Making opposed platform blade-points

This is the third and final post from my day with John Lord, and it may be the longest. The primary aim of going to see John was to get his perspective on how to make opposed platform blade-points. Karl Lee produced around 20 blade-points for my doctoral research, and whilst formally pretty similar to archaeological examples there were differences. This is the archetypal example of a blade-point from a site in Sussex called Beedings.

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The main difference between Karl’s points and the archaeological examples was to do with how they were made. When a flake is removed it leaves a scar. Tracing these scars on tools can indicate the direction of impact and order of flake removal. In this way a blade-point’s production process is recorded on itself. This next photograph is the smallest complete blade-point found in Britain, from a site called Glaston in Leicestershire.

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70% of Karl’s blade-points had scars running only one way. He explained that it takes time to produce a platform on a core, and once produced it makes sense to use it until you run into problems. When you run into problems flip the core over and use the second platform. Karl believed this was why there was an opposed scar pattern on some blade-points. This explanation made total sense, and reflected his primary use of one platform. However, when I was able to contrast the experimental and archaeological examples 70% of the archaeological blade-points had scars running two ways, almost the opposite proportion to Karl’s examples. Something else was happening in the past. I wanted to see how John Lord would approach and explain this process.

The answer to that question was that he saw it in almost exactly the same way as Karl. John had two goes in the morning and both times had difficulty with the flint quality. We had lunch and then he had another go. He had more success this time, but like Karl was using a single platform to generate the blades. He worked hard to produce a couple with an opposed signature but these were the exception. Over lunch we were talking about Levallois points, where the point is shaped on the core, and then simply removed and ready to be used. John suggested this same idea may be at work here, with the base of the core being worked simply to shape the points before removal. this is an intriguing idea, and the ball is firmly back in my court. I need to review the archaeological examples used within my analysis in order to see if the scar pattern pattern reflects this explanation.

I find it intriguing as well that John’s approach would be the same as Karl’s, and it made me think about the lineage of flint-knappers in this country. I know Karl has worked with John in the past and so perhaps it is not surprising that they approached the same problem in the same way. I think it would be a really nice, and enjoyable research paper to establish the lineage of British knappers, because it seems to predict particular ways of doing things. It is apparent that these ways do not necessarily correspond with how things were done in the past, and so it would seem important and useful to pick apart how and why things are done as they are in the present, almost ethnographically. This as a precursor to exploring any past production practice. These are my current thoughts. If this post is of interest to anyone then chapter three of my thesis outlines Karl’s approach in detail.

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Karl Lee pressure flaking glass

This is a link to a short video of Karl Lee pressure flaking glass . It is of interest to me because it illustrates how he uses his knee “like a vice” to remove the flake. The large piece of glass was modern, and probably a table top. This is the end result.

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Glass Kimberley Point by Karl Lee

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Today we had Karl Lee for the day, demonstrating and producing various pieces for three different research projects including my own. I tasked him with producing a Kimberley Point from the second piece of modern 6mm plate glass found at Chorlton Water Park. He did a pretty good job as can be seen above. Because the glass had a hole and a bevel Karl thought it was toughened table glass which would explain why it was difficult to get the removals to travel. He did however do a better job than me, and I think shape wise his is more characteristic of what would be described as a Kimberley Point. The day was pretty successful, however for me disappointing. For various reasons I wasn’t able to capture the video footage I wanted, and I had to miss the end of Karl finishing my point and so didn’t see first hand how he serrated the edges (although I did leave the camera running and so have got it). We didn’t go through the platform preparation either and so I think a trip to see Karl is in order. We can spend a bit of time playing with stuff, rather than cramming it all into one long day.

A glass point made by Karl Lee

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This is one of two glass points made by Karl Lee. The glass itself is quite old, and removed from a metal grid that overlay a cellar. I think these blocks are called cellar lights. Each glass block was in differential condition, and they all proved really difficult to extract (thanks to Joe Curley). However, once out they were workable. Metin Eren used one of the blocks to make a point and described the material as good to work with. Karl had two blocks and produced two nice points, one of which went to Joe Curley. Although I never got to see the finished Metin Eren point, I did observe him producing the early stages. His style is interesting and seems different to Karl’s. With his knapping hand Metin rested his elbow on his knee, thus reducing variability from the shoulder. The only moving joints were his elbow and wrist and it allowed him to concentrate on where he needed to hit. This seemed to make sense and I have adopted the same approach.

Karl Lee making a handaxe

This is an edited video of Karl Lee making a handaxe. The handaxe making took around 20 minutes and it has been edited down to two minutes. The editing process was really interesting as it involved lots of watching and re-watching in order to discern exactly what was going on. My own knapping ability seemed to improve automatically after producing the video. I am definitely a visual learner but really surprised myself. The soil pipe handaxes were an unintended result of this process.

This is an edited video (two minutes only).