Wednesday, June 07, 2006



Cliffside Workshops

- - Teaching Ancient Skills, Traditional Values, and Self Reliance - -


Offering Classes in


Errett Callahan, Instructor

FLINTKNAPPING: Learn basic to advanced traditional flintknapping skills. Any skill level welcome. We take you wherever you are and push you upwards and onwards a bit. Learn how to make an arrowpoint from a flake by pressure alone; learn how to do percussion knife-making using traditional hand tools - hammerstones, and antler billets (no copper billets); learn the various stages of reduction in bifacing; witness a wide range of other skills - blademaking, punching, bipolar, stone axe making, square work, parallel flaking, etc. Obsidian is the primary stone used, but other flints are demonstrated as well. Instruction is not haphazard, but systematic, following guidelines in Callahan's BASICS manual. Proven results. Traditional knapping only.
Number of days - For your convenience: For all sessions, choose any number of days instruction, from Day 1 to Day 7, always starting on Saturday, the first day. This way there's no repetition and you may leave any day of the week. Spur of the moment add-ons are allowed, so long as we can manage the food. See page 7 for costs.

PRIMITIVE TECHNOLOGY: Choose one topic and see it through to completion. Others may choose other topics so you could see a variety of skills taught and demonstrated. Choose one - flintknapping, bowmaking, arrow making, pottery, basketry, fiber technology, or stone axe making. Other topics by request. Feel free to practice other skills during "down time." Also, Artifact Illustration.
Number of days - For your convenience: For all sessions, choose any number of days instruction, from Day 1 to Day 7, always starting on Saturday, the first day. This way there's no repetition and you may leave any day of the week. Spur of the moment add-ons are allowed, so long as we can manage the food. See page 7 for costs.

ARCHEOLOGISTS AND LITHIC ANALYSTS: Here is your chance to learn the "language" of flintknapping. Without an accurate understanding how can you interpret your findings correctly? Archeologist Zakariah Johnson says, "This type of study is essential for any lithics analyst wishing to go beyond static formal classification systems and appreciate the dynamic mental and mechanistic processes underlying past technology systems. Understanding the processes behind manufacturing helps put the leaves back on our currently bare family tree."
Uppsala University in Sweden is looking into officially sponsoring these courses and offering you academic credit for them. Contact us if this would be useful to you.

INSTRUCTION is one-on-one with plenty of personal consultation. All teaching takes place at Callahan's personal wooded home, Cliffside. His wife, Linda Abbey, handles meals, registration, and keeping the wheels running smoothly. During the evenings, students have the opportunity for campfire discussions or viewing of films and videos of relevant technologies. Students are encouraged to take advantage of Cliffside's large library and numerous recreation facilities. New in 1998 - outdoor lights and a sliding translucent roof over our knapping area. All in all, come prepared to get an education, not just training.

DR. ERRETT CALLAHAN is your principal instructor at Cliffside. He has an MA and Ph.D. in anthropology (lithic technology and experimental archeology); an MFA in fine arts (painting); an Honorary Ph.D. in archeology from Uppsala University, Sweden; is on the faculty of the Department of Archeology, Uppsala University; has had over 200 research papers published (mostly on lithic technology and other primitive technologies); is advisor to countless archeologists, lithic analysts, and flintknappers worldwide. Callahan has 50 years experience flintknapping and over 50 years shooting the bow. He is Founder of the Society of Primitive Technology and President of the Board 1989-1996. In 2006 he celebrates his 19th anniversary of teaching workshops at Cliffside. But Callahan has been teaching primitive skills every year since 1971, both here and abroad. During this time he has personally taught flintknapping to 988 students (as of 2005). Callahan is the teacher of teachers, having taught instructors and students from BOSS, Outward Bound, Pathways', Brown's, Riggs', Watts', Cheatham's, Worsham's, the Sherwood's, and dozens of other outdoor programs and nature centers. And he has taught almost all the Board Members of the SPT. About 50% of his students return year after year. Any and all ethical prehistorians are welcome at Cliffside.
Callahan regularly displayed his award-winning obsidian knives at knife shows from 1986-2005. He has now retired and spends his time writing his books on flintknapping and experimental archeology and upgrading his workshops.
Beginners - don't let this intimidate you. Most of our students are beginners. In fact Callahan has specialized in clarifying the principles of various primitive technologies especially for beginners. Thus, in the 7 day courses, students learn in a week what it took Callahan 10 years to learn on his own. Nothing makes him happier than passing on his knowledge to his students.

