Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Flintknapping with the Archaeological Society of Alberta in Calgary

Alberta archaeology, hands-on
This past weekend, the Archaeological Society of Alberta sponsored its annual flintknapping weekend in Calgary. The Calgary Centre organized it and the event was held in one of the large classrooms in the Archaeology Department at the University of Calgary on Saturday and Sunday. This year was the best attended and most diverse flintknapping weekend that I’ve seen in the four years that I’ve been invited to help lead the workshops with Jason Roe.

Early on Saturday - the tarp didn't stay this clean for long.

A toolkit taking a break
On Saturday, we packed the room with 32 participants who were there to learn the basics of stone tool making. Jason and I walked the group through the basics of pressure flaking, hard hammer and soft hammer percussion. There is a core group of 8 or 10 diehard knappers who come out every year and they make a tremendous contribution to helping out the newcomers by answering questions, providing advice, donating materials, rounding up participants and demonstrating different flintknapping techniques, tools, and strategies. I always try to take advantage of their knowledge and come out of the workshop with new ideas and inspiration for my own work. But on the first day, it’s all about the new knappers. It’s always fun to see someone strike off those first few flakes in their knapping career as the bug begins to take hold.

Rick demonstrating correct biface reduction strategy on Saturday afternoon

Jason setting up the barrel hoop for Allan.
On Sunday, we continued with a casual ‘Knap-In’ day where we covered more advanced topics and gave the students an opportunity to try their hands at number of projects using the skills that they had learned the day before. This session used to be called the “Advanced Workshop”, but we found that name to be a little misleading, since you don’t have to be a very experienced knapper to get a lot out of this day. This year we called it a Knap-In, in order to encourage more people to take part and it worked. It’s an opportunity for everyone to just have fun, work on problems, or just hang out and chat with other folks interested in stone tools and archaeology in the Province.

Obsidian point, red ochre and spruce resin pitch with sinew and hide glue binding on a hand carved willow shaft.

Tyler mixing the ochre and
spruce gum on the hot plate
 to haft his point shown above..
There were about 20 of us on Sunday and we had a number of activities and materials for students to try, including pounding points out of copper pipes and iron barrel hoops, interactive demonstrations in pressure flaking reduction strategies, hafting, glues, arrow making, ochre grinding, and more. Jason led a group of students in a game of “Goat” where everyone sat in a small circle and took turns talking strategy and knocking flakes off of a core one-by-one until someone broke it an became the “Goat”. It looked like a lot of fun and I think on whole this was probably one of the most instructive knapping weekends that the Archaeological Society of Alberta has ever put on.

The room was hopping on Sunday.  Different stations and activities evolved around the tarp throughout the day.  

Dawn's First Arrow.  Awesome.
I want to pass along a huge thanks to the ASA and especially the volunteers in the Calgary Centre for organizing the event and allowing me to participate.  In a couple of days, I’m off to Edmonton to do a workshop on Saturday at the University of Alberta for the Archaeological Society’s Strathcona Centre. It should be a lot of fun and everyone is going to leave with their own hafted tools.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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