stone age to copper age, what are ideas based on??

Dec 2019
5
honolulu
Hello,

I love to just imagine my own version of history. However, I am aware that many historians over many generations have presented virtually every possible version of ancient history (as far as how technology evolved), and that I won't have any new ideas, and also that debates have resulted in some degree of narrowing of the possible histories of technological advance.

I am initially interested in the finds and artifacts that archeologists referenced when outlining how they think the advancement of metal tools (and the lack of advancement where it is important for the conversation) came about. The comment string that brings me here is specifically about where the line is drawn from copper to bronze age. I have a tendency to think that forged tools were more or less a standard around the world, with caste bronze being a product of a few small (ok , i mean huge) manufacturing operations ,,, In cities in egypt, caste bronze would have been a norm, but in more rural settings, caste tools would have been basically unavailable, and forged tools would have been the norm.

A major assumption that I am making is that casting bronze (although it can be done on a very small scale) would be considered "not the option" or "unavailable" to people who were not in places like Egyptian population centers or Mesopotamian centers etc. Most tools would of course be axes, knives, maybe spear-heads, , probably pans but maybe not ( I know nothing of the history of pans) ,, anyway most of these tools could be forged, and forging of copper can happen in a variety of much more casual environments. a normal fire, some extra time, and a committed individual could trade for ingots or bars of metals and could then forge out whatever axehead or knife they needed,,, casting requires molds, liquid metal, and and a very dedicated kind of fire and equipment.

in the comment string I suggested that I think that forging of metals would have been simply more commonplace for early history (stone-age, into the copper age, and even into the bronze age) until certain major breakthroughs took place relating to the "furnace" and furnace environment. (which is at least similar to an actual sentence from a history book , which notes that the bronze age DID benefit from advancements in the furnace), my counter-commenter says that no, bronze and copper wouldn't be different, it's just a matter of acquiring the tin,,... HOwever, I do think that the difference between casting bronze artifacts, and forging them, (or copper or gold) would require some serious advancement in the minimum techniques required.

I am interested in finding maybe a book or other resource that I can read about the certain and possible histories related to this subject. Also, I am interested to learn more about theories about how gold might have been used in the stone age, what sort of tools may have been made from gold, how much gold may have been part of the stone age "economy" etc. (I am assuming that gold was possible to find by stone age cultures as literally pieces of gold that could be then shaped into objects, I assume that some form of knife would be one of the first objects that would be accidentally discovered).

I am also, if they are available, in finding any lore relating to golden tools during the stone age, maybe golden knives or hammers, or just general stories centered on a world with virtually no other metals that may be inspired by interpreting ancient history.

Thanks!!
 
Dec 2019
5
honolulu
Have you looked into the Inuit , thats an interesting related topic ;

iron (pre iron age ) lance tip
no, not particularly. By inuit you do mean alaskans?? I actually also don't know how expansive their range was. (that would be classified as inuit). I DO know that I ALSO don't know anything about bone as a material. I know that you can still buy knives like a ghurka with a bone handle, and I see that these tools were made by using bone handles. I also know that bone is one of the materials that is credited for the rise of the stone age. It's honestly quite a far cry from where I am spending my imagination to try and feel like i might know something about bone. I know something about metals, because I use high technology razor blades, and also have a range of quality of knife,,, and also I play with different stock metals occasionally, like sheet metals from home depot, or garbage from house demolition (copper and such). you would think I would feel exposed to bones, but I don't. I have always preferred wood as a toy, and never really considered bone throughout my entire life. I always tried to imagine someone using a bird claw as a knife, but ,,,,, it's hard to picture, i seem to think that stones would be easier to cut with. I think that if you spent some time playing with the material in the appropriate settings, like if you had a hobby using bones for stuff, then you might eventually start to think that you are really getting a mental picture of the ways that one might do things using bone as a tool,, but I just have never had the opportunity.

