This chert flake from northern Chile was hafted onto a handle with plant fibre lashing. The artefact dates to the Chinchorro Tradition, ca. 3100-9000 BP.
This artefact was recovered from Camarones 15, an important archaeological site dating to the Chinchorro Tradition. The Chinchorro Tradition people were sedentary hunter-gatherers with a coastal economy, exploiting fish, molluscs, sea mammals, and other maritime resources. Their sites are found in the arid coastal regions of the Atacama Desert extending from southern Peru to northern Chile. The Chinchorro Tradition is famous for the hundreds of mummies that have been recovered from burial sites. The mummies date to ca. 3800-7000 BP, and are the oldest examples of deliberate mummification in the world. Chinchorro Tradition people suffered from elevated arsenic levels in their bodies due to the concentrations of this chemical in their natural environment, resulting in high rates of infant mortality.
The dry environment of the Atacama Desert was conducive to the preservation of organic remains such as the handle and lashing on the knife in this model. It is from the site of Camarones 15 and likely dates to the end of the Chinchorro Tradition, ca. 2500-4000 BP. The knife was made by lashing a thin flake onto the flat end of a stick, probably from the tamarugo tree. The lashing material appears to be narrow strips of bark or plant bast. The flake was mounted with the platform end facing outward. It was struck from a core using a soft organic hammer, such as bone/antler or wood. The platform is very small, indicating a strike onto the edge of the core, and the crack was initiated by bending. It may be a biface thinning flake. Bend-initiated micro flakes are present near the lashing on the thin edge; this can be a type of use-wear, and the location of the wear gives us a good idea of how the knife was held and used.
The artefact is curated by the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Chile, artefact no. 4821c CAM 15.