Flintknapping Tools

Pressure flaking tool, Alaska

Stone tool manufacture, or flintknapping, was accomplished using stone hammers or organic hammers, such as antler, bone, or very hard wood.  Historically, flintknappers and stonemasons used iron hammers, and modern hobbyist flintknappers often use hammers made from soft copper.  This gallery displays flintknapping tools by type rather than by geographical region.

  

Hammerstones

Hammerstones are the most common flintknapping tool in the archaeological record.  These tools were often highly prized because it can be difficult to find a stone of the appropriate shape, weight, and material to suit various flaking techniques.  Hammerstones of hard materials, such as igneous or metavolcanic rocks, were used for removing flakes by striking in from the edge of the core (called ‘off-edge percussion’); and softer stones, such as limestone or sandstone, were used to remove flakes by striking right onto the edge of the core (called ‘on-edge percussion’).  The effects from using soft hammerstones can be similar to the effects from using soft organic hammers, such as antler.

Hammerstone, USA

Hammerstone

Tosawihi hammerstone 7

Hammerstone

Hammerstone, Anaiwan 1

Hammerstone

Hammerstone Ukraine

Hammerstone

Hammer, Horn 1

Horn Hammer

Hammer, Horn 2

Horn Hammer

Hammer, Wood

Wood Hammer

Metal Stone Flaking Tools

Stone tool technology did not disappear with the invention of metallurgy and in many areas stone tools persisted side-by-side metal technology for thousands of years. Metal tools were made for both percussion and pressure flaking, and most modern flintknapper hobbyists use metal tools.

Pressure Flakers

In pressure flaking, force is transferred by pressing against the stone rather than striking it, and both bone and antler work well for this.  In prehistory, bone tended to be used for light percussion, such as retouching the edges of flakes, or for pressure flaking.  Bone pressure flakers were often splinters shaped from larger bones.  Deer antler tines are ideally-shaped for pressure flaking, and Ötzi, the Chalcolithic ‘iceman’, was carrying an antler pressure flaker in his toolkit when he froze to death in the Tyrolean Alps in Italy about 5000 years ago. 

Pressure flaker Wall Site NC

Pressure Flaker

Bone pressure flaker 1 Alaska

Pressure Flaker

Bone pressure flaker 1, Alaska

Pressure Flaker

Pressure flaking tool, Alaska

Pressure Flaking Tool

Punches

Flintknappers often used an antler hammer, called a ‘billet’, to strike the core directly, but one technique—called indirect percussion—was accomplished using a relatively short antler or bone punch.  The punch was held against the edge of the stone and struck with a mallet, detaching the flake.  The flintknapper could be very precise in placing the punch on the core’s platform.  

Antler punch 1

Antler Punch

Soft Hammers

Soft-hammer percussion flaking involved detaching flakes with a soft indentor, such as an antler, bone, wood, or soft stone such as limestone or sandstone.  In bifacial flaking, flakes were removed from two faces of the stone from the one platform edge, and soft hammers were the best tool for thinning a biface because of the way the soft material transfers force into the stone.  

Tim Dillard antler billet

Modern Art, Tim Dillard