This rectangular-sectioned bead blank was made by a Khambhat flintknapper in India in 2015. The Khambhat knapper apply the indirect percussion ‘Cambay Technique’ to reduce this piece of chert (jasper).
The bead blank in this model is made from a banded brown chert referred to colloquially as ‘jasper’. This is an early stage roughout; several more series of flake removals are necessary to create a blank sufficiently small and refined for grinding into a tubular bead. Highly-prized agate (chalcedony) bead blanks would undergo repeated heat-treatment between flake-removal series to enhance the bead’s colour. Three bifacial edges have been established on this rectangular-sectioned blank, and flaking from one end is also visible.
Stone beadmaking was once widespread in India and was practiced wherever suitable stone was available, and traditional flintknapping techniques continue to be used in Khambhat (Cambay) in Gujarat, India. The earliest description of the ‘Cambay Technique’ is in the 16th Century, so it has been practiced continuously for at least 500 years. Specialist flintknappers in the region have been making stone beads since the Harappan Phase of the Indus Tradition, ca. 4500 BP, but the maximum time depth of the Cambay Technique is unresolved. The Cambay Technique is used in the preliminary stages of bead-making to shape the heat-treated stone blanks, which are then ground, polished, and drilled.
Wood and buffalo horn hammers are used in the Cambay indirect percussion technique. A thin wood handle is inserted through the hole in the hammer. The platform on the stone core is held against the tip of a pointed steel stake embedded in an angle in the ground, and a hammer-blow is struck against the core. The flake initiates from the point where the steel stake contacts the core. Flakes fly up towards the knapper, who is seated on the ground in front of the stake, thus most modern Cambay Technique flintknappers wear safety glasses. In this technique, the core face is not supported, so flakes tend to end in axial terminations. This is ideal for preparing rectangular-sectioned blanks for beads. The hammer is rotated as it is worn by re-inserting the handle into the opposite hole, but the faces are often reworked with a steel file. The iron stake is sometimes removed from the hole, the tip is reworked against an abrasive stone, and the stake is replaced.