‘Endshock’ and flake analysis

Mac 1

We are back from our weeks holiday in Mid-Wales and knapping wise I didn’t have much more Johnstone Solutrean success. Ultimately from the two large sheets of Johnstone I took with me I produced the previously discussed Solutrean point, and lots of smaller blanks that will be suitable for arrowheads. The arrowhead blanks are a bi-product and so not relevant to this discussion, however I think it is interesting to explore where my problems lie. One problem that happened more than once was ‘endshock’ (see above image). When this piece snapped in the middle I was actually working on thinning one of the ends. This is how I ended up with the arrowhead blanks.


A second issue that deserves attention was how I was effectively thinning the pieces. Above are five useful penetrative thinning flakes that successfully removed the original surface, however, I couldn’t produce these consistently.  The above photograph shows the ventral, or inner surface of flakes I preserved for reference, to see what was going on when it worked.

mac 3

The above image is of the first three flakes but the dorsal, or outer face, showing the amount of flat original surface successfully removed. They are organised in size order with the first being the largest and therefore most successful. This first flake is 49 mm in length and the platform, or the part of the flake that received the impact is 9 mm in length and 4 mm in width. So all the energy from the blow was transferred into the body of the blank being worked through that small area. The platform can be considered ‘plain’ in that it has not been worked in any way. Another useful analytical aspect is the ‘Platform Angle’. If the angle between the face of the platform and the dorsal surface on any flake is measured it will usually be 90 degrees or less. At any greater angle the energy of the blow would not be concentrated and therefore ineffective. The platform angle on this piece is about 70 degrees. This tells us that the energy imparted from the heavy soft hammer blow entered the piece at 70 degrees to the dorsal surface through a plain small platform. Onto the second longest flake.



The second longest flake is 42 mm in length and the platform seems to be a small plain section some 4 mm by 2 mm. Emerging from the platform on the ventral surface we can see what is called an ‘Eraillure Scar’. This scar illustrates that a mini flake was removed from the main flake at the same time as the main flake was removed from the blank. For my purposes it acts as a signpost to the point of impact. Platform angle is more like 90 degrees on this one. On to the third flake.

mac 6

This one is 35 mm in length and the large erailiure scar indicates a single raised point of impact. This kind of platform is termed ‘Punctiform’, or point like, probably 2mm x 2mm, and the platform angle is again close to 90 degrees.

So how can this help us, or help me? The endshock I think is in many ways simply a symptom of a lack of attention. Firstly, the sound of a hit tells me if the platform has been correctly produced because I can hear the sound of the flake being taken off. Alternatively, if I can hear the dull thud of unstoppable antler against immovable blank then there is a potential problem. This can be exacerbated if the blank is not supported by the knapper’s body. I was guilty of both these ‘crimes’ when the above example occurred. So prepare a good platform; support the blank (perhaps by resting it on my thigh); listen for problems when I hit it. Regarding the flake analysis, it seems to confirm that a platform angle of between 70 and 90 degrees, and a sticky out point in these instances have led to long removals taking off decent flakes.

It has been busy since we came home and it has taken me a while to finish this blog post. I think I understood most of this stuff already before analysing these flakes, and so what this highlights is my movement between systematic preparation and a more intuitive percussion. Sometimes I pay attention, and sometimes I don’t, and the result is inconsistent flaking. If I can stay focused on the above points then in theory I should be able to move on a stage. I think if I can pay attention and get a better result, then my intuitive percussion will also improve.

This can be described usefully by a four stage learning model. The four stages of learning a new skill are:

  1. Unconsciously incompetent (it looks easy because you don’t know you can’t do it).
  2. Consciously incompetent (you try it and realise you can’t do it).
  3. Consciously competent (you progress by maintaining intense concentration).
  4. Unconsciously competent (you have got it and are in the zone!)

When it comes to Johnstone Solutrean points I am currently just past ‘Consciously incompetent’ and approaching ‘Consciously competent’. I was however in the zone on Saturday, but that is a different blog post!


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