Having survived a logistically difficult move 4000 miles to live in the UK again, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the British countryside and even the weather. Sub-tropical heat and humidity does not suit me at all. I blame neanderthal genes; I clearly have cold-adapted body proportions and feel much more alive in cold weather. But one of the highlights of returning to the UK is the fact that I’ve found quite a lot of flint.
My family all think I’m crazy because while the rest of the family were paddling in the sea and/or building sandcastles when we went to the beach in August, I was making like a Homo ergaster and bashing up bits of flint, trying to shape them into tools.
My first successful stone tool was this one, which I think just about qualifies as an Oldowan style chopper although Australopithecus sediba might have something to say about it. But I think it would cut through meat although I haven’t tried it yet. The competitive streak in me wants to know how well it compares to the tools made by Kanzi the bonobo. I want to know if it’s good enough for me to keep my human card.
I got a bit more ambitious with this one (which is by far not my 2nd attempt – I have several failed ones that I’m not posting on this blog) where I was trying to get the general shape of a hand axe. I think I succeeded in that, albeit that it’s not as pretty as the Acheulean hand axes I’ve seen.
I got the last laugh regarding my family thinking I’m insane for taking lumps of flint and my rather feeble attempts at stone tool making into my house, because in the chaos of moving, I couldn’t find any scissors. I needed to remove one of those plastic tag things from something I’d bought and it was too thick to break with my fingers, so I needed something to cut it with. While looking for them, I found my hand axe, and thought I’d use that instead. and found it worked really well. It was easier to use than scissors on that kind of tag, and would have given a craft knife a run for its money. Since then, I’ve used it for other plastic tags. It’s now my tool of choice for that, and has also been used to cut through cardboard and other kinds of packaging. It’s quite interesting that such an ancient technology – dating back to the lower palaeolithic era – can be useful even in this day and age.
I originally posted this in an online forum. I think it makes a better blog post than forum post though.
– you get lots of exercise hunting food
– you get lots of exercise walking around the countryside gathering food
– meat cooked on an open fire tastes great
– it’s really, really healthy
– you won’t get fat because you can’t eat without catching your food first
– sitting around a campfire with your neanderthal/Denisovan/Homo heidelbergensis/Homo erectus* friends while the meat cooks will be nice and fun and relaxing
– living outdoors at one with nature is really good for that inner sense of well-being that’s so hard to find in modern society
*choose which you identify with most, or whichever best matches your cranial capacity
– it can be hard to get enough fat and carbohydrate. Well, protein, vitamins and minerals can be hard to get too. Food, generally, is not easy to get. So you might be hungry a lot. Hopefully you won’t die of it though.
– it’s really really hard to make effective hunting weapons using only stone tools.
– neanderthal skeletons show injury patterns similar to rodeo riders, i.e there’s a high risk of getting your bones broken while catching food. Upper palaeolithic hunting methods (i.e. with projectile weapons) are safer, but good luck making accurate throwing spears and bows and arrows and similar out of flint, wood and animal sinew….
– flint and iron pyrite are hard to find, without these starting fires is really hard. it’s not that easy even with flint and iron pyrite.
– you can only eat fruit for part of the year, unless you find yourself a nice tropical rainforest to live in, and then you’d be in competition for it with other primates who are much better at climbing trees than you
– tropical rainforests are full of nasty, poisonous bugs, snakes and stuff. A more temperate climate would be safer, but the food that you’d eat to survive the winter is more likely to be tough and taste yucky
– palaeolithic clothing doesn’t look that great. Well, upper palaeolithic clothing probably did look quite fancy and attractive….. but you need to be able to make a needle out of flint before you can make it. Even making a middle palaeolithic flint awl for lace/strap holes in skins for middle palaeolithic clothing is beyond your flintknapping abilities. Heck, there’s a bonobo called Kanzi who’s a better flintknapper than you… you’ll be lucky to manage to make lower palaeolithic stone tools so forget clothes and just go naked. Not sure how you’ll survive the winter like that though, unless you live somewhere tropical with all the bugs and snakes and stuff.
– no bread, cake, chocolate, in fact pretty much none of the food that you know, other than barbequed meat, because most of it came from selective breeding, or the Americas, or other parts of Africa/Eurasia that are not where you live, so you won’t be able to find it.
– and no internet, so you can’t even look up on you tube to learn how to make stone tools to reclaim your right to call yourself human and say “in your face!” to any bonobo upstarts who are trying to out-Homo the genus Homo.