SMART Archaeology glass arrowhead workshop

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On Sunday I was fortunate enough to run a workshop for the South Manchester Archaeology Research Team using bottle glass to produce an arrowhead. My aim from this session was to get photos and feedback on my teaching and how I am organising the process for the learner.

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I now have a very structured approach and clear outcomes for the session: use hard hammer, soft hammer and pressure flaker; produce something like a Bronze Age barb and tang arrowhead; recognise that the equipment needed is all accessible and therefore personal practice can be developed (if desired).

 

smart 7All those boxes were ticked. I also added a feedback section that was designed to be useful to me, but also encourage some reflection by the participants on what they had learned. This is following Kolb’s learning cycle model and I think it is a valuable addition.

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Feedback from a previous participant has encouraged me to use a whiteboard, in particular to explain platform angles. Having a clearly established process allows me to punctuate it with whiteboard explanations before the participants have to do it. This too is really useful.

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Pressure flaking: it is not easy, and not easy to get people up and running with it in a three or so hour session. Consequently, the later stages involved a little interference by me to get rid of any difficult bits. I have a barb and tang flint arrowhead produced on a flake and made by me. One side of it has a nice row of deep invasive removals. They were produced by John Lord showing me how to pressure flake. The opposite side has an intermittent row of shallow flakes produced by me, not really getting it. I think if John Lord does a bit on his students arrowheads, then it is totally legit.

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And everyone did go home with something approaching a barb and tang Bronze Age arrowhead. I would like to thank Ellen McInnes for suggesting this and Andrea Grimshaw for the organisation and making it happen. Based upon the feedback I can say that we all got something from the day and I think we all enjoyed each others company, so a result!

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Another one headed for the backyard

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It took me a long time to get this wrong. The glass was tough and it wore out one complete nail on my pressure flaker. However the problem was me and my angle management. It is narrow because I persisted but rather than getting flatter deeper flakes they became steeper. I don’t like it and it is headed for the box in the back yard. I am not sure what I have learned from this one, although it is the second on the trot where my thinning has been inadequate. Perhaps I have learned that I need to improve my flat invasive flaking.

A ‘lack of progress’ update

My one point per day is working out at one every couple of days. However, I am getting real value out of this lovely piece of glass.

Toolkit

The third point has just been finished and it is the longest. Having got two small points from the first half I split the second large fragment in two using the glass cutter and hammerstone method. It worked perfectly.

I then got work on the third point. We are on holiday and it was roughed out in a glorious 40 minutes sat in the sand dunes at Lindisfarne (Holy Island) yesterday. I spent about 40 minutes on it this morning and have just finished it this evening in the lovely garden of the youth hostel in Whitby.

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Again not perfect but I was losing width and so contented myself with symmetry in plan. Current state of play: three points and still one preform left. Last day of holiday tomorrow.

One point per day. I am an optimist

I have just finished an epic ‘negotiation’ with a lovely liquorice coloured, 10mm thick piece of period plate glass. I started it yesterday evening, and finished it this morning. The complete process falls within a 24 hour period, but that would be what is termed ‘special pleading’. I just want to do one point per session per day. The glass is really lovely and the thickness presented some real learning opportunities.

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This was the toolkit I started with. I wasn’t at home and forgot to bring my abrading stone (mistake). This morning at home I employed the abrading stone and a piece of leather to protect my hand as by then it was getting sore.

Glass cutter and hard hammer

Because the glass was exceptional I wanted to make the most of it. This meant splitting it, and to do so I used a glass cutter and then gently hard hammered along the ‘cut’. This strategic use of modern and traditional approaches resulted in two decent sized pieces. Trust in God, and tie your camel, so to speak.

Optimistic

I have been told that the experimental archaeologist Bruce Bradley draws onto the core an outline of the flake he is about to remove, and then goes on to remove it. I outlined the shape of the point I was aiming for, thereby identifying the material needing to be removed.

Actualistic

I started using the pressure flaker to remove this excess material. However, the bump visible on the bottom left was proving problematic and so I tried the hard hammer. This resulted in what is called end-shock or hitting it at one point (the bump) and it breaking at another (in the middle). On the plus side I now had two more halves to work with. I continued with the left-hand piece.

Edge preparation

This is an example of good edge preparation. The ultimate aim here is to apply deep invasive flakes to the upper face. In preparation to do so I worked along the edge of the upper face removing short flakes and creating a steep edge angle. This provides a good platform angle to then apply the desired deep invasive flakes to the upper surface. This platform preparation process can be used to simultaneously shape the piece.

Stack

However, it is not as simple as it sounds. Here I ran into problems again where the angle didn’t work and I created a lump. Whilst not exactly at this point, it was with a couple of these problems that I left the piece last night. This morning I was able to re-address these issues more patiently. To do so I had to work back to the last point where I could get a good preparatory removal, and then edge along from there. When I could go no further I would move back a little along the edge and take a large deep invasive removal out. This effectively removes a lot of supporting material and provides a negative bulb that can again be worked. Complicated to explain, and I am learning on the job so to speak. Dealing with lumps like this involves losing width.