another thing is, although those tools look old, the same problem as all other finds applies to these tools. People are making recreations even today, and people would have been making some form of recreation from the very beginnings of when such tools might have been actually the best tools available. The problem with this is,, recreations are NOT used in real practice, so the engineering that went in to the actual tools might NOT be properly represented in the recreation. A good way to imagine it , is decorative swords, particularly those made in the 80's and 90's. Tons of swords were made that didn't have proper handles or proper blade mounts. Today, because of the internet and also because of the incredible advances in weapons technology and social behavior, it's possible to buy a very functional sword for less than 100 bucks. Back in the 80's and 90's , laws were much more strict, and such kinds of toys were much more expensive, so they just weren't made. If someone finds a sword from that era, probably stainless steel, they will find and show off a sword with critical flaws in its engineering, drastically affecting how well it will look like it worked. ,,, If you go to some fair and buy a historical looking hatchet or knife, you might be surprised at how much it feels like it won't work ,and it will break. That doesn't mean that in the stone age and early metal ages, people were stuck with tools that felt like they would break, that just means that by the time whatever tool you see was made, there wasn't anyone around making sure that the quality was usable. Anyone needing a tool would just use a "modern" tool of the era. Tourism and artifact display are at least as old as written history, and may be as old as imaginable history. If there is a tool in use in a shop somewhere, it's going to wear out and be discarded where it will be destroyed and recycled. If someone makes a decorative (however useless) display-piece, it will be stored, cleaned, preserved, and passed down as wealth. It's very unlikely that a real knife from pre-antiquity is just going to be abandoned, because it would be so valuable no one would allow it to go to such waste. If it's already useless, then it is likely that it will be kept as it was intended, as an ornament in a nice place, then eventually stored with other ornaments that might represent some past family member. ,,,,, when I see a picture of a bone and stone tool, I imagine someone, maybe a student in a school, or maybe someone making tourist trinkets, putting something together that looks like it's the same materials, but simply put, isn't what the ancient engineer would have produced to meet their needs.

however, one last point that should be included. If what is needed is a sharp object,,, a strong object might not be the correct tool. Sharp objects like razor blades can actually stay sharper longer if the handle is not very robust. As you push with a very strong handle, the sharp, fine edges would be destroyed very quickly. However, if the blade is gently mounted into the handle, it will be difficult to push on the blade, so the blade will never take so much pressure and remain sharper longer. The philosophy of "let the blade do the work" might be the entire reason why blades are so frequently mounted so gently. If you can get the blade to do the work, then it should cut like magic, with very little force. If you have to push, then you obviously aren't using the edge of the blade properly. This is why actually, it's perfectly imaginable that in an era where creating the sharp edge was such a challenge, every effort to preserve the edge would have been taken, including mounting it such that it is virtually impossible to apply a force to the edge that would damage it. ,,,,,, This is actually one thing that I would love to hear more about, but no one seems to say.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
Hoo, where to start?? This is going to take some time, so I might have to do it in several posts.

I love to just imagine my own version of history.
Just as a very minor point, I would say that you should not *imagine* history at all! Study it and learn it, and don't let your imagination make up ANYTHING that can be learned from the facts and data at hand. That said, I constantly see experts with degrees going off at length on subjects in which they have no background at all, wildly making up all kinds of bizarre things. Don't fall into that trap.

The comment string that brings me here is specifically about where the line is drawn from copper to bronze age.
Yeah, it's a very fuzzy line! I don't worry about trying to nail it down more specifically, especially because it's going to vary not only by region, but also by modern definition...

I have a tendency to think that forged tools were more or less a standard around the world, with caste bronze being a product of a few small (ok , i mean huge) manufacturing operations ,,, In cities in egypt, caste bronze would have been a norm, but in more rural settings, caste tools would have been basically unavailable, and forged tools would have been the norm.
First major problem. ALL bronze items start by casting. All. Bronze is made by mixing copper and tin, which can only be done by MELTING them, and pouring the molten metal into a mold of some sort. For some things, all you need to do after that is clean up the casting (cutting off "flashing" and sprues, grinding and polishing the surface, etc.), but many things were then hammered in some way to their final form. "Forging" is basically heating and hammering, and it's not an inappropriate word for bronze working, as long as you understand that bronze is generally hammered only when cold. It must be heated red-hot and then quenched in water to anneal or soften it, and then it can be hammered until it hardens again.

But the basic shape of any tool was a casting. You cast an axe head to shape , for example, then you can hammer-harden the cutting edge and hammer up flanges along the side for mounting on its haft. But you don't start with an ingot of bronze and hammer out an axehead completely.

