Monday, January 20, 2020

Antler Wedges

Wanted to do an impromptu experiment.  First, I picked the warmest, humid morning I could find while visiting family in Missouri.  I had read a paper on the use of antler wedges to fell trees, in the Yukon, by indigenous peoples 3000 years ago.  I was curious how well antler wedges would do downing 2-inch diameter shelter poles.  To compare, I cut one tree using a Virginia greenstone celt axe I had pecked.  I had a couple of medium sized white tail deer antler wedges, and for the mallet I used the axe handle with the celt removed.  What did I learn?  Energy-wise, the axe was harder effort to use & control, shredded the sapling more in the process. The antler wedge and mallet were easier, and cleaner, incising around the pole with more precision.  The sapling was bent and the wedge used to cut thru the stressed fibers.  The first wedge I used, I saw my mistake I made, when I ground it down.  I ground from two sides putting some of the pithy area of the antler on the working edge.  This started flaking away after a few strikes.  So, I switched to the wedge I had only ground from one side, leaving the strong dense outer layer as the edge.  This worked fine.  I did notice a small area peeled back which could easily be ground again.  Both methods took about the same amount of time on green wood.  My opinion...I like the antler wedge.  It’s a cleaner cut, easier to use, lighter to carry, faster to re-grind...something I need to play around with more.  I reviewed a number of archaeological site inventories and noticed awls and wedges were the most numerous bone/antler items recovered.  As an over sight, I simply had not really considered the value of wedges in the primitive tool kit.  But, you need a wedge to split the wood to make a bow, thin a fireboard, create an atlatl blank, and more.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Handhaxe & Chopper

The snow has melted, the floods have receded, I can find my rock pile.  Feeling a little rusty, I did manage knap out a grainy handaxe and a couple of choppers.  I am a fan of the field expedient chopper, a couple of minutes with a hammer stone and you have a capable tool.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Open Air Neanderthal Workshop

Earlier this month the public information service, Science in Poland, published an article on the first open air Neanderthal tool making workshop, discovered on the river bank near the village of Pietraszyno, in Southern Poland.  The site was dated at 60,000 years old, and showed signs of organized flint working by a community over a long period of time.  It was unique in that it was the first Neanderthal workshop not found in a cave.  Over 17,000 recovered flint flakes revealed the manufacturing handaxes or knives that were taken away and used elsewhere.  Archaeologists were able to reconstruct, from the abandoned debris, the process of manufacturing.  Also recovered at the site were bones of rhinoceros, mammoth, and horses.  You can find the article at: .

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Quartzite Stone Artifacts

A paper was pulished in Scientific Reports, February 2018, on the archaeological site of Porto Maior, above the Mino River basin in northwest Spain. 3,698 stone artifacts were found, in situ, dating from around 200,000 to 300,000 years old. Distinctive were the large cutting tools - handaxes, cleavers, trihedral picks and choppers, almost exclusively of quartzite. Lab analysis showed they were used on site, on wood and bone, probably to break up carcasses, and abandoned. The unique aspect of the assemblage is that it is the first European site discovered, of large cutting tools, that were more relevant in size and weight to assemblages found in Africa and the Near East, than the smaller Acheulean tools of Europe.  Archaeologists speculate that there were multiple human lineages living in southwest Europe, with alternative stone tool technologies, around the same period. You can find the story and a link to the Scientific Reports article at:

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Blomboc Cave Bone Awls

Some of the earliest speculated evidence of clothing being made comes from the Blombos Cave bone awls, dated at 77,000 years old.  In 1991, on the southern tip of Africa, archaeologists discovered bones awls, among other stone artifacts.  The bone awls were generally around 5-inches long and made from small antelope limb bones. The bones may have been broken in the process of extracting marrow, or deliberately broken to make a tool.  They show signs of a stone flake being used to sharpen the bone shards to a point.  The manufacture of these awls illustrate advanced thinking.  Interestingly, studies of the polished areas of the awls, show they were used held between the thumb and forefinger, of the right hand, 3/4 inches from the tip.  Bones awls were used to shred plants for fibers, punch holes in wood or hide, or punch lacing holes for making clothing.