Flintknapping experiments of impact:
Schools of thought as reflected in the work of Crabtree, Flenniken, and Pelcin.
Michael J. Miller, M.A.
A great deal of knowledge developed through experimental method has been passed down by the numerous researchers of flintknapping. Our quest to understand the lithic implements created by our most ancient ancestors to their historic counterparts culminates in the 1960s as the advent of a new archaeology sweep through our discipline. The development of new theory, critique, experiment, methodology, and archaeology as a science produced several key figures whom I focus this work. Breaking these researchers into their own context works to develop them in their individual, unique, intellectual, and timely frameworks.
The 1960s saw a great rise in the number of practicing archaeologists and thusly so an increased interest in lithic artefacts. The emphasis that was once placed on describing artefacts and establishing chronologies shifted toward a focus on the organization of culture and explanation of change and adaptation as portrayed in assemblages. The tools of prehistoric peoples were now looked at with a greater scrutiny, as well as, the roles they played in culture and nature. The replication studies of François Bordes and Don Crabtree had a major impact on lithic analysis. The use of experimental archaeology allowed them to conduct simulation studies and determine probable lithic tool production techniques. They were not the first to conduct and publish on flintknapping (see Evans 1872), but were looked upon by archaeologists for answers and methods to help scientific archaeology learn more about past technologies. The archaeological community found replication studies and background training in flintknapping of value; the framework was laid for lithic biface reduction sequence analysis, refitting, microwear, and assemblage analysis.
Lithic replication studies utilize numerous experimental approaches to analyze stone tools. The fracture mechanics are a large part of this understanding and provide an insight into the production of assemblages. The differentiation between formal tools and the waste material left over from their creation act as attributes in the understanding of stone working technology. The work of modern flintknappers using primitive stone working tools and techniques provides a window for prehistoric lithic artefact examination. A brief review of the history of flintknapping and the replication of stone tools will give us a better understanding of lithic analysis in current archaeology.
Since the very first reports on flintknapping (see Skertchly 1879) and occidental pondering of ancient stone tools, we have, until recently, little insight into these areas. The replicas of primitive stone tools by William Smith and Edward Simpson sold as relics to collectors may be the first recorded flintknapping experiments where skill in stoneworking techniques can be called replicative (Forrest 1983). Later academic studies of flintknapping fracture mechanics (see Cushing 1895 and Holmes 1891) were tested to help understand possible prehistoric technique. A relatively large gap in the literature exists between these early experiments and those undertaken in the 1960s. The new and mostly scientific works being published brings us to the first of the major contributors to lithic technology, Don Crabtree.
Don Crabtree, an avocational archaeologist and flintknapper, uses experimental archaeology to engage questions of prehistoric tool manufacture and the minds of lithic artefact researchers. Focusing on biface manufacture, fluting techniques, and blade core technologies, he forged a relationship with the numerous lithic analysts and today is seen as the “dean of American flintknappers” (Knudson 1982).
Crabtree’s work relates primarily to questions of process, he tries to get at the “how” behind the creation of lithic artefacts. His 1966 article is the first reported attempt to replicate a Lindenmeier Folsom point. The work is a model of replicative experimentation that carefully examines the archaeological specimen, its debitage and describes the salient technological characteristics. He lists the numerous methods and factors used to try to replicate the specimen; he believes these sorts need to be taken into account for successful replication. He follows a proper scientific approach by listing the procedures followed and the results obtained in each of the experiments. Although it seems arbitrary, he notes to what degree the completed point and associated debris resembled the archaeological specimens. The comparison between the replicas and artefacts indicate which method or methods replicate the specimen successfully. He concludes that indirect percussion with rest, pressure using a chest crutch, clamp, and rest, or a combo of the two can successfully produce a Lindenmeier Folsom.
In his 1968 article on Mesoamerican polyhedral blade cores, he attempts to replicate the technology that produced them utilizing the insights provided by historical notes written by Spanish Franciscan Friar Juan de Torquemada (Holmes 1919, 323-4). By recreating the tools, working positions, and techniques described by Torquemada, Crabtree finds numerous faults with the written record. Breaking the text down to pieces and forming analogies between other texts allows him to create homologues in the tool morphologies and create stone working techniques from the inferences. It is interesting to note that he finds great fault in the translation of the text and ultimately takes very little of the described process to create his own method; Crabtree ultimately discovers his own technique using tools similar to those described in the text. The experiments create good empirical data and allow him to test several methods that may have been practiced prehistorically to produce blades; difficulties with securing the core, pressure flaker tips, movement of the knappers body mass, and even the placement of the knappers feet all provide answers to questions he never intended to ask. The use of slow motion photography, a novel idea, allowed him to see the actual detachment of the blade from the core; these helped him to fine tune the necessary downward and outward pressure to remove blades successfully from the core. The empiricist approach taken by Crabtree in his work is shown in his conclusions statement when he states “no amount of theorizing… will give a true picture of these techniques; only by replicating can we change theory to fact” (Crabtree 1968, 33). The processual school of thought Crabtree adhered to, endorsed his positivist approach to experiment and dominated in his understanding of past processes.
