Friday, August 27, 2010

DIY knapping

The Scientific American blog has a short piece on how stone tools have been an integral part of human evolution for the past 3.4 million years. It's mostly a series of links to some articles featured on the online features of the magazine, but it's accompanied by this nifty video of Kyle Brown knapping:

Clearly, someone's very impressed at 1:58, when he knocks off a big honking flake! All kidding aside, I always enjoy videos like this, that really focus on the piece being knapped and zoom appropriately. They really do a wonderful job of showing the hand-eye coordination involved in flintknapping, as well as how much slight hand motion, control and feeling around is involved in the act... it's not just randomly bashing rocks, folks! And though Brown doesn't use gloves or anything to protect his hands in this demo (though notice the pad on his legs), for any novice knapper reading this, remember, in lithics as in love, use protection!


Millán Mozota said...

At least twice at the video it does actually look like random bashing rocks.
It really hurts to see "kind-of-Levallois" technique vandalized this way.
Hey, may be that is the hidden reason behind the GB/USA researchers misunderstanding of Ancien Paleolithic technologies complexity... pure lack of knapping skill.

Just kidding. But I'll dare to say that he's not an experienced flint-knapper at all.

Ben Schoville said...

Ok, I'll stick up for Kyle here. I'm sure he'd be the first to agree that wasn't the 'idealized' way to take off a point, but he's doing hard-hammer percussion on ironstone. Most Africanists cringe at using the term Levallois since there is so much temporal, geographic, and behavioral distance between what's happening in Europe vs. sub-Saharan Africa at this time. What he's showing is not Levallois, just prepared core reduction to remove a convergent point. He is a very experienced flint-knapper (see Brown et al. 2009 supplementary material, pgs 3-4). If you've done any knapping you know how difficult it is to do exactly what you want in one go, especially with the cameras rolling.

What exactly are the misunderstandings GB/USA researchers have of "Ancien Paleolithic complexity" in your mind Millan?

Millán Mozota said...

>>>>What he's showing is not Levallois

Well, it is. I'll have to stand here, sorry.

Its typical Levallois core and typical levallois product.

Maybe you can say that it has a very little
"striking platform" preparation...
Well, that's right, but is has Levallois tagged on it, you can bet.

If you dont feel confortable calling it "Levallois", that's ok for me. A name does not makes the difference here.

But if you do really know what Levallois means for the many technologists studing the knapping techniques (the broad & real denotation and connotation of the term you know), then you can't really say "this is not Levallois".
May be is the raw material to blame (probably there's something here, for what i've seen) ... but this brings the question of why using a BAD pebble at all, from the very beginning.

An experienced knapper will chose the proper raw material and/or test the specific pebble (sound, apperance, weight, texture, initial flaking response, etc..). This way, even when you are knapping a non-very-friendly stone (say quarzt, limestone...)chances are that you get aceptable results.

>>>>how difficult it is to do exactly what you want in one go

Well, my point is: it becames particularly difficult when your are not experienced _enough_

I've been able to wacht and learn from people like Bourguignon, Baena, Cuartero, Palomo, Aguirre, Pelegrin, Gibaja and others (all of them very experienced knappers) and yet from some others non-academic flint artisans from France, Belgium and Spain.

And I'll tell you what: When you watch other experienced people at work... it's just another thing.

Even when they work with low quality raw materials... there's is this, humm... "savoir faire"

>>>>What exactly are the misunderstandings GB/USA researchers have of "Ancien Paleolithic complexity" in your mind Millan?

He. May be i had Iain Davidson's writings in my mind (see his article in the book "the transition to language", readable -if your brain does not melt- at google books).

Aditionally, if you can read spanish languaje (or, say, translate it), I can recommend you to read a series of 8 posts i did about lithic technology in my blog. I'll bet you can find there an answer to your question.

Final word: I've seen the video twice again, just to be sure of. And, well, it's just worse than i remembered. He starts quite well for the 3 first flakes, but then he starts to accumulate small "knapping-accidents" and finally it becames a big mess.