This Edwards Plateau chert biface was made by the flintknapper Bryon Rinehart, probably between ca. 1950-1970. These large notched bifaces are referred to as ‘Gray Ghosts’ by the modern flintknapping community.
This model is of a Gray Ghost made by Bryon Rinehart from Texas chert. The biface shows the flat profile typical of points made on sawn slabs. The initial face-clearing scars are from the removal of exceptionally broad pressure flakes. These scars show the stacked undulations near the distal ends consistent with a relatively unstable crack path, probably caused by a significant lever-induced build-up in force before the crack initiated. The biface was artificially aged by coating or soaking it in an unknown substance.
See the annotations for technological details about this stone tool.
Brian Rinehart was an early modern flintknapper based in Gustine, Texas. He was born in the early 1920s and actively knapped from ca. 1950-1980. He apparently began flintknapping at a young age, but turned to the craft in earnest after a stint in the US Army Air Corps in World War 2. He died in about 1982, apparently from lung cancer or emphysema, although some claim it was from silicosis from inhaling silica dust. He made a living by full-time flintknapping.
Rinehart is known for making very large notched bifaces from slabs of stone cut from Edwards Plateau chert nodules using a lapidary saw. Rinehart’s notched bifaces are called ‘Gray Ghosts’ among flintknappers and collectors. The ‘gray’ refers to the colour of some varieties of Edwards chert, and ‘ghost’ is collectors’ parlance for an artefact without a provenience.
Rinehart roughly mimicked the outline of prehistoric point styles, but his bifaces were much larger than most ancient tools, usually about 8-9 inches (ca. 20-23 cm) long. Rinehart is the first flintknapper known to rely on using a rock saw for thinning down the stone. He would then switch to a lever-and-fulcrum device to flake the sawn chert slabs into bifaces. The mechanical advantage of the lever made it possible to remove very large pressure flakes across a slab’s face, eliminating the sawn surfaces. The edges were then steeply retouched by non-invasive pressure flaking, perhaps also using a lever device. Since the bifaces were made on sawn slabs, the faces are very flat. Rinehart jealously guarded access to his knapping devices and his lever designs are a matter of some speculation among modern lapidary flintknappers.
Rinehart was exceptionally prolific, producing an estimated 100,000 spearpoints over some 30 years of active work. If accurate, this averages to about 9 bifaces per day, every day. He sold his bifaces wholesale, charging 25 cents per inch in the 1960s. He is said to have advertised his work in lapidary journals and the Farmers Almanac. His minimum order was apparently one gross of bifaces (144), although Texas folklore claims he would sell in orders of 10,000 inches (about 1000-1250 bifaces) and insisted on being paid in gold coins. Rinehart never sold his work to the public; rather, middlemen would buy his output in bulk and on-sell it to tourist shops across the USA. By the time they were on-sold they were often claimed to be authentic Native American artefacts. Sometimes they were given fake patina by abrading and/or staining the surfaces, although it is unclear whether this was done by Rinehart or the middlemen in the transaction.
Rinehart worked in isolation for much of his career, but in the late 1960s he met flintknappers Errett Callahan and J. B. Sollberger. Some aficionados of Rinehart’s work suggest that his bifaces improved in quality after this interaction with Callahan and Sollberger, and began to more closely resemble traditional Native American styles, at least in outline. In the 1970s Rinehart met flintknappers Larry Nelson and Richard Warren and his flaking became more refined and more precisely-patterned under their influence.
Other flinknappers were also known to use lever devices to make Gray Ghosts from sawn slabs and lever pressure-flaking devices are now sold by some modern flinknapping suppliers. Other well-known Gray Ghost flintknappers include Richard Warren—an early master of the flake-over-grind method—and Dave Tussinger, son of the famous early flintknapper Mack Tussinger. Flintknappers refer to the lever method of making large bifaces as ‘scale’ work. Rinehart’s Gray Ghosts are now highly desirable to collectors of modern flintknapping art.