The processual behaviour associated with flintknapping places primary importance on replication of flaked stone tool reduction techniques; Crabtree and the experiments he performed are likely to be the cause of the replication of this mindset in today’s practicing replicators and lithic analysts. In my own research I followed, without thinking, the basic map of all lithic experiments performed before me and successfully duplicated, in my own eyes and my advisors, the lithic reduction process of a past culture. As the work of other researchers needs to be reviewed and addressed in the work that we perform, it undoubtedly works to change and conform the thoughts of each and all who place relevance in the author’s words. Crabtree’s work was indispensable experimental archaeology. He was able to enlighten numerous students and colleagues. Such an influence has created a vast knowledgebase for today’s lithic analysts, but one must wonder how the face of lithic analysis may look today if he had not stepped up.
Of equal stature are the works of François Bordes, esteemed archaeologist and flintknapper of the Old World. Crabtree first meet Bordes at a lithic technology conference in France (see Jelinek 1965) and found common ground and produced an article (Bordes and Crabtree 1969) on the Corbiac blade technique. In his publications written in English, he rarely addresses experimentation in flintknapping, but focuses on issues of typology and chronology (see Bordes 1968; Bordes & Sonneville-Bordes 1970) in assemblages. The Levallois technique, developed by Bordes (1961), as described in Andrefsky (1998) is a lineal reduction that shapes a core to create a continuous striking platform around the perimeter in order to shape the surface for the removal of a single large Levallois flake. Several researchers have attempted to refine the process in a systematic analysis of reduction techniques (Bradley 1977; Boeda 1986; Geneste1985) and all found a theme in that the specific goal of the reduction is to create the properly shaped core for the proper Levallois flake to be removed (Andrefsky 1998). Bordes initial identification and description of Levallois technology fits the temporal context and framework of knapping experiments and fills a void in the Paleolithic reduction knowledgebase allowing future researchers to apply archaeological analysis.
In the 1970s the contributions to experimental archaeology became more academic and scientific in nature, relying on stone working techniques and how the final product was formed (see Bradley 1974; Flenniken 1978). The experiments performed by Flenniken in the late 70s till the late 90s reflect the mindset of many lithic experimenters adding greatly to the knowledge base of lithic analysis.
Flenniken (1978) replicates the Lindenmeier Folsom point type by creating a research question based upon the work of his precursors taking greatly from Crabtree (1966). The proper research question proved to be very useful in his experimental approach to understanding the techniques and stages of manufacture. Building on the stages of Crabtree (1966) he focuses specifically on fluting sequence; it is of much debate when the flutes were removed during flaking (Irwin 1968, 230; Crabtree 1966; and Wilmsen 1974, 14-15). He creates an experimental procedure based on the analysis of an archaeological assemblage and informs the reader of the materials and the method making the experiment replicable. Defined stages of manufacture are provided and include figures, timing, methods, and numerous notes on successes and failures. His conclusions find Crabtree’s (1966, 22) work erroneous and suggest archaeologically significant fluting production techniques, as well as, the possible time input and failure rate of prehistoric knappers. Flenniken’s reification of past studies demonstrates his processual approach to experimental replication studies, underpinning his constructs of “stage” and mode in the interpretation of manufacture sequences.
The study of morphology and typology by Flenniken and Raymond (1986) questions the idea of using stone points as time markers for prehistoric cultures. They believe that the “conceptual and procedural modes” put forth by Rouse (1960, 318) do no adequately reflect the production and use of artefacts (Flenniken and Raymond 1986, 604). By questioning this notion they construct an experiment which tests the modes of manufacture and fully undermine the concept of projectile point typology. A very well defined methodology is presented to test Elko corner-notched and eared point typologies in a hunting situation. The rejuvenation of broken points, based on prehistoric evidence of resharpening, found that due to the higher percent of basal damage to experimental replicas that temporal type could change beyond the boundaries set by the lithic analyst. They suggest that assigning type based on morphology is risky; only the technological analysis of the entire lithic reduction sequence can adequately mark time (611). By questioning the normative interpretation of tools and providing empirical evidence that one out of every three aboriginal projectile points may have changed temporal type while in prehistoric context, challenges lithic analysts to reform their ideas of typology and its application to the prehistoric record.