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Anyway, the net result is good. This piece embodies a lot of my learning and working out. The really beautiful museum examples are perhaps so because the working out had been done a long time before, a working out that translates into bodily understanding. Consequently, on the museum examples we see confident and systematic flaking which leads to a clean and aesthetic conclusion.

The one point per day may be a little optimistic for me. With hindsight, if I was really being goal focused  I could have chosen an easier piece of glass and started the process earlier in the day. However, this glass is beautiful and I have taken time to negotiate a lot of issues that in the past would have been the end of the road. Furthermore, the first thing I did this morning was to get outside and continue with this piece. The deadline presents a focus upon an end product, and the learning process becomes a by product of the action. However a conscious focus upon the process is where the learning and understanding occurs. I have been reading about learning theory and this ‘making’ process is what David Kolb (1984: 30) has classed as Concrete Experience. As I sit now writing this blog I am reflecting upon this Concrete Experience and engaging in Kolb’s opposing category of Reflective Observation. Reflective Observation allows me to upgrade my understanding based upon the new experiential ‘data’ acquired through paying attention within the process. Doing so allows me to develop a new Abstract Conceptualisation or road map of what I need to do in order to make a Kimberley Point. With the next Kimberley Point I make I will be able to test out the usefulness of this new and upgraded Abstract Conceptual road map to see if it helps. The testing out process Kolb terms Active Experimentation. This brief four stage description isolates what is in fact a dynamic and blurred process of human action. However, the idea and practice of producing one new point per day provides a nice 24 hour learning unit within which this four stage process can occur, again and again. A further benefit is that it seems to get me out of bed in the morning!

Kolb, D.A., 1984. Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey. Prentice-Hall Inc.

Scotch Whisky Lize Bard

I have been impressed by another blogger recently. Lize Bard is a poet and photographer, and if you follow Lize’s blog you receive a haiku every day. It has become the first thing I read of a morning and it is a lovely way to start the day. The most impressive aspect to me though is the discipline Lize demonstrates producing a new piece on a daily basis. It has inspired me to up my game and produce a new point everyday. I am not sure what I am letting myself in for here, but this is today’s.

Scotch whisky

This is the original fragment from a Scotch Whisky bottle.

Scotch WhiskeyIt is period glass again and this time a different set of problems. Although ostensibly a flat side panel it was in fact of uneven thickness. I went for length and in doing so had to manage both unusually thin and thick sections  at different points along the length of the piece. It would have perhaps been better to have gone for a shorter point with a thick base and thin tip. But I didn’t. It has worked out OK, although because of the thinness the flaking is not as punchy as on the previous point. I have also not fully removed a longitudinal curve, and to continue trying would have really reduced the width of the piece. That said I am happy with the different styles of retouch I can bring to bear to resolve the various problems encountered. So a little like myself, it is not perfect but fairly presentable. In the right light. See you tomorrow.

A pressure flaking photo essay

This post is brief through necessity as it was done on my phone, on the tram. It shows the prescribed Kimberley Point process applied to the side panel of a period glass bottle. The last image shows the style of retouch I have been aiming for. It is not finished, but in this raw state it illustrates these aspects well. T.B.C!

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Period beer bottle section.

dsc_0132.jpgConcave inner surface worked first to shape and flatten.

dsc_0131.jpgConvex outer surface still unworked.

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Convex outer surface with regular deep invasive flaking.

Fourth time lucky

Yesterday evening Nick Overton and myself had ourselves a marathon 4 hour knapping session. I was interested in making two more points from the remaining Camp Coffee preforms and whilst doing so we had some stimulating conversation about the nature of retouch. It has been a theme in this blog that I seem to struggle to replicate the character of the retouch seen on the museum pieces. By the time I got to my last point I think I recognised why. I produced my four points and as can be seen from the photographs below it has made a really nice narrative sequence. Finding the period material; using a stone to make the preforms; using the preforms to make the points.

nest of pointsNick is using a different Bombay Sapphire bottle glass and is focusing upon  getting a series of fully invasive removals on his first sweep. To achieve this he is taking very ‘flat’ removals off the surface of the glass by placing his pressure flaker close to the top of the platform and pushing straight in. He then uses his knee to provide the transverse force necessary to remove the flake, like this.  Although my pressure flaking method is different I am doing something similar, in that we are ending up with similar results. On my last point I started to place my pressure flaker lower on the platform and changed the angle of pressure. This allowed me to work in a more systematic and aggressive manner punching off the removals. I started to get concavity on both ventral and dorsal surfaces and the final point is more similar in character to the museum examples. I am chasing a characteristic method of applying retouch, which in turn produces a characteristic feel to the finished piece. I think the thicker glass allows this kind of work. I am pleased with my nest of points all from the one half bottle. I am really pleased with this punchy approach to flake removal. The next one I think will be an experiment in platforms and pressure flaker angles.