Posted by: iMalqata Blog | February 3, 2015

A Surprise Among the Pebbles



Diana Craig Patch

For the first step in excavating our new square west of the Audience Pavilion, I wanted to collect all of the surface material so I could study the type of debris we might anticipate finding in an undisturbed stratum below or nearby. The surface, of course, was disturbed material, but debris in a spoil heap left behind by archaeologists reflects the ancient activities in the area. Studying the surface would tell me something about the site in the immediate area of the square. So the workmen collected everything on the surface of Sq. N150/E175, including the sherds and pebbles I mentioned yesterday. As I checked the piles of stone to make sure there was nothing there but natural pebbles from the desert, one piece immediately stood out. It was a flint awl still in perfect condition.


Although I am not a specialist by any means in stone tools, you cannot be trained in North American archaeology like I once was without learning a little bit about them. This tool is probably a core tool, that is, a tool made from a chunk or cobble of flint, rather than from a large flake knocked off a core. Flint awls, however, can be made both ways. This one’s size and the darker colored surfaces in the center of the tool suggest that before the awl was knapped, the stone was a chunk. The brown flint chosen for the awl is of good quality, meaning the stone’s matrix was smooth and even, making the flint easy to work. This piece was knapped (a term used in flint manufacture that means “hit with another stone to shape the edges”) to fit nicely in a hand by slightly rounding the lower edge. Further knapping brought one end to a well-defined point.


Awls are generally used for punching holes in leather or assisting in the manufacture of baskets. So far we have nothing that suggests this kind of work at Sq. N150/E175. This tool could have been used to make an opening or depression in any material softer than quartz, which is what flint is (more on this in a later blog). It is unusual to find a tool with a long thin point from a manufacturing site (we hope) still in perfect condition.

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