FLINTKNAPPING

FLINTKNAPPING RESEARCH

Monday, May 29, 2006

THE FLINTKNAPPING DIGEST STORY


THE FLINTKNAPPING DIGEST STORY

BY: RAY HARWOOD

San Diego, California was a hot bed of really good knappers in the
early 1970s, it sprung from a visit from Sollberger sometime in that
era. Only Steve Carter remains of that group. Navodne (Rod) Reiner,
another California sad story , Rod was one of the San Diego
flintknappers that Steve Carter hung around with in the 1970s. Like
Steve, Rod was a really good flintknapper, all traditional, and good
person. Rod did a lot of knapping and made nice pieces of lithic art
but was also interested in the experimental aspect as well. Rod came
up with the two man fluting technique; Reiner gripped the biface in
his left hand, held it down tightly against his thigh, while his
right hand used the full weight of his body from the shoulder to bear
down on the flaking tool. Then, to this he added a little more force
by using a second person to deliver a light tapping blow to the end
of the pressure flaker with a mallet. Reiner stated that the mallet
strikes just at the instant that the pressure flake is pressed off.
Wit

h Rod's method both constant pressure and a releasing percussion
impact a nice flute is detached. Rod, whom was also at the Little
Lake knap-in was a very good knapper and a big influence on Steve
Carter, but Rod was killed early on in a hunting accident. Chris
Hardacker was another, he just faded into the woodwork, I saw him
working as a digger for Jeannie Binning at one of her digs in the
middle 1980s.
In the mid 1970s flintknapping was really popular in University
archaeology departments around the world. Inspired by Francois Bordes
in France, Don Crabtree in Idaho, Robert Patten in Colorado, D.C.
Waldorf and Jim Spears in Missouri, Errett Callahan in Virginia and
J.B. Sollberger in Texas.
The knappers were in contact with each other but there was a high
degree of frustration over a lack of continuity and organization, no
medium existed for their use. The idea of a flintknapping
publication, for and by flintknappers, was born. Errett Callahan
realized that many useful ideas and suggestions which were being
exchanged between flintknappers, through the mail, could not be
shared with other knappers because there were no means for publishing
the information. What brought the whole thing to a head was realizing
the sense of frustration which J.B. Sollberger expressed in one of
his letters to Errett Callahan. Sollbergers letters were typically
packed with both practical and theoretical knowledge Solly had gained
from years of experience. Without any link to the academic arena of
the mid 1970s, it was very unlikely that J.B. Sollberger would have
ever gotten his ideas in print. Callahan suspected that if this was
true with J.B. Sollberger than it must be true for hundreds of
flintknappers around the world as well. What was needed to midigate
this problem was an informal means of getting the flintknappers ideas
into print. Without the hassles of formal writing and the
gratification of not having to wait long periods of time to get into
print, if it ever shows up at all. The idea came together and Volume
1, Number 1 of the Flintknappers' Exchange came to be on January
1978. The new journal had a very journalistic nature, more than dry
and academic. Without being amateurish. It was printed and mailed out
3 times a year at a cost of $2.00 per issue. It was edited by Errett
Callahan and Jacquelin Nichols and published by Atchitson Inc. The
technical editorial board included : Callahan, Flenniken, Patten,
Patterson, Sollberger, Titmus and a California kanpper named Chris
Hardaker. Hardaker was also production assistant. Later Penelope
Katson was managing
editor. The journal was great it launched the first knap-ins and
introduced the stars and theories of modern flintknapping. The
journal lasted almost four years and ended, without warning, with
Volume 4, Number 2 in the summer of 1981.
After the close of the Flintknappers' Exchange in 1981, there was a
void for two years. Communication among flintknappers slowed to a
stop. In 1984 at the knap-in at the Northridge Archaeological
Research Center I was talking about the need for a newsletter to Clay
Singer and Terry Frederick, they suggested I do it, well I had
dyslexia, couldn't type and had no money, okay! Alton Safford,
Jeannie Binning and Joe Dabill encouraged as well. I couldn't get
anyone to help me with the project so I did it myself. I started work
on the first issue, all the words were misspelled, the grammar was
just as bad, I cut and past the cover. I wanted to call it the
Flintknappers' Monthly but I couldn't find those words in the old