Thomas (1986) questions the ability of a modern flintknapper to reproduce prehistoric human behaviour by suggesting that reality in understanding the life cycle of an artefact can never be fully identified. The range of variability in the production of replicas, the interpretation of process by modern day flintknappers, and the tool manufacture process of analogous forms suggests there is “absolutely no assurance that mere familiarity with specific techniques of lithic technology will automatically lead to accurate interpretation of the past” (1986, 621). The need for systematically controlled experiments in lithic replication work influenced lithic analysts to become more strict and scientific, but these studies in the lab were seen by others as no longer realistic or applicable. The resulting studies lead to a more archaeology based replication science as found in Flenniken and Wilke’s (1989) work on typology, technology, and chronology of Great Basin dart points.
The two authors focus on the constructs of typology in the Great Basin and define general rules that archaeologists adhere to when placing a projectile point into a cultural type (Flenniken and Wilke 1989). They take from previous studies performed by Flenniken on dart points and their tendencies when utilized for hunting and dispatching animals to suggest that lithic technology studies can provide meaningful interpretations of the use-life of an artefact. The damage caused from use on the two archetypal forms of dart points suggests that nearly all sub-types may be directly related and temporally linked; the chronology of types is brought into question and the low number of significant attributes portrays stone dart points to be the least stable artefact type (153). The typological approach has created an illusion that Great Basin dart points can be set into periods and are static. Notions of discard are addressed to help our understanding of a dart point’s use-life and work to substantiate the conclusion; ‘mixing of archaeological units’ need to be attended to and not ignored by archaeologists opting out for an intuitive chronology based on the assumptions and hypothetical succession of morphological types (156). Based on a processual approach and empirical data, the conclusion is well substantiated.
As the work of lithic analysts and the replicators becomes less focused on the end product the by-products of flintknapping are put to use interpreting the past via controlled scientific experiments. The most informative and elaborate scientific experiments in flintknapping were performed by Dibble and Pelcin (see Dibble and Pelcin 1995; Pelcin 1997). These studies of flake creation cover the numerous factors that can effect the formation of flakes and provide archaeological insight by informing us of key variables in the technology of stone working.
Dibble and Pelcin (1995) effectively began a series of controlled flintknapping experiments that use scientific controls and a lab environment to successfully speculate on prehistoric flintknapping processes. The study of the effect of hammer mass and velocity on flake mass suggests that two independent variables, exterior platform angle and platform thickness, can be adapted by the stone worker to reliably change the needed mass to remove a planned flake. The methods are laid out as expected in any reproducible experiment, as well as the needed materials with detailed descriptions. They take a heuristic approach by testing and utilizing different mathematical formula to account for the variables in the experiment. Hypothesis testing helps them to refine their experiment and data to disprove the ‘belief if a flake is produced, neither momentum nor its individual components of mass and velocity has a major effect in determining flake mass’ (431). The platform angle and thickness are ruled by a mass-force threshold based on the percussors mass; this threshold effect explains why a flintknapper believes that momentum produces larger flakes. The value of this experiment is in the empirical data and its practical application to flintknappers creating flakes. By informing the experimenters of such realistic effects based on specific variables that the flintknapper typically assumes, they can control their platforms and scientifically create the desired flake morphology.
Pelcin builds on the earlier work of Dibble and Pelcin (1995) in his work on core surface morphology (1997). The creation of an experimental data set to inform a specific hypothesis, controlled core surface morphology can effect the flake attributes of length and thickness, correlated to the notion that prehistoric and modern knappers recognize this and utilize it informs the archaeological record. The ability to produce a specific flake size and mass may have been utilized prehistorically when conservation of lithic resources was needed. Scientific means and measures are created to control, manipulate and influence variables and work to eliminate the irregularities introduced by the human flintknapper (750). The experiment provided the needed detail in understanding ‘how the flake mass is distributed by the core surface morphology in relation to platform thickness and exterior platform angle’ (754) and provides a model to determine the mass (thickness, bulb of percussion size, length and width) of a flake based on the platform angle and thickness. These data can be extrapolated to reconstruct the location and amount of flake mass removed during pressure flaking which directly relates to the use-life of the flake tool and material limitations of the prehistoric flintknapper/tool-user.
