This chert side-blow knife is from near Qena, Egypt. They are called side-blow knives because the flake blank for the tool is much wider than it is long, and these proportions were further enhanced by retouching. They emerge by ca. 7500 at the Dakhleh and Kharga oases and become common throughout Egypt and northeast Africa soon after, persisting at least until the early Predynastic period, ca. 5000 BP. This example is from the Dendera Temple complex, Egypt, but probably predates the famous temples and necropolis.
The edge of this knife was carefully resharpened by well-executed pressure flaking, and the resulting acute edge-angle suggests it was used for cutting rather than scraping.
This side-blow knife is curated in the UNE Museum of Antiquities, catalogue number MA2003.18.1.
Side-blow knives are similar in morphology, use-life, and chronology to fan scrapers (or ‘tabular scrapers’) from the Levant. Side-blow knives were likely used in similar ways to fan scrapers, which use-wear analyses show were used for butchering and processing animals. They correlate with the appearance of domestic animals (sheep and goats) in the Levant, and some archaeologists have proposed that fan scrapers are a ‘secondary product of domestication’. A side-blow flake was interred in a grave in the Naqada II period, ca. 5300 BP and fan scrapers, along with Canaanean blades, were imported from the Levant into northern Egypt during the Predynastic Maadi period, ca. 5000 BP. By Early Dynastic times, ca. 4500 BP, butchering tasks were apparently accomplished primarily with bifacially-flaked knives, as side-blow knives dropped out of use.
The fan scrapers in the Levant were made by striking the flake blank from the cortical surface of large chert (flint) nodules. In contrast, the side-blow knives in Egypt were made by striking flakes in series from the same location on the core, much like slicing a loaf of bread. Each blow was precisely behind the preceding blow, which enhanced the prominence of the bulb of percussion and gave the flake a distinctive ‘gull wing’ shape when viewed edge-on. Unlike fan scrapers from the Levant, which have a flat, cortical dorsal surface, the Egyptian fan scrapers/side-blow knives have a concave dorsal surface (the negative bulb from the prior flake removal). The manufacturing technique is unusual, but broadly-similar flake removal strategies emerged independently in Australia (the gull wing method for making Tula adzes), Japan (the Setouchi technique for making Kao knives), and south-central Texas (’sequent flake unifaces’ of the Early Archaic period).