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Prehistoric pastimes

I love to try something new, especially when it’s craft related even in the widest sense, and a friend had the idea to try out … (drum roll) … flint knapping! We joined a beginner’s day hosted by the rather fabulous Jonathan Cope, a man of many talents, flint knapper, bronze caster, blacksmith, living history enthusiast and musician - throat singing and didgeridoo - to name but a few.

After a good introduction to the theory and history (and a safety briefing) we got stuck in and tried our hand at a variety of techniques for primary, secondary and pressure flaking, wielding hammer stones and antlers of all shapes and sizes. It’s incredible what a range of tools this seemingly simple technique can produce in a comparatively short space of time: razor sharp knives, scrapers, arrow heads, borers, saws…

This all looks a lot easier than it is and the level of hand-eye coordination required was something I really struggled with. I wrecked my first two hammer stones before I managed to get a decent flake off my flint nodule, but bashing a rock after a stressful week at work was surprisingly therapeutic and you can see my humble creations in the photo.

My main take away however was to get at least a small insight into the prehistoric mindset. You learn to look differently at those stones and the sense of ancestral connection and continuity gained from working these ancient techniques is priceless. I remember that the Museum of London used to have a large collection of locally found stone axes and some were available for manual handling: I had goosebumps when I realised that axe head fitted my own hand just as perfectly as it would have fitted its maker’s hand hundreds of thousands years ago. Magical!

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