Direct Percussion Flaking

Pebble-edged core, Australia_1

Direct percussion flaking involves striking the core platform with a hammer (or ‘indentor’) to detach the flake.  Forceful blows are called ‘percussion’ to differentiate the technique from ‘pressure’, which involved pressing the flakes from the core.  

The direct percussion technique was practiced in all times and places and almost all toolmaking methods used percussion flaking at some point in the reduction sequence. The history of human technology began with flaking and some researchers have suggested that the evolution of the human hand and arm was driven in part by the need to percussion-flake stone into tools.

Relevant attributes are pinned in each model's annotations.

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Hard-Hammer, Core Reduction

Core reduction often involved striking flakes directly from a core to produce flake tools for immediate use,  or flake blanks for further reduction.  If a stone hammer is used for this, the technique is referred to as hard-hammer direct percussion.

Single platform core rock show

Single Platform Core

Core, Tanzania

Oldowan Core

Levallois core Germany re-do 1

Levallois Core

Levallois core, Israel

Levallois Core

Flake, Italy AIA

Flake

Cobble chopper, Niger

Bifacial Core

Bidirectional core, Anaiwan

Bidirectional Core

Hard-Hammer, Shaping

Cobbles and flake blanks were often shaped into tools by hard-hammer percussion.  Some tools, such as handaxes from the early archaeological record, and edge-ground axes made in later prehistory, were shaped entirely by striking off flakes with a hard hammerstone.  

Axe blank Manchester UK

Stone Axe Blank

Adze, Langda

Stone Adze

Pebble edge core Moonee Beach ARPA 1

Pebble-Edged Core

Biface handaxe Camooweal

Handaxe

Hard-Hammer, Retouching and Resharpening

The most common stone tool in all times and places—and arguably the most common tool in human history—is the simple sharp-edged flake.  These flake tools were often used just as they were struck from the core, but sometimes the edges were trimmed by flaking to produce a certain shape or edge-angle.  This trimming is called ‘retouching’ by archaeologists, and the resulting tool is a ‘retouched flake’.

Liang Bua perforator

Retouched Flake

Macroblade point, Helen Springs NT

Macroblade Point

Large backed flake

Flake Chopper

Hard-Hammer Blade-making

By archaeological convention, a ‘blade’ is a flake that is more than twice as long as wide and roughly parallel-sided.  Flakes of this shape were useful as knives and daggers and as armatures for spears and arrows, and they were often used as blanks for retouching into other tools.  In many parts of the world, blades were made by directly striking the core platform with a hard hammerstone.

Blade core, bidirectional, Jordan

Naviform Blade Core

Macroblade with bees wax 1

Macroblade Point

Macroblade point, Wave Hill 1

Macroblade Point

Macroblade NT ARPA donation

Macroblade Point

Macroblade Kimberley metased

Macroblade Point

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Macroblade Core

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Macroblade Core

Macroblade core, Azerbaijan

Macroblade Core

Blade, Jebel al-Faya UAE

Blade

In bipolar flaking, the core was braced on a hard anvil surface and a blow was struck onto the top with a hammerstone, splitting it into sharp-edged flakes and fragments. The technique is similar to using a hammer to crack a nut.  

Bipolar core, USA

Bipolar Core

Bipolar core, Indiana

Bipolar Core

Truncating

Sometimes a flat piece of stone—usually a flake—was laid flat on a hard surface and struck near the middle of the face with a hammerstone, breaking it into sections.  This is called ‘truncating’ by archaeologists.  The technique was useful for creating stone pieces with robust right-angled edges that were ideal for scraping and shaving wood and bone.

Gunflint UK 2

Gunflint

Soft-Hammer, Thinning and Resharpening

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 ideal for thinning a biface.  

Solutrean biface Volgu

Laurel Leaf Biface

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Clovis Point

Sweetwater Biface

Caddo Biface

Biface thinning flake, USA

Biface Thinning Flake

Biface thinning flake Bletchington

Biface Thinning Flake

Soft-Hammer, Blade-making

Soft hammers were used in various parts of the world to produce blades by direct percussion.  This involved striking right on the edge of the blade core, and the blanks produced by this were relatively thin with small platforms.

Microblade core, Hopewell

Microblade Core