Posts Tagged 'Folsom points'

Learning to Flintknap: Beard not included

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

When I mentioned to an anthropologist friend of mine that I was planning to go to Bob Patten’s (he of world-renowned fame in replicating the fluted Folsom point) house for his annual “knap-in,” she laughed and told me I’d need 3 things: closed toe shoes (for all the big pieces of rock I’d drop on my feet), safety goggles (for all the flint chips I’d send into my eyes), and a beard (for all the…umm, I wasn’t actually sure). While I am the proud owner of several fake moustaches, sadly I had no beards. When I asked her why I’d need one she laughed and told me to wait and see.

When I arrived with Toby Swaford (the museum’s K-12 Education Coordinator) and my boyfriend Keith (whose background in physics and mechanical engineering made him more than geeky enough to enjoy a day of hitting rocks), the slightly cacophonous yet still melodic “ding” of stone falling on stone drew us to Bob’s backyard. And there it was: a tent full of mostly bearded men working on creating beautiful and complex stone tools. While having a beard hopefully isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a skilled flintknapper, I soon learned that having an incredible knowledge of all things “flintknappy” is.

Bob Patten demonstrates how to strike stone with an antler

Bob Patten demonstrates how to strike stone with an antler

In the few hours I spent with Bob and his fellow flintknappers, I was continuously impressed by how much these men knew. Whether it was materials, tools, history, archaeology, or other people’s research, I was surrounded by a group of men who had in their heads everything I have to keep looking up, and they were nice enough to answer all my questions. I (foolishly) got into an argument with Greg Nunn, considered by Bob to be the world expert in Danish flintknapping, over the historical appropriateness of using of copper-tipped tools in his work, and he promptly schooled me on the history of the transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age in Denmark. I lost that argument.

Bob shows Toby what to do

Bob shows Toby what to do

Toby gets ready to strike

Toby gets ready to strike

Contact!

Contact!

The highlight of my day was getting the chance to try flintknapping myself. It seemed easy enough: hit a rock with another rock. Nope. Bob handed me my own hunk of rock, a hammer stone, and then proceeded to mock my too-slow strike. After a few misses I finally got a hit and over the next couple minutes managed to knap three large flakes off the stone. None of what I was doing had the knowledge, finesse, or skill that went into the work the men around me were doing, yet I proudly held up my first flake and proclaimed to everyone inside the tent, “Look what I did!” They humored me by smiling, and then went back to proper flintknapping.

I missed my thumb - success!

I missed my thumb - success!

When I began working at the Fort Collins Museum, I read everything I could about stone tools. Then one day, a coworker had me pick up a scraper and hold it. As I held it I began to see how my hand would move to use it, and my understanding of the tool moved from the academic to the tangible. This weekend I moved from holding tools to trying to make them, and I left with a deeper appreciation for the craft. It’s incredible to think that, until the development of metalworking, stone tools were what we used. For everything! And they’re not easy to make! It’s also incredible to know that there are people today who are dedicated to the processes of experimental archaeology that recreates those tools and gives us further insights into the history of man. I’ve got a lot more learning to do, but at least I didn’t drop anything on my toes (and I think I’ll pass on that beard…).

Flintknapping: so easy — ?!

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.

Bob Patten talks about the intricacies flintknapping

Bob Patten talks about the intricacies of flintknapping

Bob Patten talks about different types of stone used to make tools

Bob Patten talks about different types of stone used to make tools

Tools of the flint knapping trade

Tools of the flintknapping trade

Hammer stone in hand, Bob prepares to strike a flake off a chert core

Hammer stone in hand, Bob prepares to strike a flake off a chert core

The bumper sticker on Bob's car says it all!

The bumper sticker on Bob's car says it all!

See experimental archaeology in action: Bob Patten

by Treloar Bower, Curator of Education

I wrote in a post earlier this week that experimental archaeology is one way we continue to learn about Paleoindians without performing excavations at Lindenmeier.  Many archaeologists experiment with flint knapping, which is an amazing art in which tools are formed from stone by removing large flakes and small chips. Many archaeologists flint knap to gain insight into how Paleoindians manufactured their stone tools. Sometimes the best way to learn is to do it yourself. 

One of the best flintknappers in the world is Bob Patten, who will be at the Fort Collins Museum on Friday, June 5, at 5 pm to demonstrate some of his flintknapping skills. 

Bob is one of only a handful of people who has perfected a technique to recreate a Folsom projectile point, a type of spearhead that has long channels known as flutes removed from each face of the point. The pieces that come off of the flute are called channel flakes. The vast majority of channel flakes recovered from tool making “workshops” of archaeological sites are broken into three pieces. For many archaeologists, if a flintknapper recreates a fluted Folsom point without leaving channel flakes broken in three pieces, well, then, it’s probably not the method that was employed at so many of the workshops excavated so far. The cool thing about Bob’s technique? He makes a three piece channel flake! 

Come check him out and while you’re at it, pick up his books from the Museum Store: Old Tools – New Eyes and Peoples of the Flute.

Listening in museums

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation, Fort Collins Museum

I’ll let you in on a secret – sometimes I spy on you in the museum.

Not in a “Mission Impossible,” hanging from the ceiling sort of way (because I know I’d get tangled in the wires and end up dangling upside down by one foot in front of Frank Miller’s Mud Wagon), but do I like to watch and listen to you when you’re here. I care about what exhibits you visit, and what things you say when you’re visiting. It’s all part of what helps us create better experiences for all our visitors.

Normally, most of you do the same things in our exhibits. You stand in front of objects, you look at them, you open drawers, and you push buttons. You do exactly what we hoped you would in that exhibit. Everyone once in a while, though, one of you surprises me. I had one of my most interesting surprises last week.

Last Thursday I went down to our gallery and watched a little girl and boy and their grandmother. The grandmother stood in front of objects, looked at them, and opened drawers (expected), the brother ran around pretending he was a cowboy with a laser gun (also expected), but the little girl did something I had never seen before. She walked up to objects, leaned in closely, closed her eyes, and listened. She listened to baskets, coyotes, bison bones, and Folsom points. When her grandmother asked what she was listening to, the little girl replied, “Stories.”

The idea that objects are vehicles for stories is not a new one for museums. We know that the story of an object is often just as interesting as the object itself, and that those stories help situate “things” within the larger scope of human experience. However, as a museum, one of our jobs is to tell you those stories, because the objects aren’t supposed to speak for themselves. Or can they?

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of work in preparation for the June 6th opening of Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, which includes the Lindenmeier Site, an archaeological site that reaches back 12,000 years. Several of the Native American tribal elders we’ve worked with to better understand the history of the area have talked about the spirits that objects have, and the stories you’ll hear if you know how to listen.

I don’t know what that little girl heard as she leaned close to our pine needle basket. Did she hear Helen Dickerson, the woman who wove it, and the adventures she and her sister Alice had living in a cabin in Buckhorn Canyon? Did she hear the pine tree whose needles were given to make that basket? Or does the basket have its own story, one that I don’t even know?

This morning our gallery is quiet, and as I walk through it I can easily believe that if I lean in close enough to that pine needle basket, it will tell me its secrets. Not too long from now our museum will become a lot noisier. When the Discovery Science Center moves its exhibits into the Fort Collins Museum, the gallery will be filled with the fantastic, excited noise of DSC’s devoted fan base of kids and their families. But if you listen closely, I wonder what else you might hear.

Could you hear the coyote's story?

Could you hear the coyote's story?


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