Re: Culture/Flintknapping

Jesse S. Cook III (jcook@AWOD.COM)
Sat, 17 Aug 1996 10:19:42 -0400

On 16 August 1996, Nicholas Gessler wrote:

>Jesse Cook has challenged John Cole's assertions that stone toolmaking can
>be taught quickly and without language. I'd like to back up John's
>observations with some of my own. Citing experience:
>While in Solvieux, France in the late '60s I and a few others found that
>within a few hours we could make a number of Magdelenian stone tools fairly
>well. When we had an abundant supply of flint we found it easy to learn
>quickly from our own trial and error. Subsequently, I've worked in quartzite
>and obsidian and found that it's not hard to become a Flintknapper Step I.
>Here we were self-taught by copying an extant tool.
>I don't pretend to be anywhere near Crabtree or Bonnichson in flintknapping
>expertise, but I should point out that they too were largely self-taught, or
>learned from copying extant tools. Again language was not involved between
>the original maker (long dead) and the student.
>Language probably would have improved our efficiency.

Dear Nick:

May I point out that John Cole was not talking about teaching himself but
about teaching others. So, your experience does not "back up John's
observations". (Where and what did he "observe" I wonder?) Teaching
oneself and teaching others is not the same thing.

Furthermore, while you were teaching yourself, did you not have any internal
dialogue? Was your "trial and error" completely without any language

Also, when you "and a few others" were engaged in this activity 30 years
ago, was it done in complete silence? Were there no comments passed back
and forth as the "few hours" passed?

Again, it might have taken only "a few hours" to teach yourself, but that
doesn't mean it would take only "a few hours" to teach someone else. And,
after 30 years, can you say with assurance how many hours "a few hours" was?

Finally, were the "Magdelenian [sic] stone tools" thus produced of
sufficient quality to serve the purpose for which the neandertal would have
intended them? Did you try them out to see if they would serve?

Jesse S. Cook III E-Mail:
Post Office Box 40984 or
Charleston, SC 29485 USA

"Our attitude toward others is not determined by who *they* are;
it is determined by who *we* are."