and get a feel for how the glass samples behaved when pressure flaking them.
As part of this process, you had to adapt to the edges and shape of the glass. Depending on which way the edge slanted it was easier to create the platform from one side or from the other. This resulted in distinctive fracture patterns in the glass which was easily readable by John when he came to examine our handiwork. Once we had 2-3 blanks roughly platformed, John then demonstrated the second step to thin the edges. The technique was in essence the same as the first step, difference being the angle is now along the width of the glass instead of in step 1 where it was through the depth. This creates flaking across the width of the shard and removes material in order to thin the edge.

Sunny and his steep retouch

This similarity of technique allowed us to jump straight into step 2 quite quickly, although again it took time to develop a good feel for the amount of pressure required, angling of the tool and glass and again familiarisation with the fracture qualities of the glass in this different plane. We used some more modern glass and also some older turn of the century glass, which better replicated the aboriginal raw materials. This was particularly useful as it showed the difference in fracture characteristics. Modern glass was easier to create the platform, but was harder to thin, the older glass was harder to create the platform, but was easier to thin.

Rob Howarth and Rob Fulton

This phase was quite tricky because the process of thinning the edges destroys part of the platform, so if you didn’t create enough material removal from across the width of the shard to thin it, you ended up with a broken platform which was hard to re-use without resorting to step 1 again. It took some experience to realise this and frustrated progress when you really should have moved on. Rob Howarth, who had more experience knapping, ended up producing a pretty impressively shaped and thinned piece at the end, going through the two steps multiple times.

Rob Howarth's slim point

Time passed very quickly, and I enjoyed the challenge of working out how and where to apply the pressure to flake off and shape the glass. It helped immensely to have a file at hand to resharpen the points on the wire tool. The blunt end dissipates the force, requiring you to exert more and results in less controlled fracturing.
The biggest challenges I faced:
* developing a feel for how to hold the glass securely and safely
* developing a feel for how to apply the pressure into the glass securely and safely
* developing a feel for the angle and pressure required to create the pressure flake for step 1
* developing a feel for the angle and position and pressure required to create the thinning for step 2
In the end, I ended up with 3 half finished pieces. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t have a finished piece, however I was very happy with the progress I’d made and the skills acquired that I could continue to work on those pieces if I wanted to. Overall, a very good well run and guided workshop. Helpful if you have some prior experience, but not necessary. 

Sunny smiling, Rob F inspecting
Many thanks to Rob Fulton for being one of the guinea pigs, Rob Howarth for providing the cleaned period glass and these photographs, and Sunny Lum taking the time to put his reflections down on paper for me.

Kim Akerman makes a Kimberley point

I have mentioned a few times that Kim Akerman is the preeminent scholar when it comes to these points, and that he has been very helpful in my research. He has kept in touch and answered some of my questions on the production process that have been sticking points for me. This post is his response to a couple of my general questions, about the correct order of work, and invasive flaking without losing too much width. To illustrate he produced a point and recorded the process. This post will be lengthy, but informative if this is a subject of interest. This body text is my interpretation, the photos with text are his explanations.



This is the piece of water worn period glass that Kim started with. We had discussed the differing ways of establishing a platform and this was the issue he dealt with first of all.



He used the margin of the convex outer surface as a natural platform and a small hard hammer along one edge, and a pressure flaker along the second to begin invasive flaking. As can be seen both methods achieved similar results.



He then continued to take more invasive flakes and establish in his mind the shape of the point he was aiming for. All this flaking was aimed at flattening the inner concave surface of the glass.



Here we can see that whilst the inner concave face is now heavily worked and being flattened, the outer convex face is as yet un-flaked. Shaping in plan has also begun.



5c. Lateral edge showing unifacial pressure flaking on interior concave faceSame story in that the concave inner surface is now almost completely flaked apart from an intermittent central ridge of original surface. Kim has a problem with this later. The curved outer surface still remains un-flaked and you can see the edge of the original outer glass surface curving up at the forefront of the photo.



