Chert corner-notched point made by a modern Khambhat flintknapper in India, ca. 2012. Traditionally, the Khambhat knappers applied the indirect percussion ‘Cambay Technique’ to reduce small stone nodules into rectangular-sectioned blanks for beads. Since ca. 2000 they have adapted their techniques to make bifacial points and eccentrics to sell online as knick-knacks and for jewellery.
This model mimics North American-style corner notched points, such as the Kirk Corner-notched point. However, it is larger and thicker than Kirk Corner-notched points, and the steep edge retouching is not a typical trait of North American bifacial tools. The flaking of both faces and the notching demonstrate expert flintknapping skill by this anonymous modern knapper.
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.
Since ca. 2000 the Khambhat bead-makings have adapted their indirect percussion-flaking techniques to make bifacial points and eccentrics for sale on the internet. These flaked-stone items are extremely common world-wide at markets and as elements of jewellery. The Khambhat knappers mimic ancient notched points—particularly corner-notched bifaces made in prehistory by Native Americans—but also make facsimiles of Scandinavian daggers, Mayan eccentrics, and other archaeological objects. The knappers approximately reproduce the outline of these tools, but they are distinctly different technologically from the prehistoric originals. Many of the notched and stemmed forms made by the Khambhat knappers are ‘fantasies’ in that they have no recognisable flaked-stone counterpoints from prehistory. They also make mandala-shaped objects, Coptic Christian crosses, birds, and other eccentric designs.