TEACHING ASSISTANTS: A talented TA is available for most sessions to provide students with additional help. These TA positions, which are also apprenticeships, serve to train up-and-coming technologists in how to prepare for and run a workshop and in answering students' questions and interpreting our explanations. No, we are not turning our teaching over to assistants, but they will be here to help. TAs neither receive nor pay money, but food is free. Nor do you have to be an "expert" to apply. TA applications are hereby solicited - for classes over 6. We need TAs. So, if you have taken one of our workshops in the past and are interested in this opportunity, let us know. Write for details. Deadline January 15.
TAs in the past have included: David Smith, Sean Grace, Dan Stueber, Jack Cresson, Barry Keegan, Anthony Follari, Darrell Duggins, Greg Nunn, Scott Madden, Doug MacLeod, Mike Jacks, Jan Apel, Ed O'Neill, Mike Stafford, Mark Amon, and Doug Meyer.

SCHOLARSHIPS: We offer one scholarship for a week-long workshop of your choice. This offer, which is competitive, is made possible by a generous gift from Bob Verrey, a former student, who believes in our mission. This scholarship is for a person in financial need and is independent of skill level. You must provide your own transportation. If you couldn't attend without this help, write for a scholarship application. Deadline Jan. 1.

MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES: Students may bring their own tools and materials or purchase some from us. Your registration fee will cover the cost of obsidian and some other materials and tool rentals. But either way, you must have what's needed to attend. Requirements vary with session and topic. Lists will be sent to applicants.

LODGING: There is no charge for "camping out" under our covered porches or patio. We have army cots. Bring pillow and sleeping bag suitable for 20-40 degree nights in the fall and 50-80 degree nights in summer. No tents please. Or stay at a local motel at your own expense. A list will be sent.

MEALS: Food costs of $10/day are included in with tuition. Those who don't prefer our food may deduct this cost and bring their own or eat elsewhere (no place close). Veggies are welcome, but warn us well beforehand. Remember, meals are a high point at Cliffside.

TO REGISTER: Fill out the printable application form and send it in with half of your tuition. Application fee of $25 is refundable only if class is filled. The $25 fee covers our mountains of paperwork and mailings to you and reverts to your materials fee upon arrival, saving you the double cost. Paperwork costs money whether you follow through or not. Tuition is $75/day. To this add the $10/day food cost, and one-time $25 application fee. Our chart on the printable application form simplifies this and shows how much to send in with your 1st and 2nd payments. Second half of payment is due by deadline indicated (usually 1 month before session starts - we now give you two extra months to pay). Tuition is refunded if you drop out before the deadline, but is forfeited if you drop out after the deadline. If you are applying after deadline has passed, don't panic. If we have room, we'll still take you, but you must then send in the entire payment with your application. We'll return it if we're full or if we have to cancel class. Write or call if in doubt.
Applications received without payment will be put on hold until payment is received. If you fail to send in your 2nd payment by the deadline, your place will be forfeited without notice and your place will automatically go to next on list. We have a high demand for these courses so guard your position carefully. (Note: If you must forfeit, consider finding your own substitute and "selling" your spot to him. - Let us know if you do this.)
After you register, you will receive periodic mailings concerning how to prepare, what to bring, how to get here, a suggested reading list, lodging information, etc. Try to do your reading before you arrive, as there will be little time for reading after arrival. Plan on a great time. Please join us.


"Marie and I have stayed in some interesting hideaways over the years, but none more fun than yours. Alaska to Mexico, Maine to Georgia, Cliffside is 5 star..."
Senter and Marie Jackson

"Each time I have studied with Errett, I gain more than just a little training. More than any other aspect, I appreciate the willingness to share what has taken decades to distill into systems that work. At Cliffside, I also find a teacher not just willing to demonstrate skills, but one who encourages close observation of demonstrations. For me, close observation of this type facilitates the ability to transform knowledge into know-how. . . The demos . . . are given at whatever level the students' current abilities will allow them to understand.
Mark Amon

"Thank you for inselfishly sharing your vast knowledge with me. I can assure you that any information you instilled in me will be passed on to my future students. I only hope I can do as good of a job as you have passing on traditions and values along with knowledge. I feel fortunate to now be both a student and friend of yours . . . . . During my Division 1 wrestling career at Ohio State University, I was coached by numerous Olympians and other World Class athletes . . . Errett Callahan, by far, is the greatest instructor of them all. He not only has a mastery over flintknapping and primitive skills as a whole, but he is a gifted teacher as well. Also to his credit, he is a man who takes time to discuss and pass down morals and values to his students, friends, and family, and lives by them as well . . . I am now extremely fortunate to be among those who consider him a role model, a teacher, and a friend."
William Schindler, Temple University doctoral student.