Copper is very similar, with one difference being that there were deposits of "native copper"--lumps and pieces of nearly-pure metallic copper--visible on the ground in a few places around the world. These could be collected and then hammered more or less to shape, and can be made into simple blades or ornaments. But most native copper was used up pretty quickly, before the Bronze Age got well under way, so people had to discover how to get copper from various ores. That means smelting, which can NOT be done on an open fire, but kilns were used for firing pottery so it wasn't such a large step to making closed smelters. Smelting takes more technology and higher temperatures than are needed for forging, and that's true for iron as well as copper and bronze.

A major assumption that I am making is that casting bronze (although it can be done on a very small scale) would be considered "not the option" or "unavailable" to people who were not in places like Egyptian population centers or Mesopotamian centers etc. Most tools would of course be axes, knives, maybe spear-heads, , probably pans but maybe not ( I know nothing of the history of pans) ,, anyway most of these tools could be forged, and forging of copper can happen in a variety of much more casual environments. a normal fire, some extra time, and a committed individual could trade for ingots or bars of metals and could then forge out whatever axehead or knife they needed,,, casting requires molds, liquid metal, and and a very dedicated kind of fire and equipment.

in the comment string I suggested that I think that forging of metals would have been simply more commonplace for early history (stone-age, into the copper age, and even into the bronze age) until certain major breakthroughs took place relating to the "furnace" and furnace environment. (which is at least similar to an actual sentence from a history book , which notes that the bronze age DID benefit from advancements in the furnace), my counter-commenter says that no, bronze and copper wouldn't be different, it's just a matter of acquiring the tin,,... HOwever, I do think that the difference between casting bronze artifacts, and forging them, (or copper or gold) would require some serious advancement in the minimum techniques required.
Yeah, I'm afraid a lot of your basic assumptions are not accurate. Another point is that through much of the Bronze Age, it seems that a lot of people never had metal tools. Bronze was an expensive commodity, and would have been used mostly by the wealthy, including the warrior class. One fascinating tidbit is that bronze items are almost never found in homes and settlements by archeologists. We find it in graves, and in votive deposits (anywhere from a single axehead to thousands of items), or in water, but only rarely where people *lived*. Common farmers and herders did without metal, as they always had. A LOT of bronze was used for weapons and ornaments. We do find platters and bowls and cups, but no real idea if those were used for rich folks to eat from, or just for religious rituals, or just to be buried with, etc. Axeheads are quite common in Europe, but again, we can't really say that every farmer had a bronze axe. Huge numbers of them were clearly specially made for some kind of ritual use, with way too much lead included in the alloy for the to have been usable. And we find them in large numbers, carefully stacked in pots, or arranged in patterns under great slabs of stone, etc. Not your average Home Depot...

Gotta run! More in a moment.

Matthew
 
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Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
I am interested in finding maybe a book or other resource that I can read about the certain and possible histories related to this subject.



Bronze Age Swords (Neil Burridge, THE BEST for repro bronze swords, etc.)

My own humble Bronze Age website has a number of links (hopefully not all dead...) and the start of a bibliography, though I don't know how much you'll find on basic metallurgy.

But there are definitely Youtube videos on smelting and casting bronze, so do some googling!

Also, I am interested to learn more about theories about how gold might have been used in the stone age, what sort of tools may have been made from gold, how much gold may have been part of the stone age "economy" etc. (I am assuming that gold was possible to find by stone age cultures as literally pieces of gold that could be then shaped into objects, I assume that some form of knife would be one of the first objects that would be accidentally discovered).
Gold was certainly found in pure form (nuggets) and was used quite early, but I don't think it was ever used for serious tools or weapons. It's just too soft. It has the advantage over other metals that it does not work-harden, so you can literally hammer a nugget or other lump into anything you like, without having to anneal it or use heat at all. Google "ancient bronze age gold hat" and you'll find incredible things, hammered out from paper-thin gold foil from a single small block. It was always precious, but used for trade and currency and ornaments, not for usable items (except bowls and cups, I guess!).

