Stone Tool Stories: 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. 

Bone pressure flaker 1, Alaska

Pressure Flaker

Bone pressure flaker 1 Alaska

Pressure Flaker

Pressure flaker Wall Site NC

Pressure Flaker

Pressure flaking tool, Alaska

Pressure Flaking Tool

In the Kimberley region of Australia, Aboriginal flintknappers usually used the ulna of a kangaroo for pressure flaking, but they also used crocodile mandibles or, in one case, a human leg bone.  Teeth might be used in pressure flaking—the Yahi flintknapper Ishi had a beaver tooth in his flintknapping kit—but tooth enamel tends to be brittle and unsuitable for forceful techniques.  Aboriginal flintknappers used their back teeth to micro-flake the edges of flake tools to prepare them for use.  Experimental archaeologists have shown that the sharp edge of a stone flake can be used as a pressure flaker to make notches and edge serrations.