I’m back, and I’m getting thinner

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Well not me, but my points. My knapping has been intermittent recently, partly because of fieldwork, and partly other projects. However, term has now started and so have our weekly experimental sessions. We have a nice small group of enthusiastic knappers, and quite quickly I have been able to let them get on with it whilst I focus a little more on my own practice. This week we ran out of bottles and so I introduced the group to the joy of Johnstone, or bathroom ceramic, of which we still have plenty. I really like it as a material and produced a couple of neat and tidy, but thick points.

johnstone thin

And so, they were sat on my desk and by about 4.30pm yesterday I needed a break from head based stuff and so decided to play with thinning them. Anyway, they both went really well. My learning outcome from this successful process: the antler needs to do all the bifacial thinning before pressure flaking starts. On a thinned piece the pressure flaking is easier. This Johnstone point is still around 5mm so not massively thin, and it undulates a bit, however it is fully bifacially worked.

recycled glass

And then, this morning at breakfast Karen knocked a recycled glass glass onto the floor and it broke. At 11.30am today I needed a break from the head based stuff already, and coincidentally I had brought the remains of the unfortunate recycled glass glass with me.

thinning with antler

I followed the same method and after clearing off the prominent shards with a hard hammer started to thin the remaining thick glass base with the antler. I got it bifacial pretty quickly, however because it was a thick piece to start with I carried on with the antler to approximately shape it, before using my soft iron nail pressure flaker to finally shape and thin it.

leaf shaped

Anyway, I am pleased with it, and I am pleased with the learning process. Like so many things, being away from it for a while has allowed particular aspects to peculate. Coming back to glass knapping afresh has allowed new insights to emerge, and the continued thinning process is what has emerged here for me. This leaf shaped point is 4mm thick which is great, and formally it is a homage to the artefact produced by John Lord here. This kind of thinning using the antler makes the flake scars less visually obvious. Consequently, subsequent pressure flaking removals tend not to travel as far because they can run into the previous scars. This means that the nice ripple flaking pattern that is possible on glass that has been predominantly pressure flaked (see here) is not present on this much flatter piece. Back to the head based stuff 😦

September 2018 Neolithic Day: a short photo essay.

 

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Many thanks to Irene Garcia Rovira and Pete Yankowski for the brilliant photographs, and to the Old Abbey for facilitating the event.

Neolithic points produced using a stone and antler tine pressure flaker

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This is the debris from my large slab of Runton beach flint. It has generated lots of flakes and I have a couple of Neolithic arrowhead events in mind. At uni we have a film crew recording part of a project we are doing, and they want some footage of experimental work going on. I have now mastered Neolithic arrowheads made from flint and produced using the correct methods: stone and antler. I think I can probably teach someone to produce one from a flint flake in about 40 minutes. That is my hypothesis and I get to test it out with the students in a week or so.

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Today has been a funny day. I had a lot of small tasks to do and this morning laid out my piles of paperwork to get through them one by one. They have remained untouched and I have been in the backyard and among other things produced these three points. The one in the middle was finished using my metal pressure flaker, the other two with my antler tine. I could feel unproductive having unfinished piles of paperwork, or I can feel productive having finished these points. It is obviously how I choose to contextualise it. I gravitated towards making these today, unplanned, and they have emerged into the world. They are an unconscious link between my positive feelings around the Bronze Age arrowhead workshop last week, and my thoughts about a future Neolithic Day at the same venue. They are also the result of my wanting to get better at using flint and leaf shaped points being simpler to produce. So a lot of things were going on for me and my body led the way into the backyard, and I came back in with these. Karen has just got back and we are going for a curry. I think I will choose to feel productive.

