Period: Stone Age – The Mesolithic (15.000 f.kr. – 4000 f.kr.)
Project title: The Experimental manufacture of Maglemosian and Neolithic Ground Stone Points.
Researchers: Farina Sternke & Lotte Eigeland, Irland & Norway
Flint was not the only type of stone used for the manufacture of tools in the Stone Age. Other types of stones could not be knapped into shape like flint, but had to be shaped by a combination of beating and grinding. In Irland and Norway slate was used. Even though slate can’t become sharp like flint, projectile points for spears or arrow points were made of slate ground into shape. These have only been found in Irland and Norway. But how were they manufactured 6000 years ago and what was their purpose? Were they used for hunting, fishing, war or as a status object?
The Researcher's Conclusion - Part 1:
An Experimental Manufacture of Irish Ground Stone Points
Irish ground stone points are made of slate or similar types of stone. This artefact type is short-lived and rare. It has been suggested that the points were used as knives or fishing spears - they are often found in a wetland context.
This experiment carried out at The Land of Legends Lejre in 2009 was designed to answer how these points were made and what their function might have been. During the experimentation two points from original slate were completed successfully. The remaining attempts failed due to flaws in the slate material. Each of these attempts was documented thoroughly. The completed flaked and ground points were sharpened using flint flakes and burins. During this process, it became clear that the rippled effect on some of the original points is the result of this sharpening. The two points were hafted as spear points and used to spear carp, which was reasonably successful. However the points sustained damage from impact on the bottom of the lake. This damage is similar to that found on archaeological examples indicating that the elongated points were hafted as spears.
In addition, a broad slate knife was successfully used to scale and clean fish and a possible use of these implements as knives used for the processing of fish can be postulated, thus validating the previously suggested function.
The Researcher's Conclusion - Part 2:
The Early Neolithic Ground Slate Points of Eastern Norway
For researchers the occurrence of ground stone points occurrence is a puzzle since East Norway is supposedly mostly influenced by the South Scandinavian flint tool tradition, Tool production in slate is considered a northern-eastern influence. The experiment at Land of Legends in 2009 tested different types of Norwegian slate and two different manufacturing techniques: direct percussion and grooving/breaking of slate plates. Both techniques were followed by grounding the points into shape. It was important to see which technique was most efficient and how this could be related to flint technology.
The results from the experiments were the following: There was a great difference in quality between the different types of slate and this affected the time it took to groove the plates and ground the points. Direct percussion proved to be a poor technique and was replaced by resting the slate against an anvil-stone. It was also demonstrated that splitting slate with slate was more efficient than direct percussion with a hammer stone. As expected, grooving of slate plates was not very efficient compared to other techniques. A comparison of the slate technology with flint technology or bone technology found no apparent relationship.
Reference number HAF 17/09