Matthew
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
...I DO know that I ALSO don't know anything about bone as a material. I know that you can still buy knives like a ghurka with a bone handle, and I see that these tools were made by using bone handles. I also know that bone is one of the materials that is credited for the rise of the stone age.
Bone was certainly a common material, for all sorts of things. It is much harder than wood, somewhat brittle, and the fact that it comes in particular shapes makes it very handy for some items but a royal pain in the backside for others! (Wood comes in great big tree-sized pieces that can be made into all manner of planks and poles and blocks, but not bone...) I've made a number of sword and dagger hilts from bone, and a few other items as well, and it's always interesting to work with. It was certainly used for arrow and spear points.

Other materials included horn, ivory, antler, hoof, teeth, and sinew.

I know something about metals, because I use high technology razor blades, and also have a range of quality of knife,,, and also I play with different stock metals occasionally, like sheet metals from home depot, or garbage from house demolition (copper and such).
Oh, I remember those days! And I'm still a dedicated scrounger--never pay for anything you can find in someone's trash! BUT beating on things like that does not teach you real metallurgy, so definitely keep reading whatever you can find. And I'm honestly not trying to sound superior, here! I've never done casting myself, though I've seen it done a few times, I just don't have the facilities for it. It's a stiff learning curve and can be dangerous. Mostly I work in sheet metal, or I grind out blades from stock (usually scrap!), or modify bad repro items into something better. It's all educational and FUN. So keep at it.

I always tried to imagine someone using a bird claw as a knife, but ,,,,, it's hard to picture, i seem to think that stones would be easier to cut with.
You're probably right, I suspect people tried most everything at some point. But I suspect that once tool-using hominids found that a couple simple wacks resulted in a REALLY sharp cutting edge on a stone, they didn't bother with beaks and claws.

I think that if you spent some time playing with the material in the appropriate settings, like if you had a hobby using bones for stuff, then you might eventually start to think that you are really getting a mental picture of the ways that one might do things using bone as a tool,, but I just have never had the opportunity.
Watch a lot of videos, read whatever you can, then get a plain bone dog chew from a pet store and try it out! WEAR A MASK--bone dust is hazardous to your lungs. (Great for the flower garden!) Also gloves, goggles, etc. We learn by DOING the thing. Go for it.

another thing is, although those tools look old, the same problem as all other finds applies to these tools. People are making recreations even today, and people would have been making some form of recreation from the very beginnings of when such tools might have been actually the best tools available. The problem with this is,, recreations are NOT used in real practice, so the engineering that went in to the actual tools might NOT be properly represented in the recreation. A good way to imagine it , is decorative swords, particularly those made in the 80's and 90's. Tons of swords were made that didn't have proper handles or proper blade mounts.
Oh, yes! The vast majority of what you find for sale are decorative pieces, not meant for use at all. Obviously your money is yours to spend as you please, but if you want better reproductions of historical pieces, it seriously pays to do some research, and get advice on any particular piece you might find and be curious about. *I* can tell if a repro Roman gladius is accurate in appearance pretty much instantly, but that won't necessarily tell me anything about its weight or metallurgy. And I've had decades of experience! Caveat emptor.

Today, because of the internet and also because of the incredible advances in weapons technology and social behavior, it's possible to buy a very functional sword for less than 100 bucks.
Retail? Not that I've seen, very often! There was a reasonable $85 gladius for a while, but it went off the market years ago, and I wouldn't swear to its functionality. Not that modern steel has to be very good to make a usable Greek or Roman sword, you really don't need high-end sword steels for most of those! But GOOD repro medieval swords go for thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars, and even decent ancient-era swords start around $150 or so. Be careful! And feel free to ask advice!

