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9 October 2005
Knappers use Stone Age techniques to carve tools

More than 10,000 years ago, prehistoric Americans attached sharpened stone "points" to spears and hunted woolly mammoths. In the 1960s and 1970s, a handful of archeologists made basic, often clumsy arrowheads in order to better understand ancient tool making. Since then, knapping has taken off as a surprisingly popular American pastime and art form.
     Hundreds of modern-day Stone Agers now gather at weekend 'knap-ins,' where they chip rock, swap techniques and trade arrowheads. Novices eager to learn the skill pay $500 or more to attend workshops. Dozens of books and videos tout the craft. A glossy magazine for knapping devotees, Modern Lithic Artists Journal, launched last year and featured Mr. Spears's work in the first issue. Another quarterly bible of the trade is called Chips.
     John Whittaker, an archeologist-knapper at Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, estimates that there are at least 5,000 knappers in the U.S., mostly men, who churn out 1.5 million pieces a year. Replica arrowheads sell on the Internet for $10 to $100 or more apiece, and are increasingly turning up on eBay.
     Old-time knappers worry about commercialization of their craft. That's because the best knappers have become so skilled that their work can be difficult to distinguish from Stone Age objects. Some archeologists fret that modern arrowheads are more likely now than in the past to be sold as originals, muddying the historical record.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Post-gazette.com (6 October 2005)

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