"Your concern and patience with the people you are teaching is fantastic. You have a wonderful ability to make people feel confident about what they are doing. You make your lectures interesting and yet light and humorous. You can keep a person's attention for long periods of time with your easy manner of teaching..."
Rod Johnson

"Thank you all for opening your home to me and taking the time to teach, cook, and just talk around the fire. Errett, you are an inspiration to anyone doing primitive technology, and people that have not experienced you do not know what they have missed."
Doug Meyer

"Thank you for the help with my archery form. Before last week I was having trouble hitting the target . . . but now I have consistent groupings around the bull . . . After your knapping workshops, I can pick up a 10,000 year old stone tool and instantly feel the decisions of the maker . . . The cores are making instant sense."
Mike Frank, Smithsonian Museum

"I just wanted to thank you again for the hospitality you extended this past week. I don't feel that I went to a class, but rather went to friends for the week (and learned more than I ever expected). The only thing that impressed me more than Errett's skills was the love I saw in your home. Melody is a very lucky girl to have parents such as you..."
Tom Laskowski

"There are remarkable parallels between you and Heifitz. Heifitz played with matchless precision, yet somehow he endowed the music with a glow that leaves the listener wondering if he truly heard what his ears had beheld. So I remember your master class. Certainly the students of Heifitz. . . must have felt as I did-that I was witnessing greatness, and I was fortunate to have been present..."
Dr. Barbara Harkness


For a thorough review of our Flintknapping workshop, see Chris Wallace's article, "Flintknapping Workshop," in KNIVES ILLUSTRATED, May 1996: 80-83. (We'll send you a copy if you'd like.)

Wednesday June 7, 2006 - 06:49am (PDT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for June 07, 2006
Errett Callahan, MA, MFA, PhD


Background (Excerpt from Callahan's catalog, "Piltdown Productions Catalog #5" p.4 - 6, 1999)
I started knapping in 1956 - not counting a few slate pieces I knapped out in 1950 - and have been at it without let-up ever since. During these past 42 years, I have produced, as of August 1998, 9049 stone tools, all duly signed and recorded. I was raised on quartzite and the tougher cherts. I didn't work obsidian much until the early 1980s.

I made my first hafted stone knife in 1966. Knife production was occasional thereafter until 1984, when I started obsidian knife production in a big way. Since 1984, I have produced 860 stone knives, all duly signed and documented. (I make and sell about 50-60 knives a year. That's about one knife a week. But I spend 1-2 months on my big showpieces.) Today, knife production comprises the vast majority of my stone work; I'm considered a halftime maker. (See Below.)

I knap 2 - 2 1/2 hours a day and have done so for decades. (Between 1990 and 1998, I knapped a measured average of 2.2 hours a day. Range 1.8 - 2.7 hours.). I love flintknapping.

The Importance of Reputation
In his article, "So You Want to Be a Knifemaker?" (BLADE, June '89:30...77), Bernard Levine notes that of the three factors which most influence sales - design, craftsmanship, and reputation - the most important is reputation. Yes, the design must be sound and the craftsmanship excellent, but, among knife collectors, it's your name which is taken as the best indication of a sound investment. That is, one's reputation, ethical stand, and professionalism must be above reproach. So what I'd like to do here is to introduce myself, not in order to toot my own horn, but so you can get to know me a little better, to show you that I mean business, and to assure you of that sound investment.

I'd like to say I am self-taught, for I worked completely alone and without reading any instructional material for the first 10 years. My only guides were the silent ancient original artifacts. But since then, though I did not attend their classes (few taught), I've sat down and had intensive, hands-on instruction from the Master-level knappers - Don Crabtree, Gene Titmus, Francois Bordes, J. B. Sollberger, and Jacques Pelegrin. And that's instruction. And I've read practically everything in and out of print on the subject. And that's instruction. So I owe a debt of gratitude and thanks to these, my mentors. (I've also seen hundreds of other knappers work and learned countless bits of information from them. That's learning too.)

Go to a teacher. Study under him. Take his classes, if possible. If not, then read his works, visit with him, write to him, talk to him. Listen. Learn. Consult with him on future projects and publications. Stay in touch. Then thereafter give him credit for helping you on your way.

Being aware of a teacher far ahead of you, do your utmost to take a shortcut to get ahead of him. Study his work carefully; but either have no direct contact with him or take his courses and put on a front of appreciation. Try to get into print in his specialty before him. Then when you make your tiny mark, make little or no mention of his influence, give him little credit. EC

Reinventing the Wheel
Those first 10 years were a real struggle. I had to work it all out by trial and error. I didn't even know what the questions were, much less the answers. Sometimes I'd find myself banging away for years, making one mistake after the other, trying to isolate what causes what. As slowly as evolution itself, I eventually sorted most of it out.

