The Flake Manufacturing Process

Tony Baker

May 1, 2003

Flake creation is probably the oldest manufacturing process the human ancestral line can claim. The process is easily over one million years old and is currently seeing a revival by the modern knappers. However, being the oldest process does not mean that we technically understand it. Our knowledge of the process, or our paradigm, consists of pieces that appear to be correct when individually viewed. However, when these pieces are viewed in aggregate, inconsistencies exist. For example, why does reducing the velocity of a percussion blow, which reduces its energy, sometimes produce a larger flake? For those of you who don't believe this, take my word for it now, and I will explain later.

These inconsistencies are the reason I became interested in the flake manufacturing process and remained interested for the last seven (?) years. I am not a knapper and I have purposely avoided attempting to learn because I suspected it would taint my analytical view of the process. The method I used to develop my understanding of the process was computer modeling, discussions with knappers, and observations. I have worked closely with Bob Patten, who is an excellent knapper, for most of these years. If I had been calling Bob on long distance, my credit call debt would be greater that the 2003 US deficit. I have attended numerous knap-ins and demonstrations where I watched other knappers practice their art. Plus, I have 45 years of experience viewing the products of prehistoric people from all over the world who made their living with this manufacturing process.

For me, writing about the flake manufacturing process suffers from the age-old problem of what to write about first, the chicken or the egg. Fortunately, a WEB page solves this problem. I can write logical packages, place them in any order in a table of contents, and the reader can click on their choice and create their own order. My only recommendation to the reader is to begin with the "Quick and Dirty Overview".

Table of Contents
Quick and Dirty Overview
Force Application Location Strength
Three "Ps" -- Potential Energy, Percussion and Pressure Flaking
Core Morphology
     Angle of Blow
     Platform Angle
     Platform Thickness
Impactor Stiffness
Bending flakes
Crack Velocity

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