"Abo" Defined

A forum for discussion by and for knappers who utilize stone, bone, antler, horn, ivory, wood or other natural materials - as our ancestors used.

"Abo" Defined

nogie1717
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nogie1717
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January 2nd, 2018, 5:37 pm #1

The past few months have seen some pretty active discussions regarding what is "abo".  I've always had a legalistic mind and it (for some unknown reason) bugs me when I don't have a definition.  So, here is how I define "abo".  I don't want a pissing contest, but am open to criticism.  A solid definition is never a bad thing and helps define sets when organizing things scientifically.  Here goes - 

The recent debate on social media regarding “What is abo?” motivated me to put down my thoughts on the subject.  All too often, it is easy to get emotional in response to a statement made by another party and I wanted to express my thoughts beyond a bubble that fits in the palm of my hand.  I don’t have all the answers, I never will.  Nor is this a tautological argument.  It is an attempt to express my point of view as to what “abo” means so that the discussion can be furthered.
 
            First and foremost, the term “abo” is what is being defined.  It is a merely a descriptor of a tool kit used by contemporary knappers who are attempting to replicate the work of prehistoric flintknappers or are utilizing their interpretation of prehistoric tools in the manufacture of stone points.  It is not a description of Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, etc, flintknappers or their tool kits.  The reason I choose not to define the tool kits of prehistoric peoples as “abo” is because:
A.     It is impossible to recreate the circumstances surrounding their lives, culture and everything else that played a role in the creation of their stone tools and the tools used to make them..
B.     We don’t have all of the evidence for all of the different peoples throughout all time periods to ascertain with 100% what was used and what wasn’t, how it was used, when toolkits transitioned, etc.
C.     As was alluded to earlier, “abo” is only a descriptor of the tool kits used by contemporary knappers, therefore, the definition is not biconditionally related of what was utilized throughout prehistory.  Prehistory and archaeological evidence are a guide and our attempts are to accurately replicate, but the evidence is insufficient to give us one hundred percent certainty in all areas and is sufficient enough to allow us to recognize different tools were used by different peoples.
D.    There is global variation in technology.  At the same time in history, different tools were being used in Denmark than were being used on the High Plains.  By acknowledging a difference at simultaneous times in history, it forces us to abandon the term “abo” in its application of prehistoric flintknapping and flintknappers.
a.       Likewise, flintknapping in protohistoric and the last 100 years only serves to muddy the waters.
E.     Ultimately, an attempt to encompass all things in prehistoric flintknapping in a neat little package called “abo” is impossible.  So, the definition becomes limited to the tool kits of contemporary flintknappers.
           
 
The discussion surrounding what defines “abo” almost always comes down do one element - Cu, Copper.  I’ll be the first to admit that copper was almost certainly used to chip flakes off of silicates in the prehistory of the indigenous peoples to the Western Hemisphere.  Contemporary flintknappers utilizing copper tools are not typically doing so in a manner that is consistent with how prehistoric flintknappers may have used copper in flintknapping.  Copper can certainly be “abo”, but that doesn’t mean that any and all copper tools are then included in that set.
 
A contrast which I think helps to draw distinction is one that is commonly used to obscure the definition of “abo”.  That is the rhetorical notion that ancient flintknappers were not “abo” because, X, Y or Z.  After lengthy deliberation into this matter, I will happily agree.  Ancient flintknappers were not “abo” because “abo” only applies to contemporary flintknappers utilizing tools that archaeological evidence suggests were utilized in prehistory.  The flintknappers who made the pieces in the Fenn Cache were not “abo”.  They were Paleo.  I cannot be Paleo since I did not live in that time period.  Likewise, if copper was used by the Hopewell people, that isn’t “abo”, that is Hopewell.  If we cannot assign something to a particular period, it would fall into the catchall of prehistoric, which again is not “abo”.  What is “abo” are contemporary flintknappers utilizing the tools that archaeological evidence has shown to be used, as well as experimentation with tools that are possible to have been utilized during those time periods. 
 
“Abo” is contemporary flintknappers trying to use similar tools to those that were available to prehistoric peoples, REGARDLESS of time period.  Flintknapping with raw copper would certainly be considered “abo”.  A raw nugget of copper that is used like a hammerstone or hafted onto a billet would be “abo”.  A delrin stick, with an inset (smelted, alloyed) copper nail that has been secured by a set screw with an Allen wrench is not.  A copper plumbing cap filled with lead would not be, either.  FOG?  Totally abo.  FOG with an electric grinding wheel?  Not so much.  
 
My closing thoughts:
A.    This argument seems to be perpetuated by a very small minority of knappers who wish to disregard the concept of “abo” for a couple reasons.  The first would be the attempt to classify their knapping as “abo”.  The second and, IMO, more common reason is that humans have invariably sought to increase their technology and have done so at every available turn, therefore, NOTHING is “abo” or EVERYTHING is “abo”.  I will counter with saying that notion is irrelevant to the definition and offer an analogy. 
a.       Hunting.  A passion that is very dear to me.  I love to get up early, lie in the darkness on the prairie and wait for the sun to come up and the deer to start moving.  Others jump in their truck a little after dawn, drive around until they see a deer, chase the animal with the vehicle until they are close enough to hit it with a high powered rifle.  Here I would agree that the guy in the truck uses greater technology to enhance their success in a more efficient manner, just as horses and firearms were utilized once they became available.  And if survival were dependent on harvesting meat, then I would acquiesce, but times have changed.  My hunting has no relationship to my physical survival; it is me trying to recapture the experience of my ancestors.  Likewise, flintknapping is no longer a survival skill.  Creating the most points in the most efficient manner is an element of the past.  The term “abo” recognizes this.  NOTE* This argument isn’t related to using modern tools in flintknapping, it is to contrast a survival situation with a hobbyist or academic one.
b.      Archery would include both a Mathews Halon X with carbon fiber arrows and a mechanical, carbon steel broadhead versus an Osage stave with catgut string, a dogwood shaft, turkey feathers tied on with sinew and an obsidian point hafted with pine pitch glue.  Is there a difference?  Sure, but it doesn’t mean one is better than the other, but in discussions to further rediscovery of prehistoric archery it is helpful to acknowledge there is a difference.
 