All in all, I'd say I spent 20 years working my way through the Paleolithic, Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and Woodland levels and another five years working through the Mesolithic - all the while voluntarily restricting myself to replicas of ancient forms. This was my basic training and excellent discipline it was.

During the last 20 years I have been working my way through the complex Neolithic levels, finally breaking through into the unexplored Post-Neolithic territory shown herein. These latter years have also been a real struggle, for once again I've had little to guide me. What do you use for guidance when you're trying to break a new trail into unexplored territory? - Only intuition.

But I don't forget to check my backtrail to see how others are coming along. That's why I offer my workshops. (My students are now learning in one week what it took me the first 10 years to learn on my own.) And that's why I founded the Society of Primitive Technology in l989 and served as President of the Board from 1989-1996.(See Tribute by Steve Watts in SPT Bulletin #14, in 1997.)

Education and its Relevance to Knifemaking
That MA, MFA and PhD after my name do indeed relate to knifemaking, as Steve Shackleford alludes.

"Perhaps nowhere in the business of sharp edges does one's background prepare him so well for his livelihood as does that of obsidian knifemaker Errett Callahan." - Steve Shackleford, Editor, BLADE Magazine SE/OC '87:20.

This means that I have a master's and a doctorate in anthropology (with emphasis in lithic technology and experimental archeology respectively) and a masters in Fine Arts. (My Master's Thesis, THE BASICS, is still a best seller after 20 years and four printings. It's the basics of instruction in my workshops.) In 1992, I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Uppsala University in Sweden for my work on the Mesolithic and Neolithic there. Thus I am now on the faculty of Uppsala University, Archeology Department.

These degrees may not be responsible for my craftsmanship but they have indeed forced me to think hard about design, about historical context, and about field testing my products. Throughout the 1970s, I pioneered the field of "Living Archeology, conducting subsistence projects in which participants lived off the land for from two to nine weeks under primitive conditions. We used stone knives and other primitive tools exclusively, while testing certain archeological hypotheses. When your life and very material comfort depend exclusively upon your stone tools, you learn a few things about function, design, and craftsmanship. So when I say that my knives are functional, I think I know what I am talking about. The knives shown in my catalog are the culmination of all that experience

And Now?
I am in the midst of writing a major book on flintknapping - everthing I know, practically. It's about how Danish Daggers are made. (Working title: NEOLITHIC DANISH DAGGERS: AN EXPERIMENTAL AND ANALYTICAL STUDY - It's addressed to both the archeologist and the flintknapper. This is a 20-year research project in which about 200 daggers have been produced. It has been funded by you, my dagger and knife buying customers, by a grant from the king of Sweden, and by Uppsala University. I am co-authoring it with Jan Apel, a PhD student at Uppsala and a fellow knapper. The book will do for daggers what THE BASICS did for bifaces but will include the final products in great detail and the debitage story too. Keep an eye out for it.

I am also in the final stages of writing a book on experimental archeology - everything I know on that too, another 15-year project. (Working title: THE CAHOKIA PIT HOUSE PROJECT: A CASE STUDY IN RECONSTRUCTIVE ARCHEOLOGY.) Watch for it.

Once the books are behind me, then I can start on my videos.

Over the years I have fought hard for what is ethical in flintknapping. (Yes, there is a sordid side to our history.) I have supported and will continue to support ethical flintknapping causes. And vice versa. You can count on it.

My work is done with the conviction that I can serve best by supporting causes and revealing my so-called "secrets." In fact, I make it my duty to see that my students can duplicate my accomplishments. This may be easier said than done, but that's my goal. I love teaching flintknapping.

Bud Lang, Editor of KNIVES ILLUSTRATED, says: "Errett Callahan (is) a master flintknapper, instructor, etc., a gentleman who makes some of the finest obsidian knives ever created." (KI, Oct. 1998: 4).

(Thanks Bud, but as I clearly state later on, I make no claims at being a master - though I think I am mature. Having worked extensively with the real masters, I am aware of the vast gap between them and me.)

I am available for occasional consultant work related to lithic analysis, archeological reconstruction, private flintknapping instruction, demonstrations, lectures, slide presentations, or similar advisory sessions. But I rarely teach outside workshops which would compete with my Cliffside Workshops. My rate is usually $200/day plus expenses. Let me know if I may be of service.

Wednesday June 7, 2006 - 06:41am (PDT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for June 05, 2006
Entry for June 05, 2006 magnify

Monday June 5, 2006 - 08:52pm (PDT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Entry for June 05, 2006
Entry for June 05, 2006 magnify
I met Alton in about 1983. He atteded the 1st CSUN Knap-in and than we put on the Wrightwood knap-ins for many decades. We also hunted and did archery togather.
Monday June 5, 2006 - 07:04pm (PDT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments