How to Make Stone Tools in a Survival Situation | Basic Instincts | WIRED

– And right there in less
than a second, I have createda tool that allows me to overcome allof my physical limitations. My name is Bill Schindler. I’m an experimental archaeologist
and primitive technologistand a professor of
archeology and anthropologyat Washington College. If you’re in the wilderness
and you have nothing,the most important thing that you need isa sharp, durable edge. Humans are one of the weakest
species on the planet. Our nails are almost useless. Our teeth are almost useless. We’re not that strong. We can’t run very fast. We can’t dig into the ground. We need tools to overcome
these physical limitationsand interact with our environment. And without those tools, we will die. The production of stone tools
can vary from the simplestmost basic tool that can be
made in less than a second,to something that takes
hours or days to makeand is incredibly complex. The process is actually quite simple. Remember, our Australopithecine
ancestors with brainsthe size of my fist figured out
how to do this on their own,and you can do it yourself as well. Here’s my piece of
flint, or here’s my rockthat I’m gonna strike. I’m gonna find an edge
that hopefully is less than90 degrees and, ideally, around
70 degrees, where you see itwith my finger. I’m gonna take a hammer stone,
the mass of the hammer stoneis usually less than the
mass of the size of the rockI’m trying to hit, and I’m
gonna hold it in my handaway from my body. These flakes coming off are razor sharp. Strike the rock. Right there in less than a
second, I have made a toolthat’s sharper and more
durable than anything thatI have on my body. Even something like
carving this piece of wood,everything that I’m doing
right now is something thatI can’t do with any other part of my body. I can use this sharp edge to
carve with, to scrape with,to slice, butcher. I can even use it as a wedgeand to split this stick in half. This is the only tool that I
need to make an entire fire kitto make fire. This is the only tool
that I need to butcheran entire animal. This is incredibly powerful
and this is what made us human. When you’re looking for
the right kinda rockto make a stone tool from,
there are four propertiesyou’re looking for. The rock needs to be homogeneous. In other words, whatever the
structure is on the inside,you want it to be the same throughout. You’re sending shock waves into this rockand you don’t want them to be interrupted. It needs to be brittle. In other words, when you
strike it, it needs to fracturewith a crack. You don’t want it to crumble. You also need it to be elastic. When you strike this rock,
the flake that you’re creatingactually bends off and then snaps back. And finally, it needs to be isotropic. And by isotropic, I mean
that the same rules applyno matter what direction I hit this rock. A piece of slate is not isotropic. Slate is perfect for shingles
because if I strike itin one direction, it
cleaves off into sheets. If I strike it in the other
direction, it’s gonna crumble. This rock, this piece
of flint, if I strike itfrom this direction or this
direction or this direction,the same rules apply. You need to remember that
it is a predictable process. This predictable process is
best illustrated right herewith this piece of glass. This is a hertzian cone. If you look at the angle,
it’s almost 136 degrees. What’s important is if I did
the same thing every singletime and I created this by
taking this piece of plate glassand dropping a BB on it, the
same exact cone with the sameexact angle would pop
out every single time. And if that’s the case,then I can start to
control certain things. So if I tip this piece of
glass, so that the BB hitting itwasn’t hitting it at 90 degrees,the cone would have a different shape. If I tip it the other way, it
would have a different shapeback in the other direction. So what does that have to
do with making stone tools?Well, instead of hitting it
in the middle of this glass,what if I moved it to the
edge, and the piece thatpopped out was half of a cone?And that’s exactly what happened here. This flake that came out
of this rock is a partof that hertzian cone, and
I can control that shapeand that size by tilting
that rock and hitting itwith different things. What does this look like in real life?And what are you looking
for and how do you strikethese rocks in order to
create these very basic tools?Again, you have to find
the right kind of rock. Rocks like flint, for example,
or quartzites, or obsidians. Those are ideal rocks to
use to make stone tools. If I took this rock, for
example, this flake came offof this parent one here. Instead of just using the sharp
edge on it, I can envisionon the inside of this
rock, a finished knife. Something just like this. And I can strategically attack
this rock, change angles,change what I hit it with,
to remove all the parts thatI don’t want so a finished blade
like this would be producedfrom the inside. I’m gonna use this rock very
quickly and show you what itlooks like to create this
uni-facial tool into somethingwe call a bifacial tool. In other words, I’m gonna control
the two faces of this rockat the same time. One of the things you’ll
notice is that I’m flippingthis rock over, I’m looking for angles. I’m looking for certain types
of morphology on the surfacesthat I’m gonna follow. And I’m starting to get
a general outline of whatI’m looking for here is
a very basic hand ax. The technology I used to
just create that flake,the technology that’s almostthree and a half million years old. The technology that I’m
using here now to create thishand ax is two million years old. In addition to striking the
rock with all sorts of things,I can also modify the shape of the rockby pushing pieces off. And this is what you do
when you really find workfor re-sharpening, creating notchesin arrowheads, adjusting angles. So in order to do that, I can
use a variety of materials. I can use a piece of wood. I can use an antler. You can increase leverage
by taking pieces of antlerand strapping ’em to pieces of wood. And this is how it works. If I want to adjust the
shape or the sharpnessof something small like
this unfinished arrowhead,I can put it in my hand, take the tip,put it exactly where I want it to be,and push flakes off. This is an extremely predictable process,because I can put the tip
of this antler exactly whereI want it to be. I can line up the angle of the
force that I wanna initiateand then press the force off. This is really the beginning of it all. Once you’ve created your stone
tool, you can create shelter. You can create a fire kit. You can create hunting weapons. You can create a tool that
allows you to dig into the groundand harvest underground storage organslike roots or corms or tubers. Because of this tool,
you can not only survive,but you can thrive in the wilderness.

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