Thursday, December 10, 2009

The mysterious flake...

While working down at Port Tobacco I have often heard a volunteer exclaim "I found a flake! least I think it's a this a flake?" as he or she holds up a small piece of quartz or quartzite found in the screen. I must admit that I have done this myself, only to puzzle later in the lab as to why I am washing so many plain old rocks. So, while I cannot promise that it will make identifying flakes any easier, I figured perhaps it was time for a blog on the mysterious and elusive flake.

Flakes are pieces of stone that are removed from a core during the process of making stone tools. These flakes can be produced during the initial forming of the tool's shape as well as during retouching and resharpening the edges of a tool (the sort of tools we are most commonly thinking about are scrapers, knives, and projectile points). Flakes have several common traits, including a striking platform, a bulb of percussion, and fracture ripples (click on the image at left for an idea of where to find these characteristics). Not every flake will have all of these, but it will at least have one of them. Stone tool manufacture, whether performed through percussion or pressure flaking, produce five main types of flakes. Also, it is important to realize that flakes are not only removed in order to make a tool out of a core, but can also be used as tools themselves.

Check back tomorrow for a breakdown of the main types of flakes, as well as some images of flakes we have found! You know you want to...


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