Using old glass

bubble glass

The above Kimberley Point has been made from an old piece of glass, the flat side of a Camp Coffee bottle. My aim was to retain the raised letters that spelled ‘chicory’ but it was not to be. If you look closely it is clear that there are bubbles in the glass and the section on the bottom left is the edge of one large bubble. These voids meant it was necessary to continually adjust in order to manage them, hence the small size.

curved glass

This second point is made from a side section of an old glass beer bottle. This is similar to one seen in the Manchester Museum and the main issue here was managing the curve and the variable thickness of the glass. The proximal section on this piece was much thinner than the distal. I am happy with it as a point, but in order to get that feeling of sharp serration on the margins I need to get the initial invasive flakes deeper, to reduce the angles. So whilst the microwave turntable presented its own set of problems, the transition to using old glass has highlighted some interesting issues that need to be considered when attempting to make these points as aboriginals did: uneven glass thickness; managing a transverse curve on longitudinal section; and accommodating bubbles in the glass. All in all an interesting process.

Hard earned

bone china 1

We have been having regular Tuesday and Thursday evening ‘knapp-ins’ for the past few weeks. Between the three of us we each gravitated towards different materials. Nick focused upon the remainder of the thick microwave turntable. Rob brought in some Langdale Tuff, a volcanic material with a fantastic texture, and I brought in a bone china plate. This bone china is hard, and very difficult to get long removals from. It really does seem to be a case of heavy abrasion to get incrementally longer removals, only to abraid again to get a bit further. Each of the above removals was hard earned.

bone china 2

Both Koalaboi and Nick recommended having a look at Paleomanjim’s Youtube channel. He uses a number of methods depending upon source material, but to maximise flake length he combined two approaches. Firstly he used abrasion and removals to create a steep angle that can be used optimally for one face only. He also used a pad with a channel cut into it. He has identified that having this void below the flake being removed means that it has absolutely no support, and thus comes off cleanly. Even small amounts of support (contact) can lead to step fracturing. This makes sense, although it doesn’t seem to be reflected in the Kimberley Points literature. Once optimal length flakes have been removed from one face, the the margin in prepared so as to remove optimum flakes from the second face. This process is primarily aimed at thinning and creating a lens like cross section. I have a couple of fragments of this material left, and so I am going to test out this steep platform method this Tuesday evening.

Something far less useful

Microwave 1

On Thursday evening I had a knapping session with Nick Overton and Rob Howarth. The ‘dish of the day’ was a toughened glass microwave turntable found in Nick’s garden. It took me a couple of hours to be able to get beyond the raised edge that was the outer lip of the turntable. As such it has been a masterclass in working angles and really got me thinking. Following the published methods is very interesting and the previous post focused upon managing the curve on bottle glass. However, this toughened and lipped turntable presented a different set of problems. It has made me think about the difference between aboriginal examples with plano-convex, and those with lens like cross sections. I wonder if plate glass examples like this lead to lens like cross sections because both faces are worked in a similar manner? I finished the above preform off this morning.

Microwave 3

As can be seen, it has reduced in size considerably, and this is a reflection of working to get increasingly shallow angles and therefore longer removals.

Microwave 2

This image shows better the degree of removals from the surface, and I can now report that the really long removals are in fact a combination of well prepared platforms that allow pressure to travel along a shallow surface angle. These shallow angles come from transforming a perpendicular edge into a steep angle, and then using this steep angle as a platform to take another removal that creates a longer shallow angle one. None of this discussion is new, however I am beginning to be able to apply these aspects systematically within a meta-approach to either plate glass or bottle glass. I am making practical sense of the textual descriptions that do not really separate out how these processes change (or remain the same) depending upon the materials used. It would be useful now to revisit the Manchester Museum examples to see if I can recognise if the source material was either plate or bottle glass, and if this actually does reflect a plano-convex or lens like cross section. Anyway, to para-phrase Nick, it has been immensely satisfying transforming this microwave turntable into something far less useful!