The numerous experiments of lithic analysts and flintknappers take several forms in the literature. Noting the inquires made of experimental archaeology are often those of empiricists looking for data to infer interpretations and the processualists wanting to delineate process and/or test hypotheses. Often mixing of the aforementioned work hand in hand to produce viable scientific archaeology producing insight into problems initially addressed; new questions discovered during the testing create further knowledge and inform the research beyond original concern. Lithic experimentation has provided a means to test certain aspects of the archaeological record; in science we can never change theory to fact, only disprove and recreate question that help us to further our understanding of the ancient human past.
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The Age of the Human Race
by Rob Vandeweghe
Through the last decades science has struggled to estimate the age of the human race. Obviously, evolution would insist this occurred a long time ago, as it would take an incredible span of time for the first human-like creature (the cave man or monkey man) to develop into the sophisticated humans of today.
First, it must be observed that current estimates for the age of mankind are still all over the board. The lack of reliable dating methods for organic material is a serious challenge for all paleo-anthropologists. This might surprise you, but the only reliable dating method for organic material is Carbon-14 dating. This procedure can date organic material such as bones and teeth accurately but only to a maximum of 25,000-30,000 years. Dating older organic material is nothing more than guesswork. In many cases these guesses rely on “leap of faith” assumptions by dating the rocks found near the organic material in question, wildly asserting these rocks were formed at the same time as the bones/skull/teeth were deposited. Obviously that is not science, but only wishful thinking.
Recently the advance of genetics has opened a new pathway to estimate the age of mankind through the analysis of human organic material. By comparing samples of currently living humans with well dated DNA samples from the past, an estimate can be made for the rate the human DNA record changes. Applying this estimated natural mutation rate to a representative sampling of the DNA of today’s world population, allows to estimate how much time would be required for today’s human DNA to mutate (“deteriorate”) from a common ancestor. As every cell in the human body contains the combined DNA from both the father and the mother, analyzing this DNA would not allow to trace the separate ancestry of the male or female. However, two portions of human genetic material do not recombine in reproduction, namely:
1) Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) This DNA resides in the so called mitochondria structures, outside the cell’s nucleus. Mitochondria are the “cellular power plants.” They convert food molecules into energy. Mitochondria contain DNA that is independent of the DNA in the chromosomes that is stored in the cell nucleus. Both men and women get nearly all of their mtDNA only from their mother. In the late 1980s and early 1990s a number of studies examined the mtDNA of women all over the world. These concluded that all women descended from one “Eve” who lived within the last 200,000 years. Refinements in measurements lowered these original estimates to 135,000 years and finally to less than 100,000 years. These studies not only suggest a much younger age for humanity than previously assumed, but also indicate that all humans descend from ONE woman, ruling out that humans would have simultaneously evolved in multiple locations/regions.
2) A large segment of the Y-chromosome. Only men have a Y-chromosome, most of which they receive only from their father. Since 1995 studies have been conducted to trace genes on this Y-chromosome to determine the age and descent of males. Various studies all indicate younger ages for mankind. What may well be the most reliable study published so far, calculates a common ancestor to modern man at between 37,000 and 49,000 years ago.
These studies also indicate that genetically all humans are much more alike than one would predict from Darwinian theory. Examinations of the genetic sequences of diverse modern human populations reveal minor differences, if any at all. One scientist noted: “It’s a mystery none of us can explain.” All this evidence suggests a recent origin for modern humans, far more recent than evolutionary theory would allow.
Evidence from archaeology and anthropology is consistent with such estimates for the age of humanity. Sophisticated works of art first appear about 40,000-50,000 years ago, and evidence of religious relics and altars date back no earlier than 25,000 years.
Archaeological finds of leftovers of human habitation date back only 15,000 years ago. Claims for older finds are rarely presented.
Accounts in the Biblical book of Genesis mention the descendents from the first man, Adam, through Noah, Abraham and Moses. Based on the literal reading of this data, it can be calculated that Adam was created by God a little over 6,000 years ago. This is also the date claimed by Six Day Creationists for the actual creation of the world. Other scholars point out the common practice of ancient Hebrew culture to skip generations in the genealogical records. Thus it is conceivable there were substantially more generations between Adam and Abraham than recorded in Genesis. These scholars generally theorize that, based on these records, Adam and Eve could have lived 8,000 to even 25,000 years ago. These views are the basis of the suggested range of 6,000 to 25,000 years old for the age of mankind. These Biblical estimates are surprisingly consistent with those supported by archaeology.
Whichever way one looks at the data, one conclusion is inescapable: as time progresses, estimates from science come ever closer to the age inferred by the Biblical accounts.
Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/religion-articles/the-age-of-the-human-race-236649.html
About the Author:
Rob VandeWeghe is a sceptic turned Christian. More evidences for Christianity are available at http://www.WindmillMinistries.org. Or read more the evidences for God’s existence.