Wednesday, December 26, 2018

2019 Primitive Skill Goals

I recognize people enjoy seeing videos of primitive skill technics.  There are a number areas that I recognize that I may know the prescribed methods to produce certain technics, but like most I have utilized modern tools to do to speed up the process, and have not done them primitively.   I need to practice primitive, so I can teach/demonstrate primitive.

1.  Drill shaft holes, for foreshafts, on spears and darts using stone, bone, or antler drills. Further
     research how this could be done with Stone Age tools.  Post results.
2.  Make and post videos of technics:
     a.  Corn cob bow drill fire making
     b.  Antler axe use
     c.  Bow drill fire making
     d.  Drilling foreshaft holes
3.  Make and use antler axes/adze.
4.  Drill handle hole in antler axe using stone or wood drills.
5.  Compare bone drilling/shaping using dry and soaking bone
6.  Experiment and form levallois core and blades.
7.  Research and practice notch forming on spear and handle shafts, using Stone Age tools.
8.  Use fire to debark, round handle, and form wedge on diggings sticks.  Compare to Neanderthal            technics.
9.  Practice ‘new’ indirect percussion technic for blades and thinning.
10. Rudger roll technic.
11. Neanderthal birch bark pitch ‘handle’ on scraping flake.
12. Rattan fire thong technic.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Making Notches With Stone Tools

Among my projects, I have been looking at making notches, for stone points, using only stone tools.  This aspect sometimes get glossed over discussing hafting technics.  There are a number of technics I have come across.  These photos are by Tom Mills (aka Paleo Aleo, on Paleo Planet).  In sequence, a stone drill is used to make a hole, from both sides.  A stone flake cuts a groove from the hole to the end of the shaft.  The notch plug is then cut or knocked out of the shaft with an antler punch, not pictured.  The notch is then cleaned up with a sharp flake.  Just thinking, an antler wedge could be used to help split and remove the notch plug.  I came across some information in the Society of Primitive Technology bulletin that carving the base of the notch to a sharp “V”, is superior to leaving the base flat and rough.  On impact, flat rough bases tend to blow off the side of the notch.  A V-shaped base tends to split the shaft, but wrapping the shaft with sinew strengthens that.

Friday, December 7, 2018

2019 Bois d’ Arc Primitive Skill Gathering & Knap In

This is a video for the 2019 Bois d’Arc Primitive Skill Gathering & Knap In, held annually at the Hulston Mill Historic Park, near Greenfield, MO.  It is held the fourth weekend of September each year, in 2019 this being September 27-29.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Missouri Creek Chert & Wood


The act of creating a notch, to attach a stone point, kind of gets glossed over when discussing Stone Age hafting technics.  There are a number of methods involving sawing, drilling, wedging, and splitting.  One used prehistorically for atlatl dart foreshafts and spears, was perhaps first described by archaeologist C.B. Cosgrove in 1947.  The tale tell splintered condition at the bottom of the notch, score marks, and shaft splits, led to the discovery of how it was made.  The shaft is notched on opposite sides, rotated 1/4 turn, and two more notches are cut farther down the shaft.  Splits are started by bending the end of the shaft back and forth.  Then the split section is carefully, and forcefully, bent and broken from the shaft - leaving a notch.  This can be cleaned up with a stone flake.  This is actually a fairly easy technic. The original Cosgrove drawing of this technic was published in, “Caves of the Upper Gila and Hueco Areas in New Mexico and Texas.”  This same technic was noted in the artifacts studied in “Stone Age Spear and Arrow Points of California and the Great Basin”, by Noel D. Justice.  If you have any methods, using stone age tools, I’d like to see them.

Neanderthal & Maganese Dioxide

I used to say I hoped to grow up to be a caveman, in that vein:  There was a paper published, in 2016, in Scientific Reports, by Dr. Peter J. Heyes.  I’m not sure how I stumbled upon it a week ago.  Archaeologists excavating Neandrathal sites, in the Dordogne region of SW France, catalogued hundreds of curious manganese dioxide blocks.  Originally, they were thought to be used as black mineral pigment.  But, researchers recognized the availability of charcoal and soot were so much more accessible, and looked to other reasons for the quantity of blocks at the Neandrathal sites.  Some stones showed abrasion marks, and a grinding stone was found at a location.  Researchers found and tested manganese dioxide from the region, and some of the cave blocks, and speculated they might have been used to facilitate fire making.  They are not sure how they produced fire, but reason it may have been from striking stones together (marcaste & flint?). To facilitate fire making, they found manganese dioxide powder, mixed with wood shavings, acted as a catalyst and lowered  the ignition point of the shavings 100 degrees C./180 degrees F., and promoted charring.  You can read the article at :  I tried igniting yucca shavings found on damp ground, and shavings rubbed with manganese dioxide.  I found that the rubbed shavings did ignite and char more sustainably.  There was a difference.  (It would have to be added to a tinder nest and blown to flame.).  What does this mean?  1.  Neanderthals were more cognitively advanced than thought.  2.  As a primitive skills enthusiast - maybe not as much, though dry cell batteries, dis-assembled with a screw driver, yield an amount of manganese dioxide, there are other options available. (Pictured:  manganese dioxide ore/powder/ yucca shavings;  blocks from site;  YouTube beech shavings, with m.d., smoldering.)

