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Stone Tools: Prehistoric Technical Communication in Action
Misty A. Adams
by example. I suggest this due to evidence provided by Stone Age tools. the existence of a history of Technical Communication has long been an Achilles’ heel of the discipline." according to Webster’s dictionary. Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper Ascertaining the historical value." As an anthropological term." as a generic term. hard blow. flintknapping is simply the manufacture of stone tools by the reductive processes of flaking or chipping. This idea can be supported by understanding the difficulty of 2 . perhaps even prior to verbal language. The ability to manufacture tools during the Lithic age was integral to survival. Such tools were created by flintknapping. therefore it is reasonable to imagine that the particular skill of flintknapping was taught and passed down to each successive generation through hands on instruction. "flint. and other media to a specific audience. It is as misunderstood and debated as what is the true definition of Technical Communication. or perhaps more correctly. If we define technical communication as the process of conveying technical information through writing. refers to “any lithic material which fractures conchoidally upon force being loaded into that material. then it may be safely suggested that technical communication existed before written language. speech. or by a combination of the two. means "to break or shape (stones or flints) by a quick. this is the very basis of all flaked stone tool techniques.” (5) Prior to written language information was disseminated verbally.Misty A. "Knapping.
Concrete examples may serve further to illustrate the relation of history and the so‐called prehistory‐‐that is. is unreasonable. and so to apply the same division to technical communication. Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper creating a stone tool in our modern era without the benefit of hands on instruction. As commonly expressed. (7) Yet we know technical information was disseminated prior to written language. furthering the view that they are. it can well be argued that technical communication existed prior to written communication. to assume it was absent from prehistoric communications. Despite the traditional view of the scientific separation between the prehistoric and the historic phase of a culture as the separation between the written and the unwritten. in fact. the unwritten. never ends. the true prehistoric. of the written and the unwritten phases of the human record. artifacts of technical communication and may be studied as such. “In fact.Misty A. As anthropologists and archaeologists study prehistoric tools in order to understand the past.” (7) Stone tools and their manufacture impart knowledge even into our modern age. and the task of the archeologist has an unlimited future as it has an inexhaustible past. so too may technical communicators study them in order to better comprehend how information was disseminated throughout 3 . the prehistoric phase of the history of a particular people or ethnic group would end and the historic phase begin with the first written record of that people.
The second illustrates the found objects used to flintknap. wood.Misty A. was not inherent knowledge for Lithic age hominids. 4 .) as tools. Integral to the idea of Lithic age tools as artifacts of technical communication is a rudimentary understanding of flintknapping. which stones would fracture and flake. Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper human history. etc. learned technology disseminated through visual and “hands on” means to others. (10. 9) Flintknapping Defined Types of Stone Used for Flintknapping How to Make Stone Age Tools These videos exhibit but a fraction of the knowledge required to effectively make and use stone tools. visual instruction. essentially. Identifying which rocks to use as percussion tools. The skill required to produce tools and implements was the end result of considerable trial and error and can only have been shared through hands on. The production of tools was. The third video illustrates how these objects were used to make various tools. an expert knapper. the use of other items (bone. The following are three short videos about flintknapping by John Olsen. 8. The first video is a brief introduction to flintknapping.
became more sophisticated. and the techniques required to create them. Discovered by L.8 million years ago. subsequent study has shown that artifacts from this site date to approximately 1. (5) Research indicates flintknappers and replicators do not have “mental templates” in their minds as they produce a flaked stone tool. Alonzo W. recorded the skill and knowledge of flintknapper Halvor L.B Leakey and Mary Douglas Leakey in the 1930’s. (2) In our modern era.S. hinge fractures as well as other pertinent information. (11) As time passed tools. 5 . These earliest implements are rudimentary and it is thought they were made by striking one stone against another until a sharpened edge appeared. The more complex the tool and its process of manufacture. Skavlem. or “able man”. bending fractures. the greater the number of reduction sequences. an early 20th Century archaeologist. Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper One of the earliest known stone tool sites is found in the Olduvai Gorge in what is now Tanzania. “Reduction sequences” refer to the systematic process of removing flakes and pieces to “reduce” the stone to a tool. Skavlem discussed and adeptly demonstrated concepts of flaked stone tool reduction technologies. Skavlem maintained that the morphology of the stone was less important than the flintknapper's ability to produce an end product or tool.Misty A. the Leakeys christened the inhabitants of the era Homo habilis. various flintknapping techniques as related to particular knapping tools. Pond. Used for sawing and cutting. implying that this was the first group to exhibit tool‐making capability.
