GLOSSARY

Here are some words you may run across in primitive and traditional skills circles.


[A] [B] [C] [D] [E] [F] [G] [H] [I] [J] [K] [L] [M] [N] [O] [P] [Q] [R] [S] [T] [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y] [Z] 
A

 ABRADE-to dull a platform edge so as to strengthen it in preparation for billet or pressure flaking. Go here to read an article that contains information on abrading. The piece of grinding wheel or stone that is used for abrading is called an "abrader."

 ARCHAIC-an American Indian Culture period dating from 3,000 to 10,000 B.P.

B

 B.P.-Before the present era.

 BARB-long pointed wing-like shoulders that are usually at the base end of a point.

 BASE-the hafted end of a point.

 BEVEL-a slanted edge pressure flaked into an edge for the purpose of resharpening.

 BIFACE- A point that has been worked and shaped on two sides.

 BIFURCATED-a basal stem on a point that has been notched up the center so that the base is "split."  Click here for a drawing.

 BIRD POINTS-are very small arrowheads.  Although they are thought by many to have been used for hunting birds, they have been found by archeologists embedded in bodies as if they had been used in warfare.

 BILLET- A little "club" used to strike an edge on stone in order to shape it by the removal of flakes. Traditionally made of antler there are currently many knappers who use billets made of copper. Advantages and disadvantages of the two billet materials are often a matter of debate. Click here to see a picture. Actually, only those made of wood should be called "billets."  The antler ones are more accurately referred to as "batons."  But you'll rarely hear that at a knap-in.

 BULB OF PERCUSSION- The initial area, where a flake was struck in order to detach it, is often thicker. The flake then thins down quickly and fans out. That thicker area is called the bulb of percussion.

C

 CACHE-a group of points found all together in one place. Usually all the same kind, and unnotched.  Possibly they were buried for the purpose of storage or safekeeping until needed.

 CENTER LINE- Click here for a detailed description of this term.

 CONCHOIDAL FRACTURE-Glass fractures conchoidally. The shock wave produced when the glass is struck fans out from the point of impact and spreads through the glass. The next example I will give has become a cliche' in flintknapping circles, but that is because it perfectly describes conchoidal fracturing. When a pane of glass is hit with a BB from an air rifle, a cone of glass is removed and falls out the other side of the pane. That cone is called a herzian cone. We want to use that cone of force to remove flakes from stone that has the ability to fracture in this manner...conchoidally.  The scar from conchoidal fracturing found on the surface of a point is kind of "shell" shaped.
 
 

D

 DISTAL-The tip end of the point.
 
 

E

 END SNAP- Sometimes when you hit the base or the tip of your preform, the other end snaps and breaks off. Then you have two points to work on. The preform needs to be supported to dampen the shock to the piece. Click here to go to an article that will help with this problem.

F

 FLAKE SCAR-The surface depression left when a flake is removed.

 FLINTKNAPPING- An addiction one acquires from pursuing the creation of tools through the use of stone that can be flaked and fractured conchoidally.

 FLUTE-a channel on one or both sides of a point.  Made by striking a flake off the base that aims toward the tip.  Characteristic of Folsom and Clovis type points.
 
 

G
 
 

H

 HAMMERSTONE- Small roundish stones used as hammers to strike platforms so as to remove flakes. Hard quartzite works nicely. I like to use egg-shaped ones of various sizes. Sometimes banks and other places have landscaping that incorporates round, smooth, quartite hammerstones. I tell you this because that way...you will know what hammerstones look like.

 HINGE FRACTURE- Sometimes a flake will not feather out nicely at the end. Instead the resulting scar will terminate abruptly leaving a step. If you don't abrade you can end up with crushed edges that have all kinds of step fractures to contend with.

 In addition every subsequent flake that is taken off in that area will terminate there and cause a grotesque stack. Improper angles can also cause steps.

Don't feel bad. I've seen original artifacts that have hinges and bad stacks. If you've already tried removing the hinge by catching it with a flake sent from the opposite side, or putting the flake back in and using indirect percussion, then try prying it off with pressure flaking techniques using a sharp flat "screwdriver" shaped point on your flaker. There are some other methods of questionable traditional nature. For instance; Flat copper breaker bars, curved copper hinge remover tools, grinder machine, etc, etc, etc.

 HEAT TREATING-Heating up cherts so that the knappibility improves.  Some stone can take a lot of heat treating, some none at all.  It was utilized prehistorically as well.
 
 

I
 
 

J

 JUST HIT IT-that's what Dan Belknap tells me when I'm taking too long and looking at a spall, holding off on that first strike because it looks like there might be some cracks in it. "I don't know, Dan...looks like a couple of cracks here. Do you think these will hold?"

 "Hit it!" Dan says with a grin, "Whack it a good one!"
 
 

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M
 
 

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O

OUTREPASSE'- The platform was pefect. Angle and conditions were optimal. The flake flew across the entire width of the face and went right off the other side...taking a piece of that edge with it. That, my friend, is an "Outrepassé." It is a french term that means "overshoot." They are, at times, an effective and bonifide thinning technique. Just ask contemporary European knappers. Other times, if it comes later when you can't afford to lose any width on the piece, it is a problem. Check your angles and/or the power of your billet strike.

 
 

P

 PALEO-archeological period lasting from 40,000 to 12,000 B.P.

 PLATFORM- The striking place. Or, in the case of pressure flaking, the place where the point of the pressure flaker applies its force. But then again, the best definition I ever saw came from Bob Patton. He called it simply "the impact site." Platforms can be good or bad depending on the knappers level of experience. You can go here to read an article that contains information on what some requirements are for a good platform.

 PREFORM- This is the state that a point is in at any stage before it is a finished. Sometimes a cache will contain many preforms that only need some final edgework or notching to be finished tools.

 PRESSURE FLAKING- Flakes are pushed off of a preform edge using pressure from an antler or copper tipped tool.  A lot of times this is the final stage of stone tool making as the edge is straightened and sharpened and the final retouch is accomplished.
 
 

Q
 
 

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S

 STACK-

 STEP FRACTURE-
 
 

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U

 UNIFACE- A point that has been worked on only one side. This would leave the other side with the original smooth surface from when the flake was removed.
 
 

V

 VICTIM- The unfortunate person who tries the "Hot Rock and Cold water droplet" legend in an attempt to make a point. A very dangerous pastime with great potential for injury.

W

 WOODLAND-an archeological period that goes from 3,000 to 1,300 B.P.

X
 
 

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Z