A more detailed reduction sequence.

mm ventral

I am currently revisiting the literature before we start on our collection of antique bottle fragments. In particular a 2002 paper called “Weapons and wunan: production and exchange of Kimberley points” (Akerman, Fullager and van Gijn) as on page 22 it outlines a very detailed but concise reduction sequence. Essentially, for bottle fragments the most energy is spent flattening the curved inner surface. Consequently this inner face is flaked from either side, in turn, until flat. The above photo is of a point within the Manchester Museum collection and illustrates this description excellently. This process ‘sets up’ the upper or dorsal surface for the next phase of removals. This involves a single series of flakes being taken from each edge.

mm dorsal

This is what we see on the dorsal face above, and I think this is one facet that gives these points their characteristic look. Only then is the edge serrated or notched and the tip worked. This example doesn’t have the needle like tip and is what gave me the notion that larger ones may have been used as knives. Returning again to the ventral surface, what we can see in the photo is an almost plano-convex cross section as opposed to lens shaped. Finally, it would take an aboriginal knapper about 45 minutes to make a 200mm long point. This would be a very large point indeed. The overall approach outlined above is the one I am going to take with our period materials, although it may take me a little longer than 45 minutes 🙂

Akerman, K., Fullagar, R. and van Gijn, A., 2002. Weapons and wunan: production, function and exchange of Kimberley points. Australian Aboriginal Studies, (1), pp.13-42

Foraging for early 20th Century glass and ceramics

tip

Yesterday I had a foraging expedition with Nick Overton, Kelsey Lindstrom, two disinterested teenagers and dog. It was an eventful trip to Chorlton Ees in that we met a couple of guys dismantling a really well made shelter they had constructed in the woods. To add to the Australian Kimberley Points theme, we then saw some wild parrots! But the main event was an area close the the River Mersey where a tremendous amount of early 20th Century material had been exposed.

broken bottle

Kim Akerman advised me that early glass Kimberley Points (1880s onward) were made on beer bottles, Lea and Perrin sauce bottles, blue poison bottles and milk glass from medicine bottles. Eleanor Casella is a historic period archaeologist and has a good knowledge of bottle types and periods. She highlighted how the differing early production methods resulted in bottles with thicker bases and walls. Modern bottles certainly have thinner walls, probably to reduce weight and transport costs. The bottles recovered here are really useful because many can be dated, and because they are already broken we can use them with a clear conscience. We came away with over 20 of these thick and heavy bottles and many useful fragments. If the dates correspond then we will be using analogue materials with similar, if not the same, problems and opportunities dealt with by the aboriginals themselves. Nick and myself have a preliminary experimental session booked in for Tuesday evening.

porcelain

Obviously I was not able to wait until Tuesday and so had a go with a largish piece of curved and patterned porcelain. The resulting point is good in that it has the needle like tip and serrated margins. Size wise it is 87mm long, 30mm wide and 7mm thick. An interesting phenomenon that is emerging seems to be that all the original dorsal or ventral surface is not necessarily obliterated. Wayne Harris on the Australian Antique Bottle Forum told me that:

many years ago I saw some large [Kimberley Points] from the N.T. in the Melbourne Museum.  Parts of the embossing on both made identification certain.  One was from the side of an A. van Hoboken gin & one was from the front of a Hartwig Kantorowicz milk glass Bitters bottle”.

This remnant lettering allowed him to date the points to between late 1880s and 1900. I wonder if this leaving on some embossing was ‘expedient’, or ‘aesthetic’? Or perhaps allowing the point to retain a connection to the material source, an aspect that seems to have been important for the stone points.

Glass Kimberley Point by Karl Lee

karl point

Today we had Karl Lee for the day, demonstrating and producing various pieces for three different research projects including my own. I tasked him with producing a Kimberley Point from the second piece of modern 6mm plate glass found at Chorlton Water Park. He did a pretty good job as can be seen above. Because the glass had a hole and a bevel Karl thought it was toughened table glass which would explain why it was difficult to get the removals to travel. He did however do a better job than me, and I think shape wise his is more characteristic of what would be described as a Kimberley Point. The day was pretty successful, however for me disappointing. For various reasons I wasn’t able to capture the video footage I wanted, and I had to miss the end of Karl finishing my point and so didn’t see first hand how he serrated the edges (although I did leave the camera running and so have got it). We didn’t go through the platform preparation either and so I think a trip to see Karl is in order. We can spend a bit of time playing with stuff, rather than cramming it all into one long day.

The point of today

first pass

This is the first series of removals from a 7mm fragment of plate glass from Chorlton Ees. After doing the same on the other side I used a hard hammer to get it into shape, my large pressure flaker to thin it and then the small flaker to finish it. The no.8 wire was used to put in the notches. It is 81mm long, 30mm wide and (still) 7mm thick.

finished-point.jpg

Karl Lee is coming to Manchester tomorrow. I showed him a photograph of this tonight and he is going to show me how to prepare my platforms so that I can get flakes that travel right across. Watch this space.