Chipping Away At History in Perry County

 

In the basement of the historic Blue Ball Tavern near newport, everyone was knapping.  Flintknapping, that is.  It's the art of shaping  rocks and stones into tools, weapons, jewelry and even currency.
It's a craft dating back to man's earliest years, celebrated locally by the newly formed Pennsylvania Flintknapping and Stone Tool Guild.
“We're using the same tools.  We're making the same points,” said guild president, Mark Zagursky, explaining how members strive to duplicate the techniques used to make tools and weapons the same as they were made thousands of years ago.  “We're not using them for weapons or hunting but we could.  It's a way of connecting to the past.”
The hammering tools in this ancient art are as basic as stone, wood, bone and antlers, depending on what is being made and what kind of rock or stone it is made out of.
Depending on the flintknapper's skill level,  the finished replicas are amazingly similar to the originals.
Steve Nissly has been flintknapping for 24 years and especially appreciates the tools and weapons discovered locally.
“They were typically made from really gnarly stones,” said Nissly. “Many of which are native to Pennsylvania.”
The term knapping evolved from the German word “knopp” which means to strike, shape or work something. Flint is one of the more common stones shaped into tools and weapons.
Making heavier stone tools like hand axes requires different techniques, also taught by the guild.
At monthly flintnapping sessions, it's an afternoon of shaping and sharing,  trading tips and techniques.
“There's always a new style.  Or, another style or technique to learn,” said Nissly. “Every rock is different.  So, you never finish learning.”

 

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