by Lesley Drayton, Local History Archive Curator
The rock chips flew on Friday night as a group of spectators at the Museum were treated to a fascinating discussion and demonstration of flintknapping by Bob Patten, a world-renowned maker of stone tools who specializes in replicating the fluted Folsom point. This Museum After-Hours event was designed to help whet people’s appetites for the grand opening of the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area on Saturday, where Bob also gave a flintknapping demonstration.
I was very excited to meet Bob Patten. He’s a rock star (pun intended) when it comes to Clovis and Folsom archaeology, and I knew I’d like him after reading the words of caution on the back cover of his book Old Tools- New Eyes: A Primal Primer of Flintknapping: “Warning! Material contained in this book has been known to cause some individuals to become obsessive devotees of the art of flintknapping. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.”
Well, proceed we did. Bob laid out a drop cloth to catch all the debitage (the little bits of rock chips and flakes that fly off when knapping a tool) and donned a pair of “prehistoric spats,” which were small leather coverings for his ankles and shoes to keep sharp pieces of flint and chert from settling into his socks.
Flintknapping has a great audible quality. Each blow of the hammer stone brings a sharp shattering sound, and then the retouching with the antlers gives out a series of satisfying crunches. We were hearing a slice of what life sounded like at Folsom campsites 12,000 years ago.
Bob’s flintknapping demonstration illustrated the incredible amount of practice, planning, and skill Folsom people would have needed to craft tools and not just survive, but thrive in this high plains environment. His demonstration also got me thinking about everyday life for Paleoindians at the Lindenmeier site. I could imagine the distant past and the sound of flintknapping blending with the murmur of conversation, mixing together across gusts of Northern Colorado wind.