And at this point flaking of the easier convex outer surface begins. What follows is a process of flaking and shaping to achieve the approximate form required.



At the above stage the easier to flake curved outer surface is used only to create platforms so that invasive flakes can be removed from (what was) the curved inner surface. The aim here was to remove the intermittent central ridge of original surface that remained on the inner face.

9b. Removal of margin by overshot flake

The aim was to get flakes to penetrate across the centre in order to remove the problematic ridge and it is at this stage that a flake overshoots and takes off too much material.



the central ridge has been removed and the task now is to bring the reduced piece back into shape, and this is done by working both faces.

11a. Final form. Concave face

11b. Final form Convex face.

This is the end result, what Kim calls a rose-leaf shaped point. I commented in the previous post how my points need to be called ‘Manchester’ points. I think this is not the case for Kim’s. He was trained by aboriginals, uses the same bodily methods, materials, tools and reduction sequences. When aboriginal tool making lapsed, Kim carried the process on, and I believe this is why he has gone to the trouble of sharing the process here. He cares about sharing this knowledge with other people who value it. Perhaps the process of sharing a valued knowledge was one part of what Kimberley points were about.

It has been a while

It has been a while since I posted anything, and that is most definitely not because I have nothing to share, but because I have not made the time to share it. Probably the most relevant thing to share currently is the small exhibition display I have made in the entrance to our Mansfield Cooper building. Kostas Arvanitis from the School of Museology has been kind enough to lend out his display case to some ‘lithics people’, and I have been entrepreneurial enough to take advantage of his kindness.

exhibition photo

The photograph is not great and there is a problem with reflected light. However, on the plus side it confronts anyone who enters the building, and it is next to the machine that sells crisps and Skittles so it should have good ‘footfall’. The exhibition started life as a discussion about the process of learning how to make Kimberley points. It changed half way through to an explanation of the social context of archaeological practice. It has ended up as being a temporary monument to Eleanor Casella who left the department just before Christmas, as she was actually a key player in my personal Kimberley point project.

The upper shelf is primarily concerned with the texts and information Kim Akerman gave me, and what I did with it (produce points from glass and ceramic). The lower shelf explains how…I will let the exhibition posters explain themselves.

What is this exhibition about

On the value of using period.jpg

On the value of a glass bottle

Replicating a

And so endeth shelf one. Shelf two on the other hand….

Kim Akerman is the preeminent scholar in this


last slide

I wanted to use this space as an advert for my services showing beginners how to make stone tools, the leaflet I have produced will perhaps be my next post. However, I find it really interesting how the process itself has taken over my agenda. I certainly like my exhibition, even if I suspect it doesn’t quite say what I meant or intended. Still, perhaps that is a perk of being a peripheral part of a department that is too busy to worry about what is going on in its entrance display case. Eleanor and myself are going to go for a walk and explore around Chorlton Ees, the place where I collect my raw materials. Perhaps that can be post number three.


Yesterday Paul sent me this photograph. I emailed him back to say “not just us then!”. I assumed it was a ceramics magazine with an article on the Dolni Vestonice figurine.

venus 1

I asked him if there was a relevant article and he said that he hadn’t explained clearly.

venus 2

This was the figurine he had made on Sunday, simply photographed on a ceramics text book. I struggled to comprehend as this figurine looked formally different to the one I had seen and photographed on Sunday.

venus 3

Plus which, the finish was very different. Apparently, after our Sunday session Paul took his figurine home and removed probably one third of its mass to make it correspond formally and size wise to that of the original.

venus 4

He then burnished the complete thing using a small smooth pebble. The back of a teaspoon was used for the hard to reach bits.

Above is a photo of my fired figurine, and Paul’s burnished pre-fired version. I am really blown away by Paul’s rendition, it is brilliant. Again, my intuition was right, that Paul and Juan have the skills and aesthetic to do justice to the Dolni Vestonice figurine. I wasn’t prepared though for the impact of the results. Perhaps it is because I made one myself and know and understand the degree of skilled practice that is involved. Really great stuff. They are both helping us out at Manchester next week with an experimental archaeology session. They need to bring these in as well. Chantal Conneller, who is organising the session, and a Palaeolithic specialist, will be really excited to see these figurines.



