Field & Stream
Rock Of Ages Image Credit: Field & Stream
Rock Of Ages Image Credit: Field & Stream

Rock Of Ages

A training course with an expert flintknapper transports the author back in time to the earliest hunters.

T. Edward Nickens

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

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