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Knapping mini-workshop

April 19, 2010

I just spent the weekend showing knapping basics to four archaeology students. We covered hard hammering, soft hammering, pressure flaking, indirect percussion and grinding. Needless to say, two days of work only scratched the surface of the subject. Still, we were able to produce some really nice flakes with all the aforementioned percussion and pressure methods.

Grinding some pieces of the famous Köli red slate on various sandstones with water also produced results. One of the students also tried knapping olivine diabase and amhibolite chlorite slate, types of rock used (among others) during the Stone Age in Finland. As predicted, olivine diabase requires great force and mostly hard hammering, while ´AC slate´ was somewhat easier to brake in a desired fashion.

Flint is not indigenous rock to Finland, but it was imported from the East already at the beginning of the Mesolithic. During the Neolithic, flint was imported to Finland also from Southern Scandinavia – just the type of rock we used for the workshop.

We also had little bit of time to try our various flakes for different types of work; cutting leather, planing wood, and sawing bone. Different types of edges and their uses hopefully became apparent to the students.

While the students were hard at work, I made couple of Pulli type mesolithic arrow heads from simple blades. These are intented for Kuttelo Stone Age Action Group´s demos and camps, so I gave them to our group´s subject specialist Tuukka.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuija Rankama permalink
    April 20, 2010 19:46

    I thought your blade was not a pressure one. Although it’s quite beautiful, it’s just not regular enough. The Pulli points are often made of pretty thin blades. One of the things about pressure blades (at least of this technology) is that they have minimal curvature so there’s little you have to remove because of that. Another characteristic (of so-called Post-Swiderian points in general) is that the tang of the point is always at the proximal end of the blade. I don’t know how you made this point, but this is a clear difference to, for example, Norwegian Early Mesolithic points, which are made the other way round.

    The longest Pulli poins can be over 10 cm long and they are usually made of very good quality Cretaceous flint. “Regular” Post-Swiderian points can be made of other kinds of flint and even, as at the Sujala site in Lapland, metamorphosed sandstone.

    Where did you learn to knap, by the way?

    • April 20, 2010 20:08

      Interesting point regarding straightness of the blade prior to end result, ie. the point. With my indirect percussion (blade production) skills, its hard to consistently produce exactly certain type of blades. As my prepared core and platform isolation skills are getting better, results are getting better as well.🙂

      Regarding tang at the proximal end, for some reason I never even imagined any other way! It just seem so natural to start making the tang there. So what I did was, I first produced the blade (quite curvy at both ends) with indirect percussion using two pieces of antler. Then I pressure flaked or retouched it, aiming to produce decent tang and point. One naturally retouches only on one side of the blade first, due to center line Vs. edge issues, ie. to have some symmetry in the end. I propably carried it too far, since – and I´m still unsure of this – Pulli points´ edges are not necessarily on the center line. Except perhaps at the point and tang…? In any case, I resorted to bifacial retouching.

      I´ve started to experiment with good quality quartzose sand stone, and it works amazingly good. I´ve read the Sujala report, and got interested!🙂

      I initially learned to knap with Dan Kärrefors (Sweden). Since then, its been slow self education.

      • Tuija Rankama permalink
        April 20, 2010 20:20

        Where did you find the good quality sandstone? I’d like to have some ;-)!

        • April 20, 2010 20:47

          I can deliver some if you like.🙂

          Its called ´jotuninen hiekkakivi´ from Satakunta. Its so dense and amorphous that its brakes concoidally, has usually no surprises regarding termination if you strike HARD enough, and it even looks good. There are different grades to it of course, but its great stuff. Also for grinding.

          • Tuija Rankama permalink
            April 21, 2010 13:40

            Ok, I know that rock and it’s way too hard for my purposes.

            • April 21, 2010 22:53

              Ah, okay! It sure is hard but I have managed to knap it, although my experiments have been only with hard hammering so far.

              What reduction method you have in mind for the sandstone? Do Sujala cores give a hint?🙂

              • Tuija Rankama permalink
                April 22, 2010 06:57

                Lever pressure the Sujala way. I’ve knapped jotuninen hiekkakivi and know how it works, and it’s not suitable.

  2. Tuija Rankama permalink
    April 19, 2010 19:26

    Would you show me the ventral side of that “Pulli point”? From the dorsal side it looks like it’s got ventral retouch throughout the blade, which is not typical of Pulli points. In addition, you’re missing the barbs😉. How did you produce the blade? Without a scale it’s hard to judge the size of the point, but Pulli points should be produced from pressure blades and you would need to use a crutch to produce large enough blades by pressure.

    • April 19, 2010 23:32

      Thanks for your comment, Tuija! You are correct of course. I´ve only seen one picture of Pulli arrowhead in my life, and even that some three hours after I produced this one. So I worked with only a general idea in my mind, and after seeing the truth I made sure to put the word “overworked” to the picture text (which you can see if you hover the cursor on the pic), and also used the name ´Pulli´ with caption marks.

      When I saw picture of the original, I realized that my point has too much flaking on it. In the original it seems to have been produced from a blade, with minimum amount of retouching. I suspect this was in order to retain the sharp feather edges of the blade as much as possible.

      I produced the point from a blade that in turn was made with indirect soft (antler) percussion, so no crutches were used. Regarding the size, again I only had vague idea of the originals. This one is perhaps about 5 cm long. Original blade piece was longer of course, but in order to get rid of the curvature on both ends, the end result got much shorter.

      I have no pics of the other side, sorry. I can say that the flake scars extend fairly long, but in the mid-blade there can be seen some of the original flat. Closer to the tip scars go and meet in the middle.

      What would you say is typical average length of Pulli points? I´m very interested in producing more points, but would like to follow closely the original Pulli type. Oh… Also, what do you mean by ´barbs´. This one has a kind of tang I suppose…

  3. April 19, 2010 08:25

    My thanks for the workshop go to all the participants, Vare ry (Archaeology student association in Turku University) , and Kurala Experimental Archaeology Workshop for letting us use their facilities.

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