Sunday, July 24, 2011

Knapped Flint

While I was sitting in the garden day before yesterday digging a hole for a Fanick's phlox, I found a piece of flint. This is unusal, as flint does not seem to occur naturally in my yard.

It looks like a spear head someone threw away when it was only partly done, probably because it split in such a way that the finished head could not be shaped correctly. I wondered if I was just imaging this scenario. Was this a partially finished, or just a piece of flint?

Below I've pasted in part of an article from This is about knapped flint from the eastern hemispere, but I would think it should also apply to flints worked in Texas. My spear head (if that's what is was going to be) has ripples, bulbs of precussion, secondary working (see right edge of upper photo), fissures. Hard to see how it could be anything other than knapped flint.

I've been told that there was once a spring in our back yard. This is not difficult to believe. San Pedro Springs park with its spring-fed swimming pool is less than half a mile from here. It's easy to imagine a group of people spending time here, toward the top of the hill overlooking the San Antonio River bottom. To imagine that someone sat in the same place as I was sitting when I planted the phlox, making spear heads, talking. I wonder if he cursed when the flint cracked and ruined his spear head. Of if he just shrugged, "Meh," tossed it away and pulled another piece of flint from his bag. I say "he" and "his" because I'm pretty sure men made the spear and (later) arrow heads and did the hunting and fighting.

How to Identify Knapped Flint Tools.

Markings on knapped flints
Whilst the use of some flint tools is obvious from their shape and size, many are not, and it requires an expert to ascertain their exact use and age. But perhaps more importantly, how do you tell if a piece of flint is a tool, or just a piece of flint?
Knapped flint has several characteristics, and while none are fully diagnostic of a knapped flint, virtually all knapped flints will display one or more of the following, as displayed in the picture.
  • Ripples (ripple marks on the flat surfaces radiating away from th point of percussion)
  • Bulb of Percussion (a small lump left in the flint immediately below the point it was struck)
  • Secondary working or 'nibbling' (fine working on the edge of a tool to sharpen or resharpen it)
  • Point of Percussion (sometimes shows as a small area of damaged or crumbled flint where it was struck, above the bulb of percussion)
  • Percussion Platform (the flat 'edge' remaining where the flint was struck from the edge of a flat face of a core)
  • Fissures (fractures produced by the shock of the knapping)
  • Percussion Scar (a scar of less cleanly cleaved flint below the point of percussion)
  • Polishing (occasionally scrapers and similar tools will show signs of a high polish from much use, though the fully polished tools, ie. stone axes, sometimes seen in museums, are very rare finds, and would have had more to do with wealth and ceremony than 'working' tools)

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