Shaping generations through the art of flintknapping

Times Observer by Lorri Drumm Beth Burch, of Sugar Grove, took a break from camping to treat granddaughters Kylie and Kenzie Guiher (ages 8 and 4) to a program about flint knapping at Chapman State Park on Saturday. Ryan Rickerson, of Warren, presented the program. He has been flintknapping for about 10 years.

“In the middle of this stone, somewhere there’s a knife blade or an arrowhead,” Ryan Rickerson told a group gathered to observe as he methodically chipped away at a stone. “It’s complicated. But there’s a rhyme or reason for everything I’m doing.”

Rickerson presented a program all about the art of flintknapping on Saturday at Chapman State Park. A majority of those who attended the program knew nothing prior to Saturday.

By the time the program concluded, everyone had a much better understanding of the why and how the ancient art began and continues today.

Flintknapping is the term used for the many different flake removal technologies used to create the majority of stone tools found throughout time all around the world. The process involves a multitude of techniques and tools. The basic theme involves reducing the volume of stone by removing flakes. This is achieved by either direct, indirect or pressure flaking until the desired shape is obtained.

Flintknapping can be traced farther back in time than any other technology. Stone tool making marks the first evidence in the prehistoric record of a simple cultural tradition based on learning.

Times Observer by Lorri Drumm Beth Burch, of Sugar Grove, took a break from camping to treat granddaughters Kylie and Kenzie Guiher (ages 8 and 4) to a program about flint knapping at Chapman State Park on Saturday. Ryan Rickerson, of Warren, presented the program. He has been flint knapping for about 10 years.

Rickerson uses various tools of different sizes, depending on the outcome he’s trying to achieve. Before he got started transforming a stone into flakes that could be formed into tools, he showed those in attendance some of the tools that Native Americans would have used many years ago. As he explained the process, he passed around a moose antler that can be used as a tool. “It’s extremely dense,” he said. “It’ll probably last me a lifetime.”

Rickerson also took questions from some of the youngest onlookers. Kenzie Guiher, 4, picked up some of the stone tools Rickerson had displayed on pieces of deer hide. “Is this what the Indians used?” she asked. Rickerson told her it was similar. She then picked up a thicker tool that had a lime green appearance. “This one looks like soap,” she said. Rickerson explained that it was actually fiber optic glass but the smoothness made it look like soap.

When looking for stone or material to use for flint knapping you look for a smooth or slick (high-silica) content, Rickerson explained. He used the example of a BB hitting a plate glass window. “When that happens, it pops out a cone,” he said. “The stone has to have the same characteristic.” That characteristic is called “predictable fracture.”

While he explained the process as he chipped away, often creating large flakes that tumbled into a bucket below, he strayed to the technical aspect on occasion but he also told a few stories. One of those stories seemed useful to those who may have a tendency to pick up every triangular-shaped rock they find in hopes of discovering an ancient artifact.

Rickerson has a friend who was finding river rocks, almost perfectly round-shaped rocks typically found near a river, way up on a hill where they didn’t belong. “Here’s how you know if it was a tool like a hammerstone,” Rickerson said. “If it was used it will have a sweet spot.”

Times Observer by Lorri Drumm Beth Burch, of Sugar Grove, took a break from camping to treat granddaughters Kylie and Kenzie Guiher (ages 8 and 4) to a program about flint knapping at Chapman State Park on Saturday. Ryan Rickerson, of Warren, presented the program. He has been flint knapping for about 10 years.

Rickerson’s friend couldn’t find the sweet spot at first but then he held it in his left hand and it fit perfectly. “Whoever used it must have been left-handed,” he said.

As some of those in attendance were amazed as they watched Rickerson creating thin, workable flakes from the stone, he admitted the process takes time to learn.

“When I first started I whittled stones down to nothing,” he said. “I wondered what I was doing wrong. But there’s one thing about me — I don’t give up easy.”

“It’s got a hold of me now,” he said. “I could sit here and thump on rocks all day. I’d be in my happy place.”

Times Observer by Lorri Drumm Beth Burch, of Sugar Grove, took a break from camping to treat granddaughters Kylie and Kenzie Guiher (ages 8 and 4) to a program about flint knapping at Chapman State Park on Saturday. Ryan Rickerson, of Warren, presented the program. He has been flint knapping for about 10 years.

Ryan Rickerson, of Warren, demonstrated the art of flint knapping and told much of the history behind the ancient art of creating stone tools. The program was held on Saturday at Chapman State Park.

Ryan Rickerson, of Warren, demonstrated the art of flint knapping and told much of the history behind the ancient art of creating stone tools. The program was held on Saturday at Chapman State Park.

Ryan Rickerson, of Warren, demonstrated the art of flint knapping and told much of the history behind the ancient art of creating stone tools. The program was held on Saturday at Chapman State Park.

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