More on aboriginal glass Kimberley Point production

Today I received my second book purchase, the unfortunately named ‘Psychology of a Primitive People’ by the clinical psychologist Stanley Porteus. It was published in 1931 and is very much of its time, preoccupied with situating differing human groups into a progressive developmental paradigm. It does however have good descriptions of the production process that is the focus here, and photographs. The first one illustrates well the bodily method I described in the previous post. Having tried it myself I was reminded of a paper: ‘Techniques of the Body‘ by Marcel Mauss (1973). In it he describes his own observations during WW1 of how French soldiers could not use English spades, and English soldiers struggled with French versions. He concluded that digging is a culturally learned technique. This aboriginal ‘pulling’ the flake off certainly feels alien to me and I seem unable to develop any real pressure. I wonder if any of the formal attributes of the artefacts are a direct consequence of this culturally learned bodily method?

aboriginal knapping

Porteus (1931: 111) also describes a differing method of bottle quartering using a long piece of wire and a small stone. The base is removed by inserting a nine inch long piece of no.8  fencing wire into the bottle and shaking. I have used this same method with a large nail and it works well (see link below). The stone was then used to give the bottle a series of sharp taps along its length from the neck to the base. The bottle was then turned over and the same process occurred on this opposite side. The bottle fractured into two halves, and the process repeated again to quarter it. All good. The second picture I have included is one of an individuals body modification which was done using a ‘glass bottle knife’. bod mod

Porteus focused upon these objects as indicators of psychological development, whilst the image above indicates they had some further meanings, beyond a simple functionality, for the aboriginals themselves. Rodney Harrison (2006: 63) has described these artefacts as a ‘Technology of Enchantment’, and indeed I am sat here at 9.46 p.m. writing about my experience of learning about them, as well as spending many (fulfilling) daytime hours exploring how to make them. I understand where he is coming from 🙂

Harrison, R., Bowdler, S., Kchler, S., Redmond, A., Russell, L., Silliman, S., Torrence, R. and Harrison, R., 2006. An artefact of colonial desire? Kimberley points and the technologies of enchantment. Current Anthropology, 47(1), pp.63-88.

Mauss, M., 1973. Techniques of the Body. Economy and Society, 2(1), pp.70-88.

Porteus, S.D., 1931. The Psychology of a Primitive People. London. Butler and Tanner Ltd.

For removing a bottle base using a nail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xh7pc2Q6XFI&t=435s.

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