Taking a knap. (See what I did there?)

We went to the library Saturday and saw a demonstration of flint knapping.

Flint knapping is chipping a rock into a useful tool like an arrowhead or knife. Why didn’t somebody think of this before? This guy used obsidian because it’s the easiest to work with. He would initially knock off a chunk of obsidian with a rock. Then he’d alternately grind the edges and flake off small pieces with an antler. It sounds like it’s not trivial to learn. The type of rock you’d often use in New Mexico would be chert. You would possibly want to heat up chert to make it easier to work with. Once heated, it is permanently easier to chip. He finished making an arrowhead in the demonstration. Such arrowheads were one-shot deals and broke very easily. I tried shooting with a compound bow a while back and just wasted the arrows as they flew into the ground and were lost or ruined. I can only imagine if I’d taken 30 minutes fashioning each arrowhead, how much more frustrated I’d have been when I’d missed. Well, my mission in life is to ask the stupid questions, so I asked if you could just have sharpened a stick for an arrow instead of going to all that trouble. He said you could. The arrow wouldn’t penetrate as well, though. I also asked if you could shave with obsidian. He said he’d heard of some guys who would go down to the river, knock off an obsidian flake, and shave with it. Obsidian is very sharp when it’s broken off. It’s sharp enough to use for surgeryÂ…novelty surgery where sponges are direct from the sea, lobster claws are the clamps, and the anesthesia is grog. Arrrr!

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