Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bob Patten, High Plains Paleo Flintnapper

Bob Patten, High Plains Paleo Flintnapper By Ray Harwood

Bob Patten has been flintknapping for nearly 40 years and is self
taught. He uses as close to aboriginal methods as possible. He has
just released a book where he shares his extensive knowledge in a
concise, yet comprehensive, overview of flintknapping. He clearly
explains the principles and concepts required to make stone tools.
According to Dr. James Dixon, Denver Museum of Natural history-
archaeologist, "Old tools-New Eyes is the best book of its type I
have had the pleasure to read. Bob is one of North America's greatest
flintknappers." Bob's book contains these concepts on ; Appreciate
early tool making skills, Link appearance of an artifact with the way
it was made, understand and control fracture, receive detailed
instructions on how to make arrowheads, learn how classic artifact
types were made , view 200 carefully prepared illustrations and
acquire fresh ideas and novel viewpoints.

The biggest influence on Bob Patten's knapping was Indian artifacts.
At first, he tried to copy them by referring to standard typology
based on shapes. It wasn't long though before he got hooked on
tracing out the whole start-to-finish process. When Bob got access to
collections of workshop debitage through the Smithsonian Institution
his progress really took off. Since then, he has come to think that
only a few minor shifts in technology are responsible for the whole
range of paleo-style points. Bob also thought that it may not take
that much skill to match paleo-indian work. The trick is to focus
less on the end results and more on how you get there.

Many years ago Bob heard Don Crabtree remark that many areas of the
world lacked large antlered animals, so there must be different tools
which serve as well as antler to explain the artifacts which were
being found. Since that time, Bob has found that it is possible to do
the same things with many kinds of tools if one understands the
mechanics involved. Part of his work involves finding out how many
tools can create the same effect.

Bob patten's style of percussion work is very relaxed. Instead of
supporting the preform on his leg, he keeps his work as loose in his
left hand as is possible. He also swings his baton very loosely. He
has a strong preference for working against individually prepared
striking platforms. Even when he is pressure flaking, he usually uses
a copper "nibbler" to set up spur platforms.Most of Bob Patten's
pressure work is done with unhafted antler tines. He usually works in
a sitting position with his left hand on top of his leg and works the
tine with wrist and arm action. The exception has been when he uses a
table block for Eden flaking.

PATTEN AND THE PALEO KNAPPERS : The Late Don Crabtree, of southern
Idaho, is considered to be the "Dean of American Flintknapping" not
only for his fine publications, but also for the vast amount of
important information he uncovered in a life devoted to the study of
stone tools. Don was most probably the first flintknapper in
thousands of years to flute a Folsom point, as early as 1941 Crabtree
was employed at the Lithic Laboratory at the University of
Pennsylvania and the prestigious Smithsonian Institution. He had
experimented with fluting in the 1930s but became quite famous for
his studies into the Lindenmier Folsom in 1966 . Don Crabtree passed
away on November 16, 1980. Jeffery Flenniken and Gene Titmus,
students of Crabtree carried on the studies and are still considered
to be among the best flintknappers in the world. In Texas, The late
J.B. Sollberger was considered the master of Folsom and learned on
his own to create masterful fluted points with a methodology
involving the use of the fulcrum and lever . J.B.s replicas were
beautifully crafted out of the finest of Texas flints. Again part of
the Sollberger legacy is the vast amount of published works and
theories that he pioneered. J.B. passed away on May, 7th 1995. In the
Southern United States two knappers of quite diverse back grounds
were also working on the Folsom mystery: D.C. Waldorf of Missouri and
Errett Callahan of Virginia. Waldorf crafted his replicas in a large
part to sell in the commercial market place, and sold them as
replicas, but also to research the Folsom technologies for books he
would later write and market. One of Waldorf's books, The Art of
Flintknapping, sold over 40,000 copies. Waldorf is still active in
both flintknapping and the study of fluted point technologies and he
and his wife, Val, publish a magazine called Chips that is devoted to
flintknapping. Callahan also worked and studied in a social vacuum in
the 1960s, but he had the advantage of academia behind him, yet in
those days the published material was both sparse and, to a large
degree, incorrect. Callahan went on to publish perhaps the most
important paper written to date on fluted point studies, The Basics
of Biface Knapping in the Eastern Fluted Point Tradition. In the
American Southwest Circa the mid to late 1960s, the new Folsom age
was being revised by two additional notable experimentalists, Bob
Patten, of Lakewood, Colorado and Bruce Bradley of Tucson, Arizona.
Bruce Bradley worked closely with Crabtree and Sollberger as well as
French flintknapper Francois Bordes. Once Bruce Bradley's knapping
skills were well honed he began working with some of the world's best
known Paleo-archaeologists; George Frison, Vance Haynes, Rob
Bonnichson and Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian Institute. In 1980
Bruce Bradley was involved with these scientists in a PBS Odyssey
television special called Seeking The First Americans. In this now
classic film Bruce Bradley knapped two paleo type points. Bradley
also participated in "Clovis and beyond" and continues his
involvement in lithic research. Bob Patten learned the high plains
paleo tradition and became a master of creating Folsom points out of
tough unheated lithic materials. Ten Years after Bruce Bradley
appeared on the Odyssey special, Bob Patten was featured crafting a
fluted Clovis point in the PBS television special- NOVA: Search For
the First Americans, and like the Odyssey special ten years before,
the film featured Dennis Stanford and Vance Haynes. Nearly a decade
after the film Bob published a book on his flintknapping
methodologies called Old Stones New Eyes. Bob is often seen around
the country conducting Flintknapping demonstrations at archaeological
meetings and was recently featured at "Clovis and Beyond" and "The
Folsom Workshop" . Most of the knappers today are not part of the
1960s experimentalism movement, the new field of thought is
as "lithic art" and the points are created not with aboriginal
methods that add to the data base of experimental archaeology, but
with lapidary equipment, they contribute very little to the study of
stone tools or ancient artifact studies. The Folsom fluted lanceolate
point was named by J.D. Figgins in 1934 after Folsom, New Mexico.
According to the American Museum of Natural History the first Folsom
point was discovered near Folsom, New Mexico on September 1, 1927 on
a joint expedition by archaeologists from the American Museum of
Natural History and the Denver Museum of Natural History. This small
fluted dart or spear point stands among the most important
archaeological finds ever made on this continent. This artifact is
now displayed in a cast of the bones of an ancient extinct bison in
which it was embedded, thus re-creating the context in which it was
found by members of that original expedition. Folsom points tend to
date between 10,000 BC to 8,000 BC. Folsom points have a large
geographic range within the Americas. Folsom points are characterized
by their short lanceolate basic form, concave base and long flute
extending on both faces from base, or proximal end, toward the tip,
or distal end, of the point. The purpose of the flute has long been
the subject of great controversy. Some have postulated that the flute
is an artistic element and may represent a flame and others feel it
has a functional purpose and was for blood letting from the wound of
their prey, thus causing the prey to bleed and weaken and leave a
trail for the hunter to fallow. others feel it is simply a hafting
technique where the split shaft nicely fits into the fluted channel.
What-ever the purpose, it seems to have evolved and been accentuated
from the older Clovis points that were also fluted from the base, or
proximal end. According to Michael Waters (1999), from Texas A&M
University, archaeologists: in the early 1950s artifacts, later to
become known as Clovis, were found beneath the Folsom cultural
horizon at Blackwater Draw, near Clovis, New Mexico and were later
carbon dated to nearly 13,359 BP. Clovis appears to have highbred, or
evolved into Folsom and the point made more stream-lined and the
flute improved and accentuated, the technology changing with hunting
technologies that were closely intertwined with the available game.

