Meet the flintstones


We have just returned from eight days in Sussex, and one of my aims was to get hold of some flint with which to practice. I know from experience that because nodules come in irregular shapes the quartering process can be complicated. Quartering is simply breaking the nodule up into pieces useful for the task at hand. Currently I do not have a systematic method for dealing with a nodule when I want to produce a handaxe. Less hit and miss, more hit and destroy. The flint nodules and cobbles I collected in Sussex came from two main sources: Birling Gap; and Selsey Bill. Birling Gap has nodules eroding from the chalk cliff face and so both smaller nodules and rounded flint pebbles were freely available at the foot of the cliff. I collected a small rucksack full. Selsey Bill offered a range of damaged pebbles of flint and other materials that look knappable. Again, I collected a sac full. I want to use the cobbles to learn how to systematically produce pebble chopper toolscobble chopper tool

The above is the best cobble chopper I have made to date, and it is the systematic production of these that I want to master. There is a really nice small example within the Brice Collection in our own department, and the aesthetic examples seem to be so because of their simplicity. A minimal series of removals to produce a useful tool. With the four or five small and flat flint nodules I want to produce four or five small handaxes. Let’s see how that goes.

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 Hammer Production


Hard Hammer Production

The above is a link to a short (one minute) video illustrating the relationships between hard hammer production and the stigmata present on the resultant flakes. It is designed for students to help explain the stigmata they are recording for analytical purposes in order to infer method of production within a debitage collection. The idea was from Elizabeth Healey and it was edited by Brian Madden.

Materials against materiality


I am currently reading a paper by Tim Ingold (2007) Materials against materiality. The gist of the paper seems to be that: if we focus upon the object first, and only then the materials it has been formed from, our understanding of those materials is constrained by our primary conceptualisation of the object. Ingold suggests engaging with materials directly to gain an interactive understanding of the material properties, and how these might change as activities change. I want to contrast a normative ‘Hard as stone’, ‘Solid as a rock’ approach with the relationship I have developed with four stones within my knapping toolbag. The first stone on the far left I use as a ‘soft hard hammer’ and I like its elongated shape for working on glass. In contrast, the second stone is harder and consequently I have used this as a ‘small hard hammer’ on flint. The third stone has a crystaline centre which is good for abrading. The final large white flint beach cobble is going to become something else at some point, but currently¬†works well as a large hard hammer. So whilst all stone, and all hard, particular characteristics have emerged within a particular stone tool making context. I now look at materials differently based upon my experience from stone tool making, and this different view is the subject of this blog.

This is a free link to a PDF of the above article