Written By: John Campbell
Photos By: John Campbell
Some of these photos you may have seen on my site before. I am using them here because they fit in with this article. For a long time I have been fascinated with primitive technology. So much in fact that I have spent the last ten years or so studying the indigenous technology of my area. Not surprising, but I have found that a lot of the skills the indigenous tribes used in day to day life can also be found in other locations. This means that the learned skills must have been traded and/or taught to other peoples. It is also possible that the same ideas were used out of necessity making the finished tool look similar to one found in areas 100s or even 1,000s of miles away. We do know that a lot of cultures traded with people from very far away. They have found parrot feathers in Anasazi ruins while the same type of parrot feathers were found in ruins in Northern Mexico. It was discovered through research that these parrots were traded and brought north from the South American Rainforest. Looking at the scale of miles, these birds and their feathers traveled a long way.
The photo to the left is of a petroglyph from one of the ruins in my area. In a lot of cases there is not a lot of information on a specific ruin or tribe that inhabited the area. The one thing I can say for sure is they made stone tools. While visiting museums like the Smoki in Prescott Arizona, Tuzigoot in the Verdy Valley, and even Edge of the Cedars in Blanding Utah I have learned of the similarities in the tool making of these Peubloan cultures. Many of the tools used are very similar in the way they look and the way they were made.
First thing I did while studying these types tools was to look at others including photos online that were part of collections or from other museums from around the country. With all the tools I have seen it is very apparent that many were made when needed. These same tools would also serve more than one purpose. In a lot of cases these same types of tools were found in areas where there was no evidence of a ruin or a even a camp. This tells me something even more, these tools could have even been made on the spot at the time they were needed. The more I studied the more I was curious of why go through all that trouble to make a tool to simply discard it? Surprisingly enough about six months later I got my answer.
While hiking around in the desert I made it a point to leave a lot of the necessary equipment at home. My reasoning was sound, I wanted to find out what was in the general area that I could use to make a stone tool. Upon testing several types in a wash I knew that all stones needed a very tight grain in order to produce a decent tool. I had some stones of varying make ups, one was basalt, and some were of a mix of jaspers, agates, and some chalcedony. What I found out was that the basalt made a very usable tool, but the edge didn’t last very long while processing cordage. This really wasn’t a huge deal the wash was full of this type of stone. The others I found made excellent tools with very sharp edges. These even lasted much longer than the basalt discoid blades and were much easier to flake. The draw back was that these types of stones weren’t just laying around all over the place. The jaspers, agates, and chalcedony would have you hunting for stone for days before you found any that were usable. This is why I strongly believe that the artifacts found and left in certain areas and made on the spot were of a very common stone. once it was made it was used to its fullest and dropped. Looking at the other types of tools I did notice the stone was different, some were even made out of common opal. This stuff I have only found in areas with a certain type of clay, even then it has to be dug out of the clay layer.
With the various types of stone tools I have made and used, I find that making them does take a little time. I have actually adopted the Archaic Period for my stone tool making. My personal feelings on this are that the tools were made from a flake busted off a core. These were then shaped into the needed tool. The photo on the left shows you some of the tools I have made in the past. These are quick and simple tools that will work. These are made of common opal and two were made from the core and the other two were made from flakes struck from the core itself. On the far left is a tool made by striking the edge with a hammer stone to make a cutting tool. This is held in the hand and used much like a regular knife for skinning game and cutting up meat. In the middle resting on my bow drill spindle is what I call a square knife. This type of blade has a lot of uses from cutting to scraping. This I have found can also be hafted to a handle and used to flesh hides. Just below that is a strange shaped tool. This one I made on the spot when I needed to good tool to make arrow shafts while in the field. I was able to cut my arrow shafts to length, cut the notches for the knock and hafting the point , and with the curved section a knapped I was able to smooth and shape the shaft of the arrow. The tool on the right is another knife. This was made by striking the core and making a sharp knife like edge. This one is a little thicker than your average blade, it is meant to be held in the hand and used to skin and carve.
Many stone tools I have made in the field took a mere minutes to create yet they served a very big purpose. I have used many stone tools in the past make arrows, atlatl darts, and even traps. I have then in turn used the same tool to prepare the fireboard and spindle, clean and prepare the fish and small game that was trapped. These tools are very viable and still work just as well to day as the time our ancestors used them for daily life.