According to Paleo specialist, Bob Patten, of Lakewood, Colorado
(1999) when mammoths went extinct, spear points went through a re-
engineering, from the large Clovis to a more delicate form dominated
by the central flute scar. Instead of the mammoth the new quarry was
Bison Antiquus, a larger and more formidable game than the modern
bison.Even with the past few decades of Paleo point replication
studies the true production methodology is not completely understood.
According to Patten "it is likely that it will be some time before we
can say we know with assurance how Folsom points were made". Patten
prefers a method known as the rocker punch method. Patten's response
to the aboriginal flute method is this "My answer is that aboriginal
flute flake scars have distinctive attributes of flatness, rippling,
thickness, and so on. The rocker punch method seems to most closely
match original results" (Patten, 1999). At this time in
archaeological circles the theories on the first peoples of the New
World have been changing, rather than crossing the Bering land bridge
from northeast Asia to Alaska theories, they have come up with
theories of "paleo-notical", a Paleo ocean migration from Europe
along the edge of the polar ice cap into the northern most tip of
North America. Clovis-like Solutrean projectile points found in
Europe help support this hypothesis . If Clovis man indeed came to
the New World by boat, then it is my theory that the fluted point
technology was originally one that came from stone age harpoon tips.
In Alaska there is a fluted point type known as the Dorset point
which is characterized by two precise flutes or harpoon end blades
removed from the tip or distal end of this small flint triangular
harpoon point type. These paleo-eskimo points were part of a
specialized material culture based on northern marine exploitation
(Renouf, 1991) The first big game brought down by fluted points was
possibly not Pleistocene mega-fauna but large sea mammals, and the
altatl may have first been a harpoon launcher and later adapted to
land use as a spear thrower.

Bob Patten, known to all for his knapping and writing won this years
SAA Crabtree award. Below the SAA discribes sais award and past
awardees. Thanks for the dedication and contributions Bob.
Crabtree Award
Established in 1985 to recognize significant contributions to
archaeology in the Americas made by individual who has had little if
any formal training in archaeology and little if any wage or salary
as an archaeologist. The award is named after Don Crabtree of Twin
Falls, Idaho, who made significant contributions to the study of
lithic technology and whose dedication to archaeology was a lifelong
personal and financial commitment. The awardees have been:

1985 Clarence H. Webb, MD
1987 Leonard W. Blake
1988 Julian Dodge Hayden
1989 J. B. Sollberger
1990 Ben C. McCary
1991 James Pendergast
1992 Stuart W. Conner
1993 Mary Elizabeth Good
1994 Leland W. Patterson
1995 Jeff Carskadden
1996 James H. Word
1997 Sidney Merrick Wheeler (posthumous)
and Georgia Nancy Wheeler Felts
1998 Reca Jones
1999 Gene L. Titmus
2000 Richard P. Mason
2001 John D. "Jack" Holland
2002 Richard A. Bice
2003 Dr. Guillermo Mata Amado