Flintknapping: practicality or refinement?

A forum for serious discussion about flintknapping theory, replication of flintknapping tools and "point" types.

Flintknapping: practicality or refinement?

gregb2345
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gregb2345
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Joined: May 17th, 2018, 4:32 am

May 17th, 2018, 4:55 am #1

I've always wondered how "good" authentic knapped points looked. I've seen some pretty nice looking artifacts in museums and online, but for day-to-day hunting and other stone tool uses, how much work was really put into a given point? Were they all bifacial or were there more points made from odd flakes that came off a larger piece? Were they all nice and symmetrical and uniform or a bit more rough-cut? Did our ancestors put a lot of time and effort into every point, and if so, how did they manage to make so many? Surely some points break with use, so was it worth making nice points if this was the case?
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azmdted
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azmdted
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Joined: February 21st, 2018, 10:57 pm

May 17th, 2018, 1:01 pm #2

I don't have the archeological answer to your question, but I'll put in my two cents from a logical perspective.  Assuming that we're talking about arrow, spear or dart points I imagine that the two primary reasons for having them are hunting and security.  Either case presents a potential life and death situation.  In such a situation it is my belief that you want as accurate, consistent, and lethal projectile as possible.  To achieve that you need to have consistent aerodynamic properties of the projectile, and slicing and kinetic energy of the point.  As someone who has shot and hunted with a lot of modern bows I understand the balance in those properties and the need for consistency to be accurate.  Now, it may be that to someone who did this all their life, when their life depends on it, that perhaps they could feel the difference in point and compensate in their shots for it like we do when picking up a random rock and throwing it.  But still, I believe they would want the best they could get.  However, quality is also dependent upon the source material, and some is obviously better than others.

Besides, there was no cable TV back then so what else are you going to do :)
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freeze cracked
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freeze cracked
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Joined: October 30th, 2012, 2:24 am

May 18th, 2018, 10:13 pm #3

gregb2345 wrote: I've always wondered how "good" authentic knapped points looked. I've seen some pretty nice looking artifacts in museums and online, but for day-to-day hunting and other stone tool uses, how much work was really put into a given point? Were they all bifacial or were there more points made from odd flakes that came off a larger piece? Were they all nice and symmetrical and uniform or a bit more rough-cut? Did our ancestors put a lot of time and effort into every point, and if so, how did they manage to make so many? Surely some points break with use, so was it worth making nice points if this was the case?
the old stuff was all over the map, just like the newer stuff. there are huge differences in size and quality between the old stuff where i am and the stuff a couple hundred miles away, where great and large material was plentiful. and there has always been a continuum from very great to very bad skill levels in those who chip stone. generally speaking it seems like there was a higher quality in some of the paleo projectile points, and i think it's because the old boys felt it necessary since a lot of the megafauna back then were larger and more dangerous, and so made it worth the additional effort to attempt to make tools that had a lower chance of failure. and of course the oldest old boys had first pick of the lithic resources too. 

but at all times, there were expedient tools, flake tools, unifacial tools, etc. and even just debitage flakes that were used because they had utility with no refinement, minimal refinement, or refinement but no unnecessary symmetry. i collect those types of tools, and really like studying them. 

as far as why were there lots of tools, well i think it was because there were lots of years and quite a few people over time, and they didn't have cable tv. or walmarts. or restaurants and clothing stores. and quite a few tools had a fairly extensive "use-life" where they started out kinda large and were used for certain tasks and then got resharpened and later on possibly even reconfigured to be something else. like maybe start out as a big knife and become a smaller knife, and maybe a bevel-resharpened and serrated sawing kind of tool and then maybe even a projectile point. or even a scraper or drill. 

where i am most of the paleo stuff is pretty darned impressive, and the archaic stuff is all over the map, and the later bird points can be pretty impressive. 

but it has always been a matter of what rock you hand to whom and why they need it that determines the results. you absolutely can't tell old from new based on "too good to be true", and anyone who says something is a "no-brainer", well...um...yeah.

p.s. - i think there were quite a few "special-occasion" points and blades made where the maker was extra careful like i am when my wife wants me to make her something.
i dream of a better world in which chickens can cross roads without having their motives questioned.
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