Paul and Juan produce two new ‘Venus’ figurines

I asked both Juan and Paul if they would apply themselves to the task of producing a ‘Venus’ figurine each, as I thought they would be able to do it more justice than I had. My figurine came out well from the firing and we had some clay and bone mix left, and so I went round on Sunday and both Paul and Juan had a go.


The photographs and measurements we used for reference purposes are from the Don’s Maps website, and below is the lovely figurine produced by Juan.


Correspondingly, this is the example produced by Paul. My intuition was correct in that they have both produced skillful and beautiful interpretations. Juan has suggested burnishing the figurines before firing in order to emulate the shiny surface seen on the archaeological example.

All in all it took about one hour. As we have used the same clay and bone mix these figurines should fare well within the fire pit. This leads to the logical conclusion that we need to have another fire pit social at some point in the near future. C’est la guerre.


A Community of Hope

Today I had a meeting with Eleanor Casella. She had returned from Australia bearing gifts, in particular some wire, wood and bone for me. I have outlined in a previous post the networks I had inadvertently tapped into whilst investigating the production processes associated with Kimberley Points. Today I received the following precise inventory from John Pickard along with the associated materials.


The selection of wire ranges between 2mm and 4mm, has both oval and round profiles made from both steel and iron. All are from New South Wales and are provenanced, dated to within 10 years and described for my benefit.


Next is two pieces of wood. The larger of the two is Yarran (Accacia homophylla) that has been burned and has therefore hardened. The second smaller piece is a non-burned piece of Mulga (Acacia aneura), also a hardwood.


Finally the forearm bones from an adult male Eastern Grey Kangaroo, skinned, de-fleshed, and then boiled to remove remaining materials. The thing that brings these disparate materials together is the aboriginal use of them to make Kimberley Points.


The people who have brought these things together for me are Denis Gojak, John Pickard and Eleanor Casella. This material was collected by John mainly on his last fieldtrip into New South Wales in August of this year. The kangaroo had been shot in the head and left by the side of the road. John found it probably the day after its death.

The coordination and distribution element was organised by Denis Gojak and, after being responsible for making initial introductions, the ‘mule’ function was fulfilled by Eleanor on her way home. Whilst obviously a stickler for detail (see packing order) Denis also personalised the whole process with this fridge magnet.

KangarooI am a little stuck for what to say. The title of this post is taken from a track by the artist Polly Jean Harvey and seems appropriate. Last Monday and Tuesday here in Manchester there was strike action in response to the ongoing economic rationalisation of our Archaeology department. Inevitably a number of my colleagues will be losing their jobs due to this restructuring process. As a consequence, the overall mood here is pretty sombre. The arrival of these materials at this moment seems to shine a light upon a different set of values. To remind me that there is indeed an alternate way of operating within the world beyond that of economic rationality. It is not just the kindness and coordination, but the willingness to go to this effort for someone that neither Denis or John have ever met. Their time has not been measured in currency, and the quality of their work remains un-compromised by the fact that no money has changed hands.

Receiving this parcel truly gives me hope. I am low down on the food chain at Manchester. The restructuring will not affect me directly as my contract is temporary anyway. It will however affect the people who I have worked with through my Masters and Doctorate. It is the people who have provided me with the majority my education and experience within the subject of archaeology, they are being ‘re-structured’. I don’t really know where I am going with this post. I am very grateful to the above individuals for going to this effort on my behalf to provide me with authentic materials. However, my gratitude is not really about the materials, their actions have warmed my heart. Eleanor, Denis and John have reminded me of the importance of values, and of operating in the world in accord with your values. Even when, and perhaps most importantly when, an alternate set of values is being actively imposed from above. So in summary, thank you to Denis, Eleanor and John for reminding me what it is to be a sentient human being, as opposed to a calculating machine.

This is a link to the membership page of the University and College Union

This is a link to the Facebook Resist Restructuring Manchester page