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Flint Knapping -how to be a flint knapper ~ by WoodlandsTV

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http://www.woodlands.co.uk Flint Knapping. How to be a flint knapper. What is flint knapping. Allan Course demonstrates how a neolithic arrowhead was made. This is the art of flint knapping and the tools he uses come from the antlers of a red deer. The piece of flint is hit by direct percussion - in other words Allan hits the antler bone on top of the flint to get a flake of flint from the side to produce the arrowhead. Flint knapping takes a lot of practice but once you are skilled at it you can get repeatable good results.
The flake of flint is then shaped to produce in this case a leaf shaped arrowhead. This style of arrowhead was in use in Britain between 4000BC to 1500 BC.
The tools for this part are also very simple - a piece of leather to protect the hand, and another small piece of antler bone. By putting the piece of antler on the edge of the flint and pushing down tiny pieces of flint are chippped off. The tip of the arrowhead has to be very sharp to penetrate flesh effectively. Having worked on the tip , the sides are then trimmed to be sharp and reasonably straight.

The process takes about 3 minutes and tells us something about our ancestors in prehistory. We can be pretty sure they had specialist flint knappers, so an expert could turn out about 20 arrowheads in an hour . Although the process was quick it required a high degree of skill to be so productive which is why they specialised. The rest of the arrow is the other way around. It doesn't take much skill to take a piece of hazel wood, take the bark off, smooth it and add feathers to it, but it does take a lot of time. So archaeologists will look at these crafts in two ways. The flint arrowhead is high skill, low labour, whereas the reat of the arrow is relatively low skill, and high labour. In Britain in say 3000BC there would have been no need for everybody to become an expert flint knapper because the amount of time they would have to spend on it to become good, compared to the time that they actually needed to use that skill just doesn't make it an efficient process. So we're certain flint knappers were specialists. We're also pretty sure that one flint knapper on a part time basis, because he had his own farm and livestock to look after, could have serviced a community of two hundred people. so flint knappers were specialists.
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Posted in: Tools ~ On: 13 November, 2010

31 comments so far

Allan Course
August 18, 2017

I'm the guy in the video and have just come back to it after many years. To explain… firstly, the film people wanted me to make an arrowhead in a very short time, hence it had to be a simple leaf-shaped one – if you want to see a grave-goods quality example that I have made, look at the one round my neck. Secondly, if you look at the real prehistoric arrowheads of this style, you will see that the one I made is fairly typical – ask the Devizes Museum nicely and they may show you their curated collection.

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