Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Experiment 1: Completed

As of December 3 the UCD Experimental Flintknapping group has completed its first experiment!

Our goal (as outlined below) was to first and foremost bring all members of the group up to a reasonably similar level of skill prior to the big day and much to my delight/horror our newer members caught on to the process with startling rapidity. Needless to say the rest of us very quickly dropped any semblance of a condescending attitude and, with furrowed brow, concentrated on making sure we weren't passed out!
Secondly we were, of course, aiming to produce some microliths. More important then the product however was the process and ultimately the most valuable tool our experiment produced were the records.

After a preliminary sorting of the knapping shed and a quick check for all our supplies we began handpicking and numbering the nodules that would be used for the experiment. In addition to the nodules, Niamh selected a variety of specific hammer-stones for each team (also numbered) so that the effect on the hammer-stones could be better understood as well.

Oh the choices!

What, you may ask, does a numbered hammer-stone look like...?

Like This!

The dynamic for the experiment itself was very simple. Using custom recording sheets and photo registers we worked in pairs, one knapped while the other recorded as much as possible with the sheets and Emmett's poor, battered camera.

The satisfaction of a freshly opened nodule.

Periodically (usually with a bashed thumb and a murderous glare in the eyes) the knapper would swap and the process would begin again. The hopes being that each team would end up with at least one usable core for microliths.

Some were more successful then others:

And the mess...

Associated debitage for bottom core.

Now with some usable blades we got to work shaping and retouching the edges. This was a particularly difficult section for many of us as the process of pressure flaking is not as intuitive as knapping itself. Pressure flaking requires the application of pressure to the edge of a very small flint blade with deer antler and is exceptionally easy to do wrong.

Once again however, some of us had the knack for it, while others had been practicing, as can be seen in the stunning serrated blades below.

Serrated microliths. The culmination of our work up until this point.

While pressure flaking, some of the group took a stab (terrible pun) at producing some arrowheads. The process is largely similar and is to be the goal of our last experiment so very good practice at this stage. As you can see, we had some excellent results.

Mixed microliths and arrowheads. We're getting the hang of this!

At the end of a long, busy day and due to the recent celebration of thanksgiving, our American knapper/baker treated us to some pumpkin pie, I highly recommend it!

Delicious. Even if it was covered in flint and antler dust...

That was not the last treat however. With a great deal of help from our resident flint-wizard Brendan we had a quick practice making an arrow and considering the results, I cannot wait to continue that experiment next year.

Our finished arrow!

Thus is the end of our first experiment and the beginning of our Christmas holidays. We will be starting it all again in January.

 This time we're making axes.

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