however, one last point that should be included. If what is needed is a sharp object,,, a strong object might not be the correct tool. Sharp objects like razor blades can actually stay sharper longer if the handle is not very robust. As you push with a very strong handle, the sharp, fine edges would be destroyed very quickly. However, if the blade is gently mounted into the handle, it will be difficult to push on the blade, so the blade will never take so much pressure and remain sharper longer. The philosophy of "let the blade do the work" might be the entire reason why blades are so frequently mounted so gently. If you can get the blade to do the work, then it should cut like magic, with very little force. If you have to push, then you obviously aren't using the edge of the blade properly. This is why actually, it's perfectly imaginable that in an era where creating the sharp edge was such a challenge, every effort to preserve the edge would have been taken, including mounting it such that it is virtually impossible to apply a force to the edge that would damage it. ,,,,,, This is actually one thing that I would love to hear more about, but no one seems to say.
Well, I can see what you're saying, but not sure it always applies. It is interesting that many surviving ancient tools and weapons are smaller and more lightly built than we expect. But they did the job! An axe that would look good in a Conan movie was pointless, counterproductive, and wasteful of materials. Lots of weapons look small and flimsy, but they are highly refined and perfectly lethal. The first identifiable *razors*, for your example, are a high-tin bronze that is exceedingly hard and strong, and you'd have a hard time damaging the thing (though you could certainly chip the edge if you banged it on the bathroom counter!). But otherwise, sure, a tool or weapon was made for a specific purpose, and abusing it would break it. Use a sword to cut wood and it will bend or break. But bronze (and iron!) axe heads were very securely mounted on very tough hafts, and if you bash a rock with one, the cutting edge will be wrecked long before the haft or the binding give out! Sometimes the ancients over-engineered something, simply because they had no computer modeling and wanted play it safe. VERY often, modern manufacturers will over-build a repro of an ancient item, simply out of ignorance or apathy. Repro armor and weapons are USUALLY too thick and heavy, compared to the real thing.

Anyway, I hope that gets you started! Please sing out if I can help more.

Matthew
 

Edratman

Forum Staff
Feb 2009
6,792
Eastern PA
Well done Matthew. As usual.

OP: As Matthew said, to make bronze it is mandatory to mix tin and copper as molten metal. From the molten metal, everything you do is a casting. The casting could be final form, near final form or a more general form like a slug or an ingot. An ax head or arrow head could be cast in final form, but a bowl, with thin walls, would have to be hammered into final shape because of the difficulties casting thin walled objects.

You must remember that bronze age people were as smart as people today and were often looking for ways to save time, energy and resources because these were then, as now, finite assets.
 
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specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,625
Australia
no, not particularly. By inuit you do mean alaskans?? I actually also don't know how expansive their range was. (that would be classified as inuit). I DO know that I ALSO don't know anything about bone as a material. I know that you can still buy knives like a ghurka with a bone handle, and I see that these tools were made by using bone handles. I also know that bone is one of the materials that is credited for the rise of the stone age. It's honestly quite a far cry from where I am spending my imagination to try and feel like i might know something about bone. I know something about metals, because I use high technology razor blades, and also have a range of quality of knife,,, and also I play with different stock metals occasionally, like sheet metals from home depot, or garbage from house demolition (copper and such). you would think I would feel exposed to bones, but I don't. I have always preferred wood as a toy, and never really considered bone throughout my entire life. I always tried to imagine someone using a bird claw as a knife, but ,,,,, it's hard to picture, i seem to think that stones would be easier to cut with. I think that if you spent some time playing with the material in the appropriate settings, like if you had a hobby using bones for stuff, then you might eventually start to think that you are really getting a mental picture of the ways that one might do things using bone as a tool,, but I just have never had the opportunity.
Okay, you seem to have been distracted by bone and reproductions but I thought you might find it interesting about HOW they , the Eskimo, the Inuit or whatever people you want to call them used iron and how they got that iron. .... and how they lost it .

Also, slightly relating to your response , the paper I cited shows interesting BLENDS of technology - native arts combined with imports .... you need to click on the highlighted light blue in my post link to see it .

