Indirect Percussion Flaking

Blade core indirect percussion France

Indirect percussion flaking involved removing flakes using a punch: the punch was placed on the platform and then struck, initiating the flake at the desired location.  By adjusting the angle of the punch, the stoneworker could very precisely balance the force of compression down the length of the developing flake (‘downward’ force) and the shearing force which opens up the crack (‘outward’ force).  

The punch could be adjusted relative to the contours on the core face and placed at precise distances from the core edge.  The tip of a punch could also be positioned in places that would be impossible to reach by direct percussion, such as within a concavity on the core edge.  An organic punch flexes when it is struck and more slowly releases the force into the core than in direct percussion. 

Punches were mostly made from antler, although horn, bone, or wood may have also been used.  Modern flintknappers have successfully used stone punches to shape rectangular-sectioned adze blanks.  Indirect percussion arose relatively late in prehistory but was discovered independently in various times and places.

Indirect Percussion Bifacial Thinning and Shaping

A biface is a core with flakes struck to opposite faces along the same platform edge.  Sophisticated strategies emerged early in prehistory to create bifacially-flaked tools because the bifacial platform edge is sharp, robust, and suitable for a variety of tasks.  This was sometimes accomplished using punches and an indirect percussion technique.

Etley point, Missouri

Etley Point

Indirect Percussion Notching

Notches for hafting were sometimes made using an indirect percussion punch.  The punch was set onto the negative flake scar from the prior punch-flake, the new flake was removed and the blank flipped over, and the process was repeated multiple times.  By flaking the same spot on the margin, the notch could be progressively deepened.  

Lost Lake point, Alabama

Lost Lake Point

Indirect Percussion Blade-making

The indirect percussion technique was widely used to produce blades in Europe and Western Asia, particularly during the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods.  Using a punch allowed very precise adjustment of the balance of forces that initiate and sustain the crack as it travels through the stone.

Blade indirect percussion Denmark retouched

Retouched Blade

Blade core Livre de Burre

Livre de Beurre Core

Blade core indirect percussion France

Blade Core

Blade, Beidha


Blade indirect percussion glossed


Blade, indirect percussion, Denmark 2


Blade, Indirect percussion Denmark 3


Indirect Percussion Quadrifacial Shaping

Indirect percussion was used to make rectangular-sectioned blanks for edge-ground axes and adzes in Europe, Indonesia, and the Pacific.  These blanks are flaked on all four faces from the four bifacial edges that define the cross section.  The blanks are ‘quadrifacial’ in flaking pattern.

Bead blank, Khambhat

Bead Blank

Khambhat modern point 2

Modern Art, Khambhat Flintknapper

screenshot (2)

Modern Art, Marquardt Lund

screenshot (3)

Rectangular-Sectioned Adze

Hawai'i adze

Stone Adze

Adze blank, Song Gupuh

Stone Adze Blank

Thick-butted rect sectioned axe AIA 1

Thick-Butted Axe

Square-sectioned axe blank

Thick-Butted Axe Blank

Square-sectioned axe Denmark 1

Thin-Bladed Thick-Butted Axe

Thin-butted axe, AIA, Denmark

Thin-Butted Axe

Quadrifacial axe, Denmark 2

Thin-Butted Axe Blank

Indirect Percussion Stitching

‘Stitching’ involved producing a bifacial edge down the centre of a relatively flat surface of a biface.  The technique arose independently in Denmark and Indonesia.  

Adze blank stitched from Indonesia

Stone Adze Blank

Danish Dagger Type IV 1

Type IV Dagger