Neolithic Milk of Magnesia interlude.

I had the opportunity to have a wander around Chorlton Ees one morning last week and came home with quite a few pieces of old glass recovered from the roots of fallen trees.

Neolithic 3

This lovely blue piece in particular caught my eye and I like to think it is the base of an old Milk of Magnesia bottle.

Neolithic 2

As you can see it is chunky and I wasn’t quite sure how well I could reduce it. This is because it is both narrow and thick and I was worried that I may run out of width before it was adequately thinned. Anyway, today has been a beautiful day here in Manchester and I got to spend a couple of hours outside playing with it.

Neolithic 1

I am pleased with the result. It has become a Neolithic leaf shaped arrowhead, similar in proportion to some of the stone examples I have seen. The edges are sharp, the tip is good and it is fairly symmetrical.  What really makes it stand out though is the lovely blue colour. When Nick Overton sees this photograph he will immediately focus upon the very, very small section of original surface left in the middle. All I can say Nick, is: “when a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees is pockets!”.


First Ishi point.

I am very interested in the story of Ishi, not just from a lithic technology perspective, but also the tragedy of it. For anyone else interested there is a documentary on Youtube, Ishi, The Last Yahi. In our knapping session tonight we had an Ishi focus, Nick has made an Ishi stick, which he tested out (I will get him to post about this), I used my Ishi style flaker to make a point. For the later part of his life Ishi lived and worked (as a ‘Stone Age remnant’) within the University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Anthropology demonstrating his Stone Age skills to the public. He adapted to new materials and used a glass cutter to produce blanks, and nails within his pressure flaker. This is my first attempt at this kind of point. It is made on a flat slab of fishtank glass supplied by Rob Howarth. The size, and retouch has worked well, but I ran into problems with the notching. I am thinking that another nail, filed to a very thin point might work better. If I do this I can fit it onto the other end of my flaker.

Ishi 2

I think I will be making a few more of these.


A second point from the second preform.

9.6.17 1

I was more cautious with this one and it turned out longer. I tried to stick to my method, ventral first, then dorsal, then the point, however the angle of the edge face made me improvise a bit. I am pleased with the needle like point, and am going to arrange to go back into the Manchester Museum to compare and contrast. I think the key difference between mine and the actual points may be thickness and edge angle. Let’s see. 9-6-17-2.jpg

The next post will be about home made pressure flaking tools, as we have been innovating in our twice weekly knapping get-togethers.

Period bottle glass number two

This is one half of a piece of period bottle glass recovered from Chorlton Ees. My aim this time was to make a larger point and maintain some of the lettering on the dorsal surface (see Foraging for early 20th Century glass and ceramics).  I used a glass cutter to score the inner concave ventral surface of the larger piece of glass, and then tapped the dorsal convex surace with a hard hammer. The large piece split cleanly into two useful preforms, one of which you see here. I then started to work on the ventral surface of the margins to produce a steep edge angle. This would allow me to flip it over and start using the newly created steep edge as a platform for penetrative flakes. The aim of this penetrative flaking was to flatten the convex curvature on the ventral face. I was able to straigten and steepen the margins but was not as systematic as I could have been. Working around a thick area semi-disaster struck! break.png

I called it a day in the lab and took both pieces home, and the following day finished it off. The ‘A’ is a useful landmark on all three photos and gives an insight into the degree of reduction. I am getting a feel for this thicker and uneven material and was able to avoid a large internal bubble, which is why the base has remained relatively unworked. The end result isapproximately 76x26x7mm and pretty well flattened on the ventral side.


After the above photograph was taken I serrated the margins. My main learning from this piece is to be systematic in my reduction sequence. If my edge steepening had been more consistent I would have achieved a longer point. I am making some points for Eleanor Casella’s teaching collection and I think this can be one of them as it has an interesting provenance and biography, as well as being an aestheically pleasing example.

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.

Something far less useful

Microwave 1

On Thursday evening I had a knapping session with Nick Overton and Rob Howarth. The ‘dish of the day’ was a toughened glass microwave turntable found in Nick’s garden. It took me a couple of hours to be able to get beyond the raised edge that was the outer lip of the turntable. As such it has been a masterclass in working angles and really got me thinking. Following the published methods is very interesting and the previous post focused upon managing the curve on bottle glass. However, this toughened and lipped turntable presented a different set of problems. It has made me think about the difference between aboriginal examples with plano-convex, and those with lens like cross sections. I wonder if plate glass examples like this lead to lens like cross sections because both faces are worked in a similar manner? I finished the above preform off this morning.

Microwave 3

As can be seen, it has reduced in size considerably, and this is a reflection of working to get increasingly shallow angles and therefore longer removals.

Microwave 2

This image shows better the degree of removals from the surface, and I can now report that the really long removals are in fact a combination of well prepared platforms that allow pressure to travel along a shallow surface angle. These shallow angles come from transforming a perpendicular edge into a steep angle, and then using this steep angle as a platform to take another removal that creates a longer shallow angle one. None of this discussion is new, however I am beginning to be able to apply these aspects systematically within a meta-approach to either plate glass or bottle glass. I am making practical sense of the textual descriptions that do not really separate out how these processes change (or remain the same) depending upon the materials used. It would be useful now to revisit the Manchester Museum examples to see if I can recognise if the source material was either plate or bottle glass, and if this actually does reflect a plano-convex or lens like cross section. Anyway, to para-phrase Nick, it has been immensely satisfying transforming this microwave turntable into something far less useful!

A more detailed reduction sequence.

mm ventral

I am currently revisiting the literature before we start on our collection of antique bottle fragments. In particular a 2002 paper called “Weapons and wunan: production and exchange of Kimberley points” (Akerman, Fullager and van Gijn) as on page 22 it outlines a very detailed but concise reduction sequence. Essentially, for bottle fragments the most energy is spent flattening the curved inner surface. Consequently this inner face is flaked from either side, in turn, until flat. The above photo is of a point within the Manchester Museum collection and illustrates this description excellently. This process ‘sets up’ the upper or dorsal surface for the next phase of removals. This involves a single series of flakes being taken from each edge.

mm dorsal

This is what we see on the dorsal face above, and I think this is one facet that gives these points their characteristic look. Only then is the edge serrated or notched and the tip worked. This example doesn’t have the needle like tip and is what gave me the notion that larger ones may have been used as knives. Returning again to the ventral surface, what we can see in the photo is an almost plano-convex cross section as opposed to lens shaped. Finally, it would take an aboriginal knapper about 45 minutes to make a 200mm long point. This would be a very large point indeed. The overall approach outlined above is the one I am going to take with our period materials, although it may take me a little longer than 45 minutes 🙂

Akerman, K., Fullagar, R. and van Gijn, A., 2002. Weapons and wunan: production, function and exchange of Kimberley points. Australian Aboriginal Studies, (1), pp.13-42