Author Topic: The other side of the model  (Read 839 times)

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Offline Hummingbird Point

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The other side of the model
« on: January 13, 2018, 10:46:37 am »
See how how I roped you in with "model"?  "Click bait" I think the tech savvy boys call that.

Some discussion here lately on Cushing's knapping model, which I think has gone a bit askew.  Again, for those interested, read it for yourself, about 10 pages in under "The making of arrows", :

Cushing's model is clearly divided into two pieces:  What happens at the quarry and what happens away from the quarry.  At the quarry is the spalling and bifacing steps.  Away from the quarry are the finishing, use and resharpening steps.

The focus to date has been on an interpretation of one of the finishing techniques.  But, before that happens, you need a biface to finish. An impression has been given that the soft hammer direct percussion methods that are the mainstay of modern knapping fall outside of Cushings model.  They very clearly do not.  Per Cushing, the hammer stone derived spalls are then made into bifacial preforms using direct percusion on top of the knee or a padded stone using antler, bone or soft stone set in a "lightweight handle".  He notes this is done ""with almost incredible rapidity", later claiming production of "seven finished knife and arrow blades in exactly 38 minutes".  So basically Cushing says direct percusion on the leg, just like most of us do it, but he replaces the billet with a hammer type tool.

Hammer stone spall, raw Texas chert, piece from center of nodule, 95mm L by 85mm W by 23mm T.


Using the base of an elk spike antler lashed to a T shaped branch with rawhide to create a hammer like tool, then used for all flaking of this spall, 10 minutes later, 75mm L by 47mm W by 7.5mm

Sample of flakes harvested for use as tools, 2 inches plus:

It is at this point I would switch to indirect percussion and/or pressure to finish the piece.  However, I would stress for newer knappers, you absolutely do not need to push your preforms this far with direct percussion.  Go as far as you feel comfortable with, then switch to indirect.  Over time you will find yourself being able to go further and further with the direct, which mostly just saves time.

The idea behind Cushing's model is to send your best knappers to the quarry, let them make the "blanks" which everyone else can then relatively easily finish and use as needed.  If I and 4 other "professional" preform makers went into the quarry with some young guys to quarry and spall, leaving the "pros" to biface, we could very easily make 120 quality, late stage bifaces  and still only have to work 5 hours that day with a 20% failure rate.  One trip for a day or two a month is a couple thousand bifaces with all kinds of time left for the other hundred things that needed to get done yesterday!


Offline Hummingbird Point

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Re: The other side of the model
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2018, 10:57:49 am »
A few more pictures.  Modifying the model by using Flowering dogwood for my hammer head, two hammers, one about 2.5 inches in diameter for early work, one about 1.5 inches diameter for later.  Spall from Virginia cobble quartzite, 135mm L by 125mm W by 31mm T.  Unfortunately that ridge in the center represents junk material that needs to be blasted out:

Needed 17 minutes, but usually average 21 with a failure rate of 40%.  "Quarry blank" is 73mm L by 43mm W by 8.5mm T.(I would stress that a preform of this size is great at 10mm thick, with a few "lumps" thicker, I just got lucky on this one.  If you want to knap this stuff, do not try to push it this thin.)  Sorry the flake scars don't show well, nature of the beast!

Due to the nature of the material, flakes tend to break as they come off, so not a good material for flake tools.  The chip pile:

Offline mullet

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Re: The other side of the model
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2018, 06:10:19 pm »
This makes a lot more sense. James Parker explained a lot of this to me, but could you show a picture of your tools?
Lakeland, Florida
 If you have to pull the trigger, is it really archery?

Offline Chippintuff

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Re: The other side of the model
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2018, 07:35:23 pm »
Great thread. There is nothing muddy here.


Offline Hummingbird Point

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Re: The other side of the model
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2018, 07:07:57 am »
Oh, James Parker!  Say hi to him for me!

All the info on how I do the antler hammers is housed at the link below.  I have made no significant changes since then:

I have found the "lightweight handle" to be important.  I like weight forward and high head speed, but that may just be me.  (Ballistically I knap with a small bullet going fast rather than a big bullet going slow, but have no idea why.)