I have rescued this evening

Today I have got very little done. I had a busy day yesterday and it tired me out. The only really productive thing I managed to finish today was to de-flea the dog. However, this evening was bright and I was able to spend a little time in the backyard after tea and it was productive. DSC_1269

Judicious flake selection is key for me currently and I used my last three remaining nodules in order to generate suitable flakes. Using flint is different because there are more variables in form and size, however these variables can work in our favour if the flake is already usefully shaped and suitably thinned. Flint is also harder as a material, and looking at my antler tine pressure flaking the maximum invasive flaking on these is 5mm. Essentially I am simply shaping already pointy thin flakes with the one on the right being the most ambitious (and still thick in places). I am still getting used to using the antler, however I can say that my leaf points do look like many archaeological examples. I mentioned to a friend earlier that I am overly concerned with aesthetics, whilst they simply wanted to kill something. This is both true and untrue as there are some amazing archaeological examples, however I am firmly on the functional platform when using flint. Currently I work the flake using my thigh as an anvil, and I think this may have its limitations as I have to apply more pressure to a harder material. This is food for thought, however now I have to book my ticket for the Archaeology and Classics Ball, which I have inadvertently agreed to go to on Friday. Whilst this may sound exciting to you, I am 56.

Flint Neolithic leaf shaped arrowhead

Yesterday I was talking to my friend, Brian Madden, who edited my self promotion video. He thought a video of me making a flint arrowhead would be good, more archaeological. Consequently I have just had a half hour in the backyard combining three factors: Neolithic leaf shaped arrowhead; a flint flake; my new antler pressure flaker.

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This is the result, and it was quick. I used a stone to get rid of the really thick parts of the flake. Then my special dog chew antler hammer that works really well for thinning arrowheads. Finally I moved onto my new pressure flaker.

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As you can see, the shape is good. Thickness (5mm) is fine due to judicious flake selection, and my invasive flaking is not very invasive at the moment, but good enough (10mm at one point). The edge feels different to the glass, more serrated and robust and I can see how it would work well. The only factor I didn’t include here was a video camera, so this needs to be seen as my warm up exercise.

Neolithic leaf shaped arrowheads

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These two leaf shaped arrowheads are both made from the glass bottle bottoms found at Chorlton Ees. I started out aiming to produce Kimberley points, but ended up thinning the pieces with my antler hammer. I have an antler hammer that is the perfect tool for arrowheads and ended up doing most of the thinning and shaping with that. I like them both, but I used my metal pressure flaker to make them, so technologically they are not correct. However, yesterday my new antler pressure flaker arrived in the post.

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Today I had a go at making a Neolithic leaf shaped arrowhead using only stone and antler. This is another piece of period glass from Chorlton Ees…

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And this is today’s leaf shaped arrowhead. I am pleased with the end result and using the antler was interesting. It took a little getting used to, and I sharpened it to a nice point. This didn’t work as it just crushed as soon as I applied any real pressure. It needs to be rounded and it can then engage with the edge better. Although it is not obvious, each face has a little step fracture island in the centre. This illustrates my depth of pressure flaking with the new antler.

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I am meeting some friends at Chorlton Ees in an hour or so. Dog walk, forage, and then we are going for some food. Let’s see what we come back with.

Neolithic leaf shaped arrowhead

Whilst away on holiday I paid a visit to the Whitby Museum, well worth it if you should get the chance.

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Inside there is lots of treasure, and this is a photograph of a lovely Neolithic leaf shaped arrowhead found locally.

Neolithic leaf point

This, by contrast, is my point from today (and yesterday) made from a really thick piece of glass given to me by a friend, Stephen Poole.

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It started out as an exercise in exploring the differing functions of hard and soft hammer in the process of reduction. In this respect it was successful as I now have some nice flakes for reference purposes.

However, the striking difference between the flakes produced by the different methods was also useful for me in deepening my understanding. Thinning a nodule to produce a handaxe is a process that I have observed (and filmed) a number of times. Karl Lee always emphasises the import of understanding angles. The stark contrast between these flakes is allowing something to fall into place for me (conceptually, not yet practically!) The hard hammer is perhaps more about producing angles to work with. The soft hammer more about exploiting those angles to thin the piece effectively.

I don’t like this arrowhead. It is too thick and lumpy and will probably go into the box in my back yard where my not quite resolved experiments end up. However, I have made it my point for today (made yesterday, finished today) which keeps the process, and therefore learning opportunities, going. What is intriguing for me is how the actual flakes themselves are helping me understand  the process differently. Learning from the materials seems to encourage me to think about something I already know about in a different way. This thinking through objects is obviously something we do a lot within archaeology. It will be interesting to pick apart how the objects have added to my understanding in a way that observation and explanation have not. Perhaps the theme for another post.