The only thing more difficult than defining “abo” would be presenting the argument without offending anyone.  One isn’t better than the other.  They are simply different, and recognizing this difference is what I am after.
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swataramike
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January 3rd, 2018, 3:12 am #2

...i am currrently reading a journal from 1650 of a man who lived with the susquhanna natives here in pennsylvannia and a part in the journal tells how he watched an old native make a triangle arrowpoint and he used a stone and a piece of deer antler 
Last edited by swataramike on January 11th, 2018, 4:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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swataramike
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January 3rd, 2018, 3:18 am #3

and the man told him this is the way the ancient people made the stone arrowpoints...so that tells me here in pennsylvania the were using antlers and stones to make points....i would bet they did the same elsewhere....if you want to knap like the ancients did and try to reproduce points you will use stones and bones..if you want to make art you will use copper..
Last edited by swataramike on January 11th, 2018, 4:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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caveman2533
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January 3rd, 2018, 8:15 pm #4

swataramike wrote: nice...bottom line is this imo...stone and bone is old like real old...like ancient old...as in take a bone take a stone make a point....doesnt get anymore basic then that...also a good example is this marty can make a point with bone and stone and it looks like authentic pieces...i am currrently reading a journal from 1650 of a man who lived with the susquhanna natives here in pennsylvannia and a part in the journal tells how he watched an old native make a triangle arrowpoint and he used a stone and a piece of deer antler 
whats the title of that book
Steve Nissly
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swataramike
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January 3rd, 2018, 10:19 pm #5

jacob my friend is the book title...it will be availible at the lancaster county library when i return it next week....or you can get to e book on google books..it is a very good book...i think jacob was with the natives right down at long level..and might i add they were cannibals to some extent
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swataramike
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January 3rd, 2018, 10:27 pm #6

ok so here is one instance in the book where they were using hammerstone i will post the other pages then if this shows up as a good size pic..
20180103_172532.jpg
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swataramike
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January 3rd, 2018, 10:32 pm #7

here is the page about the native making the triangle point with antler and hammerstones
20180103_180123.jpg
Last edited by swataramike on January 3rd, 2018, 11:03 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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nogie1717
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January 3rd, 2018, 10:35 pm #8

That is very cool, Mike.  Thanks for sharing!
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swataramike
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January 3rd, 2018, 10:56 pm #9

........ 20180103_180129.jpg
20180103_180140.jpg
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swataramike
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January 3rd, 2018, 11:07 pm #10

sorry about all the posts...i couldnt get the pics in order....i thought a lot of people have read this book..it is fairly evident what tools the ancients used..
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NewbowPA
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January 6th, 2018, 7:38 am #11

nogie:  Interesting effort.  I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion.
I would restate what you said more succinctly as:  abo knapping is the art of flaking stone using only naturally occurring materials such as wood, stone, bone, and antler; even native copper.  At its basic level, that's all there is to it.  Replication, on the other hand, would narrow down the choices:  Bone probably wouldn't be an issue but hamerstones, wood, and antler would be limited to types found in the area, and time, of the point type in question, which goes for the toolstone itself.  Trading over some distance was done (ordering moose billets over the Internet would be a modern form of 'trade'), but some research would be in order to demonstrate trade if the replicator wanted to use knapping tools not readily available in the area/time of interest.  A real purist might require that the knapping tools be prepared for use only by paleo means; no band saws or grinder, please.  Another might be satisfied only if the tools were personally collected and prepared for use by the knapper using them.    You touched on it with your definition (tried to differentiate, I think), but the very term "abo" is offensive to some.  I don't know that anything can be done about that. The term is well understood and pretty much universal.

"One isn’t better than the other."  Good luck with that!  That lies in the mind of the individual knapper.  Whether they admit it or not, most abo knappers feel themselves to be a little more 'pure', a little closer to the past...and maybe they are.  It's us modern knappers (yes, I'm one of 'those') who tend to get defensive when the subject comes up.  I have been known to use that very statement, "One isn’t better...", myself.  I originally learned with hammerstones but have switched to copper, especially since I retired.  I always have an abo kit (hammerstones, antler billet, antler pressure flaker, bone notcher) with me when doing demos and bring them out, whenever the inevitable question comes up, to show I can do it that way (and, "One isn’t better than the other.") but, I prefer copper.
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swataramike
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January 6th, 2018, 7:29 pm #12

........
Last edited by swataramike on January 11th, 2018, 4:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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nogie1717
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January 8th, 2018, 2:21 am #13

Thanks for the response, NewbowPA. I agree with your thoughts on the replication aspect. I really like your definition. Ockham’s Razor.


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