The flint knapping demonstration was a frustrating, yet extremely beneficial experience which enabled us to learn more about this process and the people who used these tools.
The definition of flint knapping is “percussing two objects, stones, together to make an edge.” This sounds easy, but believe me when I say this is a craft. There are three things that dictate a nice point: material, angles, and shape. A stone with finer and more uniform grain is ideal for flint knapping because the break is more controlled. Obsidian is the easiest stone to work with, but it is not found in this area. In Fredericksburg, quartz and quartzite are the primary sources for stone tool making, which makes for a more difficult material to work with and shape. The angle at which the stone is struck with the pressure flaker, such as another stone or antler tool determines the size of the flake. Making the items allowed us to experiment with different stone types, look at our flakes and debitage, and interpret how the tool was created and its purpose.
In our lesson on lithic analysis, we further explored the art of stone toolmaking and discussed why these tools are significant. Lithic is just another word for stone. Stone can be manipulated in many ways. There is flint knapping to create tools such as arrowheads, but we can also have grinding stones. There is much to be learned about stone tools from the debitage left behind. Stone is a very durable material so it lasts a long time and is one of the limited artifacts that can be used to study prehistoric people. From the remnants of these stone tools, we can learn more about the tool use and technology levels of those living during the prehistoric era and trade and travel patterns of goods and ideas based on the type of stone found in different areas. We want to know more about people and how they interacted and behaved. Learning about their capabilities in tool making, allow us to study more about their lifestyle and show how we have progressed. The material used to create these stone tools vary in each area and indicate the range of these people and enable us to analyze the exchange of tools and methods for making these tools.
The actual demonstration was a lot of fun, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated when it came time for us to try our hand at flint knapping. My favorite part of the demonstration was watching Nate, our instructor, do the flint knapping because he was so good at it and made it look easy. I also loved being outside and hanging out with everyone in a different setting. While the flint knapping demonstration was eye opening and a great opportunity for us to learn more about Native Americans, I also found how hard it really is to create these tools. I credit myself for being very physically strong, but I have never felt so weak trying to get off a good flake. The angles were so tricky and I could never get a true point. I have a much greater appreciation for those who are skilled enough and have the patience to make stone tools and have realized that I am a gatherer.