Flint knapping with Pete Adkins

The term “knapping” originates from the German verb knopp, referring to the act of striking, shaping, or working. Knapping is specifically done on lithic materials (flint, chert, obsidian, etc.).

In December 2017, Mr. Pete Adkins of Rockingham County demonstrated to the folks of the Rock. Co. Naturalist Club how flint knapping most likely was carried out by the early aboriginal inhabitants of the Upper Piedmont.

12022017 Pete

In the photo above (taken using the zoom feature on my phone), the flint knapper is a section of a broomstick with a copper nail inserted so that the pointy part is sticking out. He referred to it as an “Ishi stick.” Pete explained that Ishi was the last member of the Yahi tribe (on the West coast of North America) known to be alive at the time (nineteenth century), and he was taken in by anthropologists, who elicited his knowledge of knapping. Ishi improvised the tool out of these materials (he likely used an antler or bone to do so in his own environs). Here, Pete is removing small flakes from the stone, in the process known as pressure flaking.

12022017 Pete 3

Pete shows us the point created on the arrowhead/spearhead. The ridges created from the pressure flaking are somewhat visible, at least on the top part of the point.

It is not uncommon to find arrowheads in any given section of woods or fields here in the county. Pete explained that the Natives that carried out this practice in our region did so during what is known as the Woodland Period, by the Guilford Culture. The Woodland Period began 12,000 years ago, and lasted until the year 500. This is a topic that bears further exploration and investigation. Pete also mentioned that the Native peoples in our regions were nomadic until about 2,000 years ago.

Left, above, are other tools that that Peta has fashioned. Right, the deer and/or elk antlers used for the pressure flaking, as well as a stone with ridges used for smoothing out the edges of the arrowheads.

I would love to hear stories about finding arrowheads, or any history folks may know about the original inhabitants of the place they call home.

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