Maybe someday I will do a video, but I don't know that it would help much. The differences are subtle.  The handle allows the head to be pulled and twisted in various ways on impact to change the flaking.  Early on striking straight into the edge with the handle pointed toward me gets those big, expanding flakes helpful in early reduction.  Later, striking with the handle pointed toward the ground and rolling the head downward at impact produces long parallel sided flakes.  Not that any of that really matters, I figured that out just naturally by doing it.  Better to not think too much about it.

The late stage preform below shows the variety of flakes.  All flakes are taken with the same elk hammer.  Looking at the top edge, at the tip you can see the expanding overface type flake.  Coming down the edge you see what looks like pressure flakes, then in the base what looks like punch flakes.  This is why when archaeologists talk about how flaking was done I just quietly groan. 

Offline aaron

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Re: The other side of the model
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2018, 07:18:46 am »
thanks for the clear and in-depth post. I was wondering when someone else would point out that cushing describes "regular" percussion knapping as well as punch knapping. Ben conveniently ignored this when I pointed it out. T
Ilwaco, Washington, USA
"Good wood makes great bows, but bad wood makes great bowyers"


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Re: The other side of the model
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2018, 03:04:00 pm »
I am not ignoring people.  I have been extremely busy.  I have been communicating with archaeologists, some who are now researching all of this practically night, and day.  They do not use the approach that you guys use.  They constantly feed me different types of information and ask for feedback, while they make their own assessments. 

Fortunately, I worked "blind" while developing much of the details, such as platforms.  What I found to optimally work in some Cushing flaking modes appears to be what some really ancient knappers found to be optimal when they were working, especially with regard to platforms - and they are not billet flaking platforms, either.  Another researcher believes that he has already identified the same type of flaking in the Old World, and various instances of it.  Another researcher said that they type of entries that are produced with the tine could not be made by any other method, except the use of a rough flake.  And, the fact that there are no signs of hard hammer impact eliminate the possibility of a rough flake.   

A person should review Ellis before presumptously assuming that Cushing's description was limited exclusively to what he described to the Vice President of the United States in a lecture on flintknapping.  It is surprising that anyone would suggest there is some "one wayness" about this, especially after reviewing Ellis.  I already found an individual who was in Piedras Negras, Mexico, in the 80's.  And, the fellow witnessed the same technique being used by an indian, who was making stone trinkets, and who could not speak Spanish.

Anyway, you guys carry on.  This probably will be my last post, here.  So, if you want, you can all have a party.  I have many things to do.  So, do not let me stop you from doing whatever you want to do.   

Offline Hummingbird Point

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Re: The other side of the model
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2018, 10:12:06 am »
Ellis never mentions Cushing. (See references at the end of his paper, Cushing isn't there.)  He did some rudimentary experiments with a bunch of methods he read about and came to no firm conclusions.  He most certainly did not develop a working model.  Many modern experimental knappers have gone way beyond him.  But no need to take my word for it:;view=1up;seq=1

A couple of things Ellis said that seems to ring true with so much of your work:  "There are so many better methods of accomplishing the same results that continued experimenting on the part of the Indians would undoubtedly have made such work obsolete."

And archaeologists studying your method would be wise to consider what Ellis observes on page 55: "Anyone who would spend so much time making a single arrow-point when there are any number of methods which might have been used to better, or at least as good, advantage would be the exception to any rule."   That is, unless you consider "primitive" to equal "dumb", the slow, tedious way you knap was unlikely the norm.

That said the clamping and support you use to remove large flakes from thin preforms without breaking the biface is very cool stuff.  It would be better if you could do it without blowing up the flakes (making them worthless as tools) and without gouging out the edges of the biface.  Both of those are wrong for Clovis (and I'm shocked you have archaeologist saying otherwise).  I think it has great potential for fluting and would encourage you to pursue that further.  Show why the Solberger jig should never have been invented to begin with!

Sorry if any of that sounds harsh.  Not intended that way.