Monday, January 23, 2012

What's a Trillo?

The dashed pattern is made up of flint blades
 A trillo is a threshing board that uses knapped flint blades embedded into a wooden sled to separate grain from straw.  Its an example of a knapped stone tool that continued to be used in agriculture into the 20th century in parts of Europe.  This is the first trillo that I saw in person.  It was hanging in a museum in Lourdes, France.  The wood takes on a incredible polish and I've seen photos of trillos transformed into beautiful rustic doors, cabinets, and tables. The polish comes from hundreds of hours of the sledge being pulled around and around in circles over harvested grain.
I didn't realize at the time that the painting showed a trillo in use.  Please excuse the fuzzy photo, but I think you can make out the farmer standing on the trillo as it is pulled across the cut grain by a pair of oxen.  The blades cut the grain from the stalk.

The front is slightly upturned to slide over the grain.

From what I understand, each flint was hammered into place by hand.  I can't find any reference to adhesives being used.

This reminds me of an craftsperson I read about on the Canadian Prairies who would make furniture from the grain polished wood that he collected from torn down grain elevators.
 Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Interesting! Apparently flint-inset sleds are still used in a couple places in Turkey. There is a fairly recent article by John Whittaker in Lithic Technology on it. Also, here's a link to a short film by Jacques Bordaz that shows the mining/knapping process in action.

  2. Thanks for the links! There's a cool experimental archaeology video from the last decade about them as well. I have it in the house somewhere - if I can find it I'll post a title. The most memorable part of the film was a tree sized lever for popping off giant blades. You'd love it.

  3. These were very common in the Eastern Mediterranean until recently. The flints from the sleds take on a very distinct sickle sheen. Once someone showed me a sled and some of the flints I started to recognize these. I am sure I probably cataloged a few as "prehistoric" before that day . . . .

  4. The flints must be very abundant. I can imagine that each sledge must produce hundreds of worn blades over their lifetime.


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