Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gunflint Comparison

I thought I would show side by side photographs of the quartz gunflint and one made from English flint. The English piece is broken, but the sizes and shapes are comparable. Of greater interest than shape is the edge damage, or use-wear, along the lower margins of both and along the upper margin of the quartz piece.

Quartz (left) and English (right) gunflints from Port Tobacco. The quartz piece is almost certainly aboriginal. The English piece also might have been used by the Indians.

Repeated strikes with, or pressure applied to, the working edge of each tool created a very fine serrated edge. The result is an unintended byproduct and not a result of design. Repeated use required re-shaping of the piece, removing the evidence of use-wear and resulting in a steeper edged gunflint. Eventually, the user simply discarded the worn gunflint.

Gunflints show up regularly, though not in large numbers, on colonial period sites, as does lead shot of various calibers. Continental flints, distinguished by their brown or honey-like color, generally are attributed to French sources. They tend to be very well made and often appear on sites dating to the Revolutionary War, the French being the Continental Army's principal supplier of arms. As an important node in the Army's supply network...especially during the early years of the Revolution...we might expect Port Tobacco to yield quite a few gunflints, but probably few of the French type since Port Tobacco, Charles County, and Maryland as a whole played a much reduced role in supplying the Army until the eve of the great victory at Yorktown. Some French and Dutch flints, however, may show up in connection with mid-17th century Indian and colonial sites, especially for the 1640s and 1650s when English trade restrictions on the colony were not well enforced.


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