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  1. #1
    Graduate Arrowheadologist
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Western PA
    Posts
    556

    How arrowheads were made....

    Although I'm sure there are lots of knappers on this site, I thought everyone might enjoy a first-hand account of how 'arrowheads' were made. I found it in a book entitled "The History of Indiana County, PA" and was recorded in 1800. The chapter also references a flint vein...which I have been searching for. I know the approximate area, but have yet to locate. Nobody in the area is familiar with it either.

    They had a limited variety of copper implements, which were of rare occurrence, and which were too soft to be of use in working so hard a material as flint or quartzite. Hence it is believed that they fashioned their spear and arrow heads with other implements than those of iron or steel. They must have acquired, by their observation and numerous experiments, a thorough and practical knowledge of cleavage, that is, "the tendency to split in certain directions, which is characteristic of most of the crystallizable minerals." Capt. John Smith, speaking of the Indians in his sixth voyage, says: "His arrow-head he quickly maketh with a little bone, which he ever weareth at his bracelet, of a splint of a stone or glasse, in the form of a heart, and these they glew to the ends of the arrows. With the sinews of the deer and the tops of deers' horns boiled to a jelly, they make a glue which will not dissolve in cold water." Schoolcraft says: "The skill displayed in this art, as it is exhibited by the tribes of the entire continent, has excited admiration. The material employed is generally some form of horn-stone, sometimes passing into flint. No specimens have, however, been observed where the substance is gunflint. The horn-stone is less hard than common quartz and can be readily broken by contact with the latter." Catlin, in his "Last Ramble Among the Indians," says: "Every tribe has its factory in which these arrow-heads are made, and in these only certain adepts are able or allowed to make them for the use of the tribe. Erratic bowlders of flint are collected and sometimes brought an immense distance, and broken with a sort of sledge-hammer, made of a rounded pebble of horn-stone, set in a twisted with holding the stone and forming a handle. The flint at the indiscriminate blows of the sledge, is broken into a hundred pieces, and such flakes selected as from the angles of their fracture and thickness will answer as the basis of an arrow-head. The master workman, seated on the ground, lays one of these flakes on the palm of his hand, holding it firmly down with two or more fingers of the same hand, and with his right hand, between the thumb and two forefingers, places his chisel or punch on the point that in front of him, with a mallet of very hard wood, strikes the chisel or punch on the point that is to be broken off, and a co-operator- a striker- in front of him, with a mallet of very hard wood, strikes the chisel or punch on the upper end, flaking the flint off on the under side below each projecting point that is struck. The flint is then turned and chipped in the same manner from the opposite side, and that is chipped until the required shape and dimensions are obtained, all the fractures being made on the palm of the hand. In selecting the flake for the arrow-head, a nice judgment must be used, or the attempt will fail; a flake with two opposite parallel, or nearly parallel, planes of cleavage is found, and of the thickness required for the center of the arrow point. The first chipping reaches nearly to the center of these planes, but without quite breaking it away, and each clipping is shorter and shorter, until the shape and edge of the arrow-head is formed. The yielding elasticity of the palm of the hand enables the chip to come off without breaking the body of the flint, which would be the case if they were broken on a hard substance.

    _________

    There is on this Adam Mohney land a vein of what is commonly called flint, but is what geologists term quartzite, i.e., granular quartz. Quartz is pure silex, an essential constituent of granite, often occurring in pellucid glassy crystals and in masses of various colors more or less transparent to opaque. In the specimen from this vein which is before the writer at this writing there is a conglomeration of variously-colored material which is very hard. The color of some of it is almost white; of other portions blue, light and dark green, verging to slate, being the same color of the material of many Indian arrow-heads. In some of the cavities are small sparkling crystals. Boys in the vicinity of this vein, as the writer is informed, have struck fire from pieces of it with their knife-blades. The vein appears to be about eighteen inches thick and several rods long, and just above it is a spring of very good water. The present appearance of this vein indicates that large quantities of it have been excavated. From the quantity of the fragments of its material about two hundred rods distant from it, it is inferred that the Indians used it in manufacturing large numbers of their spear and arrow-heads.

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  3. #2
    Elite Arrowheadologist
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Delaware River, NJ
    Posts
    1,097
    Huuuuuuuutchhhh

  4. #3
    Graduate Arrowheadologist
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Lexington, KY
    Posts
    732
    Wait...so John Smith's account stated two individuals were involved in knapping a single point? Why?

  5. #4
    Flintknapper
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Midland, Texas
    Posts
    487
    Interesting quotes. I've read the Catlin account before but not the other two. The reference to wearing of the pressure flaker on the wrist, as part of a bracelet?, is cool.

  6. #5
    Graduate Arrowheadologist
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Western PA
    Posts
    556
    Disclaimer: I didn't write it...just read it with interest! You be the judge(s).

  7. #6
    Graduate Arrowheadologist
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Posts
    832
    Hmm, great information! I like the punch aspect as an indirect type of percussion. Thanks for sharing.

 

 

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