BACK WHEN YOU WERE little,” James Parker asks me, “did you ever shoot a plate glass window with a BB gun? I know I did, because I remember the whupping I got from my daddy.”
The question catches me off guard. I’m sitting in Parker’s deep-woods workshop, high in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, with a rock in each hand, wondering how to use one to turn the other into something sharp and pointy. “Sure,” I reply. “What kid didn’t?”
“Good,” Parker says. “Then you already know what a Hertzian cone is. It’s that little round divot of glass you get when you shoot a window with a BB.” What happens, Parker explains, is the BB’s energy travels through the glass and feathers out the other side in a cone shape. “And that’s what you’re fixing to do,” he continues. “Knock a couple hundred little Hertzian cones off the back side of that rock.”
So that’s the trick, I think. Hertzian cones. Conchoidal fractures. The lithic reduction continuum. My bad. I thought I had come to these mountains to learn how to chip out an arrowhead.
Parker, 54, is a flint-knapper, traditional bowyer, and primitive-skills instructor. When museums need a historically accurate stone adze or an authentic bark-sided wickiup, he gets the call. He’s been knapping for 40