Knapping Experiments

In the afternoons of the Workshop we would adjourn to the loading dock of the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory and the knappers would demonstrate their methods of fluting a Folsom point. All the knappers can make the preform from which the channel flakes are removed. It is the removal of the two channel flakes that are the most difficult steps of Folsom point manufacture. Most of the knappers brought some prepared preforms ready to be fluted (channel flakes removed), so the first day there were many fluting demonstrations. After the pre-workshop preforms were exhausted, then the knappers would spend an hour or so making a new preform and then the fluting demonstration would take only a few minutes. So the pace of the afternoons could be described as mostly slow and relaxing with an occasional burst of excitement.

Those of us who could knap were involved in these activities and the rest watched with envy. Besides making Folsom points, the group made Clovis points, ultra-thin bifaces and mesoamerican blades. These were some of the activities that were captured on film by Dick Boisvert. Thanks Dick.

Assisted Indirect Percussion -- Bob Patten

The tools Bob used are visible in this image. They can be used for both assisted and unassisted indirect percussion. The tools consist of a large block of wood with two pegs, a bone tipped punch (immediately above the block of wood), a second punch (the straight stick lying on top of the block), a large rock for the hammer, and the strap of leather (for unassisted fluting). This image also shows some of the fluted preforms from the day's efforts.

(click on the thumbnail size images to see the larger ones)

In this image, Bob is performing unassisted fluting. The leather strap has been used to fix the preform against the two pegs. The bone-tipped punch is placed on the platform and its other end is held between Bob's knees. The straight punch is then placed on top of the bone tip punch and this is hit with the hammer. Bob says he really doesn't hit the straight punch with the hammer. He just lets the hammer fall under its own weight. If the technique was assisted, a second individual would hold the preform against the pegs, and the leather strap would not be used.

This image captures Bob at the instant the channel flake was removed. Notice the bone punch is now on the block of wood.

This is his preform prior to fluting ...

... and this is the preform after fluting.

Direct Percussion -- Phil Geib

Phil's technique of fluting a Folsom point was one of the simplest methods used at the workshop. His tool kit for fluting consisted of a hammer-stone and a rock anvil.

Phil would hold the preform and anvil in his left hand. The anvil was pressed against a large massive surface and the preform held horizontally and against the anvil. He would then strike the channel flake platform with the hammer-stone, held in his right hand.

This is the result of the effort in the previous image. Although the channel flake hinged through the preform at the distal end, there was still enough fluted preform to build a Folsom point.

Direct, Freehand Pressure -- Eugene Gryba

Gene's technique of fluting is even simpler than that of Phil's. He just uses pressure. In this image he is creating his preform.

In this image he is actually fluting. You can see the strain in his face as he applies the pressure to remove the channel flake. One would think Gene had hands of steel.

However, they are only skin and bone. See the callus that Gene developed over the couple weeks of practicing prior to the workshop.

This is Gene's tool kit; very simple, small antler tools.

Indirect Percussion with Vise -- Gene Titmus

Gene's technique is very similar to Bob Patten's. Here the preform is held in a vise instead of being fixed with a leather strap. However, Gene delivers his blow directly to the punch in contrast to the double punch arrangement of Bob. The piece of railroad tie is to add mass to his assembly. In the image, Gene is using a copper pointed punch. He also demonstrated the technique with a walrus ivory punch.

Gene's results.

Indirect Pressure with Rest -- Kenneth Rozen

Ken's technique requires the preform to stand (rest) vertical with the distal end on a hard surface (rock). Ken creates this condition by digging a small hole in the ground and placing a flat sandstone rock in the bottom. Two flat rocks cover part of the hole and touch in a manner as to create a corner of 90+ degrees. This is an image of the assembly.

With the preform resting in the corner of the two rocks, the channel flake is removed with pressure applied by a long antler tool. This is an image of John Clark aligning the tool in preparation for removal of the channel flake. Unfortunately, the image of Ken performing this act was too dark to display so this one of John trying the technique was used. Apologies to Ken.

This is an example of the results of Ken's technique.

Levered Pressure with Rest -- Dennis Stanford

Dennis' technique has its roots in the idea that the Folsom people carried no extra baggage or devices to flute their points. To demonstrate the posibilities of this, Dennis has built an atlatl with a slot in the side to hold and flute a preform. The assumption is that the Folsom people would normally carry an atlatl. This image shows a preform resting in a slot that is too long for the preform.

This image shows a spacer added to the slot so the preform is correctly positioned.

This image shows Dennis removing the channel flake. This was done by applying pressure to the platform with a narrow antler inserted through a hole in the atlatl. With this lever arrangement, Dennis was able to generate the necessary force.

This is the result of his attempt. The preform in this experiment was made by Bob Patten.

Aztec Style Blade Removal -- Gene Titmus

Gene demonstrated his technique of producing Aztec blades, an unexpected treat. In this image he is sitting down against a wall which is necessary for the technique. The core is placed against a board, buried in front of him. The flaking tool used was a long pole (broom handle) with an ebony (wood) tip fixed to it.

The core was held between his heels and the end of the flaking tool was placed against his stomach. The ebony tip was placed on the edge of the prepared core. Bradley asked to try this position and this was the best image to show this sitting position.

Pressure was then applied with the arms and stomach to remove the blade. This is Gene in the follow-through of the process.

Joan Gero is holding the results. The reason this demonstration was pertinent is that the blade thicknesses Gene was producing were averaging about 2.5 mm. This is well within the range of channel flakes.

Field Trip

On Saturday, we concluded the workshop with a field trip to several sites in the Austin area. Some of us had other engagements, but most of us were able to make the trip. It was a beautiful, sunny day to be outside and all of us really enjoyed it. Mike Collins was our guide and host. He did a fabulous job. Thanks Mike!

Downtown Austin

This was our first stop of the day. Here, we have just exited from our vehicles and are looking for guidance.

Here we are receiving guidance from a sleepy Mike Collins who stayed up most of the night entertaining guests.

Glenn Goode is now providing the guidance at an Edwards chert outcrop.

Wilson-Leonard Site

Mike Collins is now awake and in full lecture form.

Some of us didn't get it...

... so Mike repeated the lecture.

Bruce Huckell has taken over the lectern and he is discussing the bison vertebrae that is eroding from the creek bank.

In the meantime, Phil LeTourneau is inadvertently showing his best side as he photographs Wilson-Leonard artifacts.

The River Site

After lunch we visited one of Mike's special sites. This river cuts though a Pleistocene gravel that has produced artifacts over many years. To view the site we had to wade and stand in the river.

Most of us were apprehensive about wading in the water ...

... while a few of us, like Julie Morrow, took to it like ducks.

Click on any of the following to learn more about the event.

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