(5) Gradually. and more accurate. 6 . cognitive structures. [we] define primitive human behavior with the most technically advanced equipment known. and systemic contexts are often generated from models of our own Western perspective of ethnographic studies with the aid and guidance of highly technical. breakage.” (2) Researchers have recently begun replicating stone tools and putting them. and even demise of Lithic era cultures. “to work. during the development of lithic studies.”(2) Archaeologists have traditionally used the morphology (shape) of certain stone tools (projectile points in particular) to determine the presence. sophisticated machinery.) it is posited that a better. These functions were then used to describe prehistoric human behavior and cultures. flaked (or knapped) stone tools became associated with purported functions. and geological type stone into a tool within their acceptable cultural range of form and function. Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper Instead they select from a "culturally" determined reduction technique to reduce a specific size. for lack of a better term. distribution. Ironically. understanding of Lithic cultures will be acquired. the accuracy of morphological study has recently been questioned. etc. shape.” By replicating the conditions under which stone tools were used (wear patterns.Misty A. “Our explanations of prehistoric behavior. (2) However.(5) “The artifact type reflects conscious preferences and norms on the part of the prehistoric people making and using the artifacts.
7 . (4) The following is a table excerpted from M. Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper Studies of Lithic era sites in the North American Ozark region have turned up numerous stone tool artifacts. axes and knives that exhibit complex knapping techniques. R. Harrington’s The Ozark BluffDwellers illustrating these findings. (4) Interestingly. an example being the Ozark Bluff‐Dwellers and the artifacts of an unnamed “upper‐layer” culture in northwestern Arkansas.Misty A. from arrow and spear points to adzes. the most notable of these being the Nemaha site in northeastern Kansas. other North American sites in relatively distant geographic areas have been studied resulting in found artifacts that were identical in morphology to artifacts found in Bluff‐ Dweller sites.
excepting an Aztec type found in the ruins of a temple in the City of Mexico. Does he suggest that the Bluff‐Dweller culture migrated south to Mexico? Or is he suggesting that prehistoric travel and trade routes were vaster than hitherto assumed? Or is he suggesting the possibility that two different cultures. of which one complete and several broken examples were secured. a type differing in detail from all spear‐throwers hitherto known. is made of wood. “ (4) Exactly what Harrington is implying with this information is never made clear. about 19 inches long. separated by hundreds of miles. and a transverse peg at the other end for grasping. III B). the explanation of these morphological similarities in tools can only be explained as shared information. Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper Since we have already determined the Lithic era as prior to written communication. In addition to the similarities between the stone tools find at these sites. In this aspect these tools are a testament to the effectiveness of prehistoric visual technical communication. with a projection at one end. against which the butt of the spear was rested. Harrington also takes particular note of atlatls found at the Bluff‐ Dweller sites: “The type of atlatl (P1. could conceive of identical implements? The last of these is not completely fantastical considering the 8 .Misty A.
