Experimental Archaeology: Flint Knapping

three pounds of small spalls and flakes
The Deluxe Flintknapping Kit from GoKnapping.com comes with three pounds of small spalls and flakes.

I’d always thought flint knapping was really cool. As a kid, I tried breaking rocks with other rocks, leading to a variety of cuts, scrapes, banged fingers and, occasionally, bashed toes (it’s complicated, but think like a barefoot 8-year-old boy busting rocks for a moment; there it is).

flint knapping kit
Yes! The rocks I ordered arrived! Yay!

Anyways, one of my favorite parts of Time Team was when Phil Harding did some knapping, but he made it look easy. And, of course, there are hours of flintknapping instructional videos on YouTube.

I finally bit the bullet and bought a Deluxe Flintknapping Kit from GoKnapping.com. The kit came with three pounds of mixed small spalls and flakes, but I added two pounds of the same kit mix plus a pound of novaculite because it’s supposed to be one of the better stones for a beginner. That’s six pounds of rocks, almost all of it destined to become debitage in the hands of a beginner!

Here’s the kit contents.

flint knapping kit contents basic flintknapping booklet and DVD

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to three pounds of knapping stone (pictured at the top), the kit came with a leather leg pad and palm pad, a medium-sized lead-weighted copper bopper, a copper nail set into a wooden handle as a pressure flaker, an abrader stick, a 12-page pamphlet that is dense with information and instruction, and a 63-minute instructional DVD. You can buy a “traditional” set that includes aboriginal type tools, but everything I read said those are much, much harder for a beginner to learn with. The “basic” set includes the tools and a rubber leg pad, but only two pounds of stone and no hand pad or DVD. I think having lots of practice stone is probably the most important thing at this early stage, and even with the hours of stuff available on YouTube you never can have too much demonstration, all of which made the deluxe kit my choice.

two pounds of hand-selected small spalls and flakesI added a note to my order to the effect that I was mostly interested in learning to make small Levallois/Mousterian type hand tools (e.g. scrapers, choppers) rather than arrowheads, and if that made any difference in the selection of additional knapping stone, I’d appreciate their help. And look what beautiful stones I received! Nice bigger pieces, ideal for the cruder hand tools I have in mind. Someone at GoKnapping.com clearly read my note and put some thought into what they bagged up to send me; look at the difference between the three pounds of assorted small spalls and flakes that came with the kit, shown at the top of this post, and the additional two pounds of small spalls and flakes someone chose for me.

one pound of hand selected novaculiteSame thing with the one pound of novaculite, three gorgeous hand-sized spalls. That’s the kind of personal attention you can’t get from Amazon! I highly recommend GoKnapping.com for the kit and additional knapping stone.

blood in the gameBut these stones are sharp! Just taking the photos, I already have some blood in the hobby.

flintknapping safety gear
Safety clown sez practice safe flintknapping! That means protection for your hands, eyes, and lungs.

Hence this assemblage, some fresh deerskin gloves and goggles in addition to the leather pads that came with the kit. I also pulled a thin foam pad from a recent mail order delivery, thinking that I may use that beneath the leather leg pad. And, I bought a cheap face shield, in case I find I don’t like working with goggles over my glasses. I’ll also set up an old beater fan to blow the dust away from me while I work outside. Inhaling obsidian dust seems like a really, really bad idea.

By a lucky coincidence, my Intro to Archaeology class module this week was on lithics, so I spent most of the week reading and watching videos on that. I even spoke with my professor to see if he’d be open to a Zoom conference to help me with my knapping! He’s a veteran knapper, and gave me lots of great ideas, including breaking up old porcelain toilet tanks and bowls as practice material. Hmm, not sure how my wife will feel about a broken-up old toilet in the back yard.

human osteology study materials
With all those bones and articulations and siding and cusps, flash cards are saving my bacon.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been full-bore swotting up on this week’s module on dentition in my Human Osteology class. I never used flash cards my first time through school, but I’m sure relying on them now! I’m already into my third pack of index cards. The book is The Human Bone Manual by White and Folkens (2005).

What a week! And next week is vertebrae …

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