Neanderthal Digging Sticks

Digging sticks were a common tool of the hunter gatherer, used to harvest roots & tubers.  In 2012, archaeologists excavated 39 pieces of digging sticks dated to around 170,000 years old.  Neanderthals peopled this site in Tuscany, southern Italy, called Poggett Vecchi.  Made of tough boxwood, the staves showed signs of burnt film, and cut & scratch marks.  Scientists recognized the use of fire as a tool to scorch the bark, so that it could be more easily scraped off with stone tools.  One end was charred and rounded for a handle, the other abraded into blunt point.  Experiments to remove bark, round the handle, and abrade the tip proved difficult, with stone tools, on the uncharted fine grained hardwood.  In an effort to understand this woodworking technic, I worked two staves of dried burr oak I had on hand.  One I worked solely with stone tools.  Their other, I utilized fire to char the bark and ends, for finishing with stone tools.  What did I learn?  (Forth coming) (Pictures from online)

Fire Hardening Wood

Pictured is a fire hardened spear point, dated at over 400,000 years old, discovered in 1911 in England.  It is the oldest known worked wooden implement, known as the Clacton spear.  Everything I have ever read about making wooden spears involves hardening the point in the super heated soil, or coals of a fire.  I thought this was interesting... a team of British researchers conducted tests in 2016 on the effects of fire hardening on wooden spearpoints.  After treating, and subjecting wooden shafts to impact, they concluded that fire treating did ‘slightly’ harden the point, but also ‘significantly’ weakened it by making it 35% more brittle. They surmised that the appearance of purposeful fire hardening, may more so have been the byproduct of charring the tip, so that it could be more easily shaved or abraded into a sharp point.  It was more about reducing the time and labor to produce a sharp point on a wooden shaft.  As a side bar, flintknapper Jack Cresson, in the Bulletin of Primitive Tecnology, conducted experiments with hardwood pressure flakers, fire hardening some for flintknapping stone points. He concluded that the fire treatment did nothing to increase the efficiency of the pressure flaker flintknapping.  As a thought, perhaps burnishing (polishing by rubbing with a bone) the point, compressing the wood fibers, after forming the point might be more efficient.  Any thoughts?

Birch Bark Adhsive II

I have processed the oil from birch bark, but saw you could purchase it online.  I thought I would try it and make some hard birch tar for hafting.  It took several hours simmering it, evaporating the volatile ingredients.  I added finely powdered charcoal and it cooled to a hard consistency, some brittleness, but not as much as pine pitch.  It is a smelly process that permeates your hair and clothes and irritates your wife.  Now I need to haft a point and assess the strength.

Birch Bark Adhesive

I was playing with fire this week trying to replicate a prehistoric adhesive. There was an article last year that Neanderthals were attributed with making the first glue, as far back as 200,000 years ago, from birch bark.  Archaeologists assumed it was too complicated for primitive man to make without ceramics, but found several other methods that proved its feasibility.  Birch tar was found hafting Neanderthal spears.  The first method involved burying rolled bundles of birch bark in ash, and then covering with embers.  Tar was scraped off the bark rolls.  The second technic involved putting embers directly on the rolled bark, suspended over a pit to collect the oil.  In the third, a container is placed in a pit, covered with birch bark, then dirt.  A fire is built on top of it.  All produced amounts of birch bark oil for the scientists.  I tried variations of the above, and was unsuccessful, only consuming the bark.  My fires were too hot, too long I think.  With my last amount of birch bark I relied on the conventional way and put the rolled bark in a sealed canister with a hole in the bottom.  A fire was built around and a small amount of oil dripped thru the hole into a can below it, buried in a small hole.  I did manage to produce a small amount of birch oil.  This then required a few hours, over low heat evaporating the volatile oils, to make the sticky tar adhesive.  I need to work on this more, but it was a valuable learning experience.  I had purchased some birch tar on Etsy to have an example to aim for.  I have a book from 1961, ironically showing rolls of birch bark dripping tar while spears were being hafted with it.  Doesn’t quite work like that. But, it is probably the best adhesive/filler I’ve worked with...super tacky, like sticking your fingers in epoxy.  Unfortunately, birch trees are more ornamental in Nebraska than farther north.

Neanderthal Fire Making

In July, archaeologists published findings that they believe Neanderthals, in France, 50,000 years ago, had the ability to create fire at will.  Before then, they knew they had fire, but speculated it may have been gathered from nature - wildfires or lightning strikes.  There was evidence they could collect and maintain it, but the skills to create fire was considered lacking.  Scientists studying dozens of handaxes and flint tools, from various sites, found evidence of percussions marks and mineral traces.  It appeared that Neanderthals were were using flint tools to strike iron pyrites - to produce hot sparks, to make fire.  What this points to is the cognitive ability of Neanderthal peoples to use advanced technologies to survive and thrive in their environment. In this accompanying video I demonstrate striking a marcasite pyrite core, with a flint striker, to create tiny imperceptible sparks.  These are caught on tinder fungus, transferred to a tinder nest of jute fibers, and blown into flame.  (Video 1:35)