September is actually the New Year. I mean…it should be. It’s the end of the holidays and it’s when school starts. It’s when ones thoughts turn, pretty abruptly, from the frivolity of frolicking in sandals to the sturdy lace-ups of more indoor-based activities…like studying… And so, with the aim of stimulating my brain cells rather than my melanin pigment…I wandered off to New Scientist Live 2018 at London’s Excel Centre – a kind of science festival. There are so many choices of things to learn, do, and see in London….it’s marvellous..and overwhelming. The place was teeming with very intelligent people, at least one Nobel laureate and lots of school children.
Now, I kind of don’t like to admit this, but I like knives. Knives have an undeservedly bad reputation, in my opinion. I don’t go anywhere without my Swiss Army knife – mostly because I like to be prepared (girl-scout style) for any urgent and necessary apple-slicing that may be needed. I understand that many people collect knives with fancy handles and display swords etc above their mantlepieces (OK, some people do). But I don’t like knives because of how they look/how big/how small or even how sharp they are. I like them, because they were likely man’s first and most basic tool…the thing we invented when we first decided we wanted to do/make/shape things more easily and conveniently…when we first decided not to accept things as they are. Our first technology. So. Imagine my excitement when I came across a stand run by a young man called James Dilley – a large display of stone tools, cave art, prehistoric toys…and a handaxe workshop where (for free), James taught us how to make a handaxe (a prehistoric knife) out of a lump of flint. I sat at the front and watched him very carefully as he produced a serviceable flint handaxe in under 10 minutes. I had seen this done before, and I had tried once before, pretty unsuccessfully, to produce one myself. But I really focused on how James held both the flint and the hammerstone with which he was shaping (knapping) it. And then I told myself I was Michelangelo…that is, that the handaxe was already inside the stone and all I had to do was chisel it out…and I think it worked…I produced something that looked quite like the real thing (see pics). I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get home to see if it worked…and it kind of did, though I doubt it would help much if I had to butcher a deer…
I’m sure I remember reading somewhere about a butcher (Italian, I think) who was going around doing demonstrations/lectures on knife/butchery skills…he was worried that we were going to lose this skill, along with many others we have already lost/are losing. All I can say is, if I can knock one of these up, there is definitely hope for the future of mankind.
Thanks to husband for donating a piece of his dinner in the cause of experimental archaeology.
Well done J, an excellent hand axe!!
Hi Caroline! Thank you!..I’m pretty proud of it, and not a little surprised at how it turned out…jx