NARC newsletters so I got close with "FLintknapping Digest" and cut
and pasted it on the cover. I used the address list in the old
Flintknappers' Exchange at the end of each article to find the
knappers. It worked I began to get a flood of mail about it. It was
really amateurish and I got a lot of flak, but everybody who got it
loved it. Clay Singer said "it has a folksy, underground publication
look" . In any case it got better with each issue. I remember asking
J.B. Sollberger to write an article for me and he got really mad. He
said that I was just trying to associate with his name to gain fame
and make the newsletter sell better , I was unaffected and said yes,
so do I get the article? We got along fine after that and I did get
the article, I think he trusted me to tell the truth after that. He
even made me some fluted points. The "J.B." in J.B. Sollberger is
rumored to stand for "John the Baptist" . So you see with a
reputation like that truth means a lot. I was amazed that the little
newsletter was doing so well, my mom was too, she never thought such
a weird newsletter would work. I was 24 years old when I started the
newsletter and didn't have a whole lot else going, it was great, I
met all my flintknapping heroes. One day I got a letter from D.C.
Waldorf and he was asking about something, I can't remember, but he
referred to the Flintknapping Digest as "The Digest", I put the
letter in the next issue and from then on that's what everyone called
it. Even now I see it referenced to time and again and it is almost
always given its affectionate name "The Digest" it gave knappers a
worm and fuzzy feel, like an old dog that you had when you were a
kid. Even old dogs pass on, and in the late 1980s, even with Val
Waldorf's help, I couldn't do it anymore. After some coaxing the
waldorf's took pity on me and took the newsletter over. They gave it
a face lift and a new name "Chips" .
One of the articles published in 1981 in the Flintknappers' Exchange
really woke up the worlds' flintknappers to a real danger. Jeffery
Kalin of Norwalk, CT. wrote Flintknapping and Silicosis. The article
shows how knappers that inhale dangerous dust can die early. More
people wore dust masks than ever, at least for a couple weeks. Terry
Frederick wrote in a letter stating Sears and Roebuck carries
respirators. According to the American Antiquity article " The main
academic lithic journal in the United States, Lithic Technology, had
some 300 subscribers in 1997, according to the editor, George Odell.
Many of these are lithic analysts rather than knappers, but many
knap, at least at some level, and many academic knappers are not
subscribers. The newsletter Flinknappers' Exchange, which ran from
1979 to 1981 and was oriented toward archaeologically involved
knappers, had some 700 subscribers, according to Errett Callahan, one
of the editors. Perhaps 300 to 500 is a reasonable conservative
estimate of the number of academic knappers in the United States. The
authors of the American Antiquity article did not think Flintknapping
Digest was important enough to include in their article, but it had
at one time, nearly 600 subscribers. At one point I published The
Stone Age Yellow Pages with a list of all the know knappers, this was
also not good enough for the article. According to the article, "
Between 1991 and 1994, Jeff Behrnes edited a second flintknapping
newsletter aimed at non-archaeological knappers, The Flintknapper's
Exchange, and compiled a list of over 1,300 names, mostly knappers
with some related craftsmen and small business. The current
newsletter, Chips, has around 1,200 subscribers, according to D.C.
and Val Waldorf . The Bulletin of Primitive Technology recently
reached 2,907 subscribers, while many of them are more interested in
other pursuits, Callahan feels that most of the knap.
The internet has really put a new twist on the knapping world.
Richard Sanchez, A knapper from Texas, led the way with his Flint
Forum an online "list" or interactive newsletter. Sanchez, along with
a very few others, helped fight the cyber knappers against fraud and
other unethical practices Sanchez, who was inspired to knap by his
father-in-law, was also a computor wiz. Compining his two passions
Sanchez started the "cyber-silca" revalution. He began two popular on-
line news platforms one "The Flint Forum List" and later The Tarp
List" . These lists insired others to get into the field. Richard
does not play around with glass, obsidian or labidary and stays on
track with traditional Texas flintknapping in the Sollberger
tradition od bifacing with antler billet off isolated platforms.
Richard is what modern traditional knapping is all about.