Stone Tool Stories: 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

Red deer antler punches have been recovered from Mesolithic and Neolithic sites in Northern Europe, and were probably used in indirect percussion blade-making.  Antler and bone ‘drifts’ in North America were used for indirect percussion in biface manufacture, as observed in early historical accounts.  Stone punches may have been used for the indirect percussion technique to make rectangular-sectioned adzes in New Zealand, where deer (and hence antlers) were absent prior to the European invasion, although bone may also have been used.  Rectangular-sectioned adzes in Indonesia were probably made with antler or bone punches.