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Manufacture of Stone Arrow-Points
By W.H. Holmes
Part 4 of 4

The flaking of stone, and especially that part of it relating to the making of arrow-points, has very generally been regarded as a great mystery and is often spoken of as a lost art; but the art is still practiced by many of our aboriginal tribes, and it appears that almost anyone who desires can by a little systematic practice do the work. Of course to acquire great skill much practice is necessary, but the methods are for the most part so well known and so simple that the mantle of mystery no longer enshrouds them.

When pressure is first suggested as an adequate means of flaking hard stones, doubt is usually felt as to its competency, and when it is stated that the tool used is not of metal or of stone, but of bone or ivory, incredulity is usually expressed; but the test is easily made. A blank form or a flake having the approximate shape is held firmly between the fingers and thumb of the left hand. A firm piece of bone having a rather thin edge or angle like that of a three-cornered file is taken in the right hand and set upon the sharp edge of the stone and at right angles to it so firmly that a slight cut or notch is made in the bone, then with a quick, firm movement of the right hand, met by a similar movement of the left, the bone is made to move across the edge of the stone (Fig. 10), in doing which it takes with it a flake, varying in length, width, and depth with the skill and power of the workman, the nature of the stone, etc. A rapid repetition of this operation, accompanied by a proper resetting of the tool, quickly reduces the piece, if it works readily, to almost any desired outline. The position and manner of holding may be changed, as

Fig. 10.—Flaking by pressure, a bone implement being used.
a the bone tool, b the stone, c the flake.
Fig. 11.—Flaking by pressure; manner of holding
as observed among many tribes by J. W. Powell and others.

shown in Fig. 11. In both cases the hand holding the stone must be protected against cutting by the sharp flakes by a piece of buckskin or leather. This is true of some of the other cases illustrated. The same result may be obtained in various other ways, but always by means of suddenly applied or spasmodic pressure. Numerous methods of applying this pressure are known. The blank may be held down by the fingers upon the edge of a table or board, as shown in Fig. 12, and the point of the bone or of a bit of metal as well, held in the other hand, may be set so as to catch the edge of the stone to a width corresponding to that caught by the notched bone in the other position, when a quick downward pressure upon the flaking-tool will remove the flake. Again, in larger work, where greater force is required to remove the flakes, a tool long enough to place against the arm or chest of the operator may be used. In this way much additional force is thrown into the spasmodic movement. Another device consists of a notched or forked bone or pincers, which is set upon the sharp edge of the blank and given a sudden twist, thus removing the flake (Fig. 13).

Fig. 12.—Flaking by pressure, a bone point being used,
the implement to be shaped resting upon a support.
Fig. 13.—Flaking by pressure,
bone pincers being used.

Methods vary with different peoples and differences in the material lead to variations in treatment by the same people. Eye-witnesses have described the processes employed by many widely separated tribes, but extracts from these records would add too greatly to the length of this sketch.