Q: What is flintknapping?
A: The word knap means "to snap or break by a smart blow". The word flintknapping was coined to describe the manufacturing of gun flints. Not all stones that can be worked into tools are flints but the label stuck. In present day, the term is commonly and broadly used to describe the prehistoric skill and ancient craft of making flaked stone points, arrowheads and tools.
Q: When and where did it originate?
A: Perhaps flintknapping is the world's oldest profession. The archeological record from all continents and all cultures, going back to pre-human times shows that as early as Homo habilis (more than two million years B.P. - before present), rocks were broken and their sharp edges used for tools. This was a skill necessary for our survival and evolution as humans and was the dominant technology for most of human history. Only in the last several thousand years have humans learned the technology of metal. Prior to that, in every corner of the earth the very survival of a peoples depended on their ability to make stone tools and pass the skill down to the next generation. As far as we know, all human ancestors have used this craft since the beginning of time. This critical survival skill represents a single link that all the world's people have in common.
Q: What kinds of rock are used in knapping?
A: In order to be successful, a knapper needs to know not only the skill of knapping, but how to select the proper stone. Just as a diamond possesses a unique fracture pattern, only two classes of rock fracture in such a way that they can be flaked into stone tools. Volcanic rock (e.g. obsidian, dacite, basalt, etc.) and crypto-crystalline silicate (e.g. flint, chert, chalcedony, jasper and agate, etc.) fracture conchoidally (in a cone-shape) to create the flakes necessary to shape a sharp and useful tool. Ancient peoples often traveled great distances to gather and trade these valuable stones.
Q: How are the rocks broken with such precision?
A: Using the proper rock, a knapper works with either percussion or pressure tools to initiate a shock wave through the rock. The wave of energy causes a section of the rock to flake away, resulting in narrowing, slimming and shaping of the stone. It can take years for a knapper to learn where to initiate a conchoidal fracture to remove unnecessary bits of stone without causing a complete break. Over a lifetime an experienced craftsman can look at a rock and read its platforms, ridges and potential weak points. He doesn't just break the rock as much as he coerces it to calve in places where the rock might already show a willingness to yield to man.
Q: How were ancient points really used?
A: We know that the technology of fracturing stones to obtain a sharp edge was part of daily life for millions of years, but all that we know about their specific uses is mostly theoretical.
Q: Does flintknapping have modern application(s)?
Our myths conjure images of cavemen repeatedly stabbing a mammoth with stone-pointed spears and envision cowboys ambushed by indians and their barrage of flying arrows. But in reality stone tools and points were likely used quite differently.
The archeological record would suggest that they had a far greater purpose than just hunting and killing. Stone points and blades were used for a wide variety of every day utilitarian purposes such as skinning, scraping, chopping, cutting and butchering. The fashioning of projectile points and knife blades was an evolution of the craft of knapping. Remember, if a projectile was thrown even once, a shaped point is likely to break like glass. In an early sort of disposable technology, after its initial use the tool was often reshaped into a smaller implement, then smaller and so on until there was no usable stone remaining. A tool may start out as a knife blade, be reshaped into a projectile point, then trimmed down to an awl before being discarded.
A: Flaked stone can be many times sharper than surgical steel. For a short period it was used experimentally for surgical applications. However, it was never widely used and was supplanted by laser technology.
Q: What's the difference between Grog's art and points from other knappers?
A: Many knappers today use a technique called "lapidary" knapping. This involves the use of electric saws, drills and/or grinders to pre-shape their rock art. Grog's passion lies in creating each piece of ancient art in its truest form. He tries to honor the true process of creation by starting with a whole rock and percussion thinning it, for a truly unique piece of art.