Summary | Raw material | Raw material procurement | Hammerstones | Nodule reduction and technology | Refrain said when knapping chert | Selection of flakes for use | Locations where men work with chert tools | Use and terminology | Storage and discard | Ritual uses of stone

4.8 Use and terminology

The basic criterion for selecting flakes as tools was a razor sharp edge. Following this, flake size was important; men selected large pieces of chert for some jobs (e.g. for scraping a bow, axe handle or digging stick), which they could hold firmly and exert pressure on, and small pieces for other jobs (e.g. for engraving, or for paring down rattan strands), some of which they mounted in a handle. For boring holes they selected pieces with points or wil (lit. 'nose'). To bore a hole, the handle was twirled between the palms of the hand.

See chert terminology

A man was only likely to use a flake for one purpose (e.g. smoothing an axe handle), indeed he sometimes used a number of flakes to complete one job. So, while chert tools had a range of uses, and any tool had the potential for use in a number of different tasks, individual pieces would probably be used on one job only.

The Wola commonly referred to all flake tools as aeray. By contrast, they had a considerable range of terms which they applied to chert tool use. These were widely known, although not all men used them consistently. Women also used the terms sometimes though they considered chert working to be a man's thing and claimed to be ignorant of some of the terms.

Objects were defined by solely by their use. There were, for example, six different phrases for cutting related to the different raw material worked, the objective of the cutting and the method of using the flake. Thus flakes had a range of potential names. A flake may have had a point suitable for boring in which case it was known as aeray wil hae (lit: chert nose stands), but if a man did not intend to use it to bore a hole he overlooked this and simply called the fragment aeray. Alternatively, if he had a small flake suitable for paring rattan strands, and intended so to use it, he called it tomaep aeray whereas if he was going to use it to operate on someone to remove an arrow point he referred to it simply as aeray. Hafted flakes were called tomaep aeray habuwk lay (lit: Calamus-sp. chert split-handle hit). Often these terminological distinctions were not used, and all tools were referred to as aeray.

White and Thomas (1972) recorded similar and analogous terminological distinctions among the Duna with flakes, chunks, waste, cores and nodules all called aré or aré kone = real or true aré, except sometimes when flaked tools were called aré ne kana = sharp or tooth stone. Among the Duna, as among the Wola, hafted tools had their own name and were called aré kou, but no distinction is reported between different uses of hafted flakes.


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Last updated: Wed Oct 8 2003