But whatever .
another thing is, although those tools look old, the same problem as all other finds applies to these tools. People are making recreations even today, and people would have been making some form of recreation from the very beginnings of when such tools might have been actually the best tools available. The problem with this is,, recreations are NOT used in real practice, so the engineering that went in to the actual tools might NOT be properly represented in the recreation. A good way to imagine it , is decorative swords, particularly those made in the 80's and 90's. Tons of swords were made that didn't have proper handles or proper blade mounts. Today, because of the internet and also because of the incredible advances in weapons technology and social behavior, it's possible to buy a very functional sword for less than 100 bucks. Back in the 80's and 90's , laws were much more strict, and such kinds of toys were much more expensive, so they just weren't made. If someone finds a sword from that era, probably stainless steel, they will find and show off a sword with critical flaws in its engineering, drastically affecting how well it will look like it worked. ,,, If you go to some fair and buy a historical looking hatchet or knife, you might be surprised at how much it feels like it won't work ,and it will break. That doesn't mean that in the stone age and early metal ages, people were stuck with tools that felt like they would break, that just means that by the time whatever tool you see was made, there wasn't anyone around making sure that the quality was usable. Anyone needing a tool would just use a "modern" tool of the era. Tourism and artifact display are at least as old as written history, and may be as old as imaginable history. If there is a tool in use in a shop somewhere, it's going to wear out and be discarded where it will be destroyed and recycled. If someone makes a decorative (however useless) display-piece, it will be stored, cleaned, preserved, and passed down as wealth. It's very unlikely that a real knife from pre-antiquity is just going to be abandoned, because it would be so valuable no one would allow it to go to such waste. If it's already useless, then it is likely that it will be kept as it was intended, as an ornament in a nice place, then eventually stored with other ornaments that might represent some past family member. ,,,,, when I see a picture of a bone and stone tool, I imagine someone, maybe a student in a school, or maybe someone making tourist trinkets, putting something together that looks like it's the same materials, but simply put, isn't what the ancient engineer would have produced to meet their needs.

however, one last point that should be included. If what is needed is a sharp object,,, a strong object might not be the correct tool. Sharp objects like razor blades can actually stay sharper longer if the handle is not very robust. As you push with a very strong handle, the sharp, fine edges would be destroyed very quickly. However, if the blade is gently mounted into the handle, it will be difficult to push on the blade, so the blade will never take so much pressure and remain sharper longer. The philosophy of "let the blade do the work" might be the entire reason why blades are so frequently mounted so gently. If you can get the blade to do the work, then it should cut like magic, with very little force. If you have to push, then you obviously aren't using the edge of the blade properly. This is why actually, it's perfectly imaginable that in an era where creating the sharp edge was such a challenge, every effort to preserve the edge would have been taken, including mounting it such that it is virtually impossible to apply a force to the edge that would damage it. ,,,,,, This is actually one thing that I would love to hear more about, but no one seems to say.
I know about that , even with wooden weapons, which I use for practice . Some wooden weapons are 'display' and are dangerous to use . I have also seen some of those cheap display weapons being used dangerously ; a guy in a martial arts demo, trying to demonstate cutting with a katana , he hoicks it up above his head to cut down but as he extends up first, the blade comes off and flips back over his head to land somewhere in the audience !

As far as 'edge ' goes, the gamma ( small sickle ) is such a weapon, it relies on sharpness, so one has to use it so as not to damage the blade or put undue force on the wood handle / metal blade joint ( some made their metal blade so it extended down the length of the handle, with the wood either side , for extra strength ). I have a friend that collects Japanese weapons - he might send a blade for polishing and sharpening - it can cost thousands of dollars !

Just for 'fun' ;


 
Dec 2019
5
honolulu
Okay, you seem to have been distracted by bone and reproductions but I thought you might find it interesting about HOW they , the Eskimo, the Inuit or whatever people you want to call them used iron and how they got that iron. .... and how they lost it .

Also, slightly relating to your response , the paper I cited shows interesting BLENDS of technology - native arts combined with imports .... you need to click on the highlighted light blue in my post link to see it .

But whatever .


I know about that , even with wooden weapons, which I use for practice . Some wooden weapons are 'display' and are dangerous to use . I have also seen some of those cheap display weapons being used dangerously ; a guy in a martial arts demo, trying to demonstate cutting with a katana , he hoicks it up above his head to cut down but as he extends up first, the blade comes off and flips back over his head to land somewhere in the audience !

As far as 'edge ' goes, the gamma ( small sickle ) is such a weapon, it relies on sharpness, so one has to use it so as not to damage the blade or put undue force on the wood handle / metal blade joint ( some made their metal blade so it extended down the length of the handle, with the wood either side , for extra strength ). I have a friend that collects Japanese weapons - he might send a blade for polishing and sharpening - it can cost thousands of dollars !