It is perhaps even possible to posit the existence of technical communication before the advent of verbal language. 9 . Tools and implements of antiquity communicate to us. if we choose to ignore the evidence of prehistoric technological dissemination and only apply the theories and ideas of technical communication to written documentation then we short‐change ourselves and limit the true scope of our discipline. But this idea may be more supportive evidence of Pangaea than anything else. anthropological and ethnographic research has provided a wealth of documentation concerning prehistoric technical communication. Archaeological. through them we learn about humanity’s varied past cultures in the hope of better understanding today. No matter Harrington’s intent.Misty A. Stone tools illustrate the ability and the need of human beings to communicate. much older than just written communication. Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper archaeological evidence of stone tools on every continent. he does provide sound evidence of technological dissemination across cultures in an era prior to written communication. It can be suggested that the basis of technical communication is much. if admittedly only by accident. Either way. to disseminate information beyond themselves and outside of their group.
jstor.org/stable/281755 Accessed: 14/10/2009 23:21 3. pp. Jeffrey Flenniken Source: Annual Review of Anthropology. The Archaic as Seen from the Ozark Region Author(s): David A. pp. 603-614 Published by: Society for American Archaeology Stable URL: http://www.org/stable/530441 Accessed: 14/10/2009 23:21 2. 1986). Present. 1954). pp. 1924). No.org/stable/660683 Accessed: 14/10/2009 22:53 5. 13 (1984). pp. Vol. and Future of Flintknapping: An Anthropological Perspective Author(s): J. Vol.jstor.jstor. No.org/stable/2155667 Accessed: 14/10/2009 23:20 6.. Raymond Source: American Antiquity. Cox. Jr.Misty A. 1-21 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association Stable URL: http://www. 1 (Jan. 20. Jr. The Ozark Bluff-Dwellers Author(s): M. No. 3 (Jul. No. . Harrington Source: American Anthropologist. Jeffrey Flenniken and Anan W. 1959).jstor. Hill. 24.org/stable/277380 Accessed: 14/10/2009 23:17 4. 51. Source: Journal of Field Archaeology. New Series. No.jstor. Vol. 241-256 Published by: Boston University Stable URL: http://www. an Archaic Site in the Ozarks Author(s): Marvin E. 187203 Published by: Annual Reviews Stable URL: http://www. 3 (Autumn.. The Past. 2 (Oct. 26. 3 (Jan. Spatial Analysis of Small Scale Debris from a Late Prehistoric Site in the Lower Missouri Valley. Vol. 27. R. 270-275 Published by: Society for American Archaeology Stable URL: http://www. pp. Vol. Kansas Author(s): Brad Logan and Matthew E. Source: American Antiquity. pp. Vol..Mar. Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper References 1. 124129 Published by: Society for American Archaeology Stable URL: 10 .. 2000). Tong. Baerreis Source: American Antiquity. Morphological Projectile Point Typology: Replication Experimentation and Technological Analysis Author(s): J.
Adams TCH 361 Artifact Paper http://www. Handbook of Aboriginal American Antiquities Author(s): W. Stone tool industry.com.H.org/stable/277562 Accessed: 14/10/2009 23:15 7. (Narrator).com.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=kOoNAAAAIAAJ&o i=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=w. Olsen.jstor. Techniques for Flintknapping: Flintknapping Defined [Online video].google. ExpertVillage. (2009).com.britannica. from http://www. 2009. Retrieved October 17. Retrieved October 17.com/EBchecked/topic/567292/stone-toolindustry 11 . 2009. (2009). 2009.%20holmes&f=f alse Accessed: 14/10/2009 23:30 8.com/watch?v=oupFzzsXLMI 11. 2009.youtube. J. Techniques for Flintknapping: Types of Stone Used in Flintknapping [Online video].com/watch?v=-cHM8rfmQII 9. Olsen. Olsen. (Narrator). from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 17.youtube.h. Techniques for Flintknapping: How to make Stone Age Tools [Online video]. Retrieved October 16. J.+holmes&ots=5rfeqHTtEv&sig=jNEdiua pX9Wcm26zzApWwePnDhM#v=onepage&q=w. (Narrator). ExpertVillage. (2009).youtube. ExpertVillage. (2009). J. from http://www.com/watch?v=jyC0WvdWSoA 10. from http://www.h.Holmes Source: StanfordUniversity Libraries via Google Scholar Published by:Government Printing Office (1919) Stable URL: http://books.Misty A.
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