The shaping of flint by percussive force or pressure from a hammerstone, billet or flaker, specifically to make objects such as stone tools, strikers for flintlock fire arms, or replica items. See the separate entry for flintknapping (masonry).
|Historic area of significance||UK|
|Area currently practised||UK|
|Origin in the UK||Palaeolithic|
There are currently two types of flintknapping in the UK:
To make replicas of prehistoric objects such as axeheads and spearheads for use in museums, schools and archaeological research – perhaps about 5-6 people doing this professionally, and many more doing it in a non-professional capacity
To shape flint for use in masonry and wall faces – perhaps about 10 people doing this professionally
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
Flintknapping is an extremely challenging craft as flint is a very restrictive and inconsistent material. The difficulty lies in the skill – such as understanding the material, the correct angle to hit it and the probable outcome, and requires technique, accuracy and hand-eye co-ordination – rather than in the physicality.
Quality (rather than quantity) of the raw materials: There are very few sources of good quality flint in the UK – while there are a few quarries, none produce particularly good, reliable, consistent flint – although it is hoped that there will be a good quality source again in the next couple of years.
Market issues: it is likely that there will always be a market for prehistoric replica knappers, but that market is fairly saturated and can probably only support one or two more. There is a lot of competition for the best orders from prestigious museums or TV companies.
Lifestyle issues: have to travel a lot, which doesn’t suit everybody.
Quite a few people try the craft of making replica objects on day courses and many students learn/practise from someone else as part of their university research but it is not always clear if they will carry it on. There are no ‘apprentices’ learning the craft, although there might be one or two individuals who are learning seriously. There are no awarding bodies or certificates but it is not felt that this sort of infrastructure is needed and there is no one to deliver it.
Craftspeople currently known
Numbers of leisure makers: This is very difficult to estimate but there are a number of flintknapping courses and tutorials available. Flintknapping is a popular craft with reenactors and experimental archaeologists, and we we can probably surmise that there are a high number of leisure makers.