Just for 'fun' ;


well, I do want to talk more about the quality of the device reproduced. The thing is, many people, myself included, are specifically trying to imagine how such a tool might work and look, and what that would mean for the society that used it. If a sword is a piece of crap, no matter how much you may argue that you can still imagine what a sword is like, I will argue that no,,, the person who is trying to understand the value of a sword will get a different understanding by holding the real historical implement vs. something that looks a little similar. the feel of the energy transfer of the thing has a significant impact on how we might imagine it would be used, and what we might imagine it could do. When it comes to understanding OTHER aspects of ancient material life, it is CRUCIAL that we can appropriately visualize what tasks would be easy, and commonplace, and what tasks were simply not worth it overall, or astounding when completed. If it's no problem to walk into the hills at any time one might be ready, and run across a gold ingot large enough to make a dinner pot, then we will imagine that world. If you show that a golden dinner pot is possible, that is basically meaningless. If you show that it would have been blatantly obvious and easy, I won't be able to imagine them missing it.

knives are absolutely one of these critical keys to understanding what life was like and how technology may or may not have been available. If it's very difficult and requires years of practice for someone to properly make flint spearheads, then we can't imagine some individual in the wilderness having something like that available. cutting will simply not be a part of their life. Cutting at all might be something that elders and tribes revere as a magic. It would be something that without a very careful and dedicated upbringing, would be nearly impossible to learn. Why does it matter if people can cause breaks in material?? well, I dont' know, we didn't talk about if they had ropes, if they made homes, if they made pottery, if they made clothes, if they cared for plants, ,,, there are lots of times where the ability to produce a clean cut might mean the difference between having some other technology and not having it.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,074
MD, USA
well, I do want to talk more about the quality of the device reproduced. The thing is, many people, myself included, are specifically trying to imagine how such a tool might work and look, and what that would mean for the society that used it. If a sword is a piece of crap, no matter how much you may argue that you can still imagine what a sword is like, I will argue that no,,, the person who is trying to understand the value of a sword will get a different understanding by holding the real historical implement vs. something that looks a little similar. the feel of the energy transfer of the thing has a significant impact on how we might imagine it would be used, and what we might imagine it could do.
Absolutely, the accuracy of a reproduction very definitely has an effect on how we interpret its use and capabilities. This is a constant concern in discussions of arms and armor, particularly. In one famous test back in 1960, a historian named John Coles tested Bronze Age shields by hitting them with a bronze sword. But instead of the proper high-tin bronze for the shield, he used *copper*, which is not nearly as hard or strong. AND he made it only 0.3mm thick, about a quarter of the thickness of surviving bronze shields. No surprise, he was able to cut right through his junk shield. This completely bogus "test" has allowed several generations of historians to declare that all bronze armor is "ceremonial" and useless on the battlefield! Obviously the reality is the opposite, and we are starting to make some headway in countering this myth, but myths die hard when they get repeated by one PhD after another like dogma.

knives are absolutely one of these critical keys to understanding what life was like and how technology may or may not have been available. If it's very difficult and requires years of practice for someone to properly make flint spearheads, then we can't imagine some individual in the wilderness having something like that available. cutting will simply not be a part of their life. Cutting at all might be something that elders and tribes revere as a magic. It would be something that without a very careful and dedicated upbringing, would be nearly impossible to learn. Why does it matter if people can cause breaks in material?? well, I dont' know, we didn't talk about if they had ropes, if they made homes, if they made pottery, if they made clothes, if they cared for plants, ,,, there are lots of times where the ability to produce a clean cut might mean the difference between having some other technology and not having it.
Well, stone cutting tools pre-date homo sapiens, by a good million years or two. It's not hard to get a decent cutting edge with a couple hard wacks on a suitable stone. I suspect most people in a Stone Age society would understand that, even the kids. Once you get later in the Stone Age, sure, making something like a Folsom point takes exceptional skill and practice! Which doesn't mean only people who could make them could use them, they'd trade them to everyone else in return for food, clothes, etc. Flint knapping would be a profession, basically, and the skilled knappers would sell their wares to support themselves. I suspect people were rarely alone in the wilderness very often or very long, but someone who lost his flint knife could probably find a rock to make a reasonable cutter until he could get home and get a new knife. If his knife blade just broke, the pieces would still be useful, in a pinch. But yes, cutting edges were part of technology and society before modern man arrived. There's really no way that only an elite few were capable of cutting anything.

Matthew