How to Make Stone Tools in a Survival Situation | Basic Instincts | WIRED
– And right there in lessthan a second, I have createda tool that allows me to overcome allof my physical limitations. My name is Bill Schindler. I’m an experimental archaeologistand primitive technologistand a professor ofarcheology and anthropologyat Washington College. If you’re in the wildernessand you have nothing,the most important thing that you need isa sharp, durable edge. Humans are one of the weakestspecies 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 overcomethese physical limitationsand interact with our environment. And without those tools, we will die. The production of stone toolscan vary from the simplestmost basic tool that can bemade in less than a second,to something that takeshours or days to makeand is incredibly complex. The process is actually quite simple. Remember, our Australopithecineancestors with brainsthe size of my fist figured outhow to do this on their own,and you can do it yourself as well. Here’s my piece offlint, or here’s my rockthat I’m gonna strike. I’m gonna find an edgethat hopefully is less than90 degrees and, ideally, around70 degrees, where you see itwith my finger. I’m gonna take a hammer stone,the mass of the hammer stoneis usually less than themass of the size of the rockI’m trying to hit, and I’mgonna hold it in my handaway from my body. These flakes coming off are razor sharp. Strike the rock. Right there in less than asecond, I have made a toolthat’s sharper and moredurable than anything thatI have on my body. Even something likecarving this piece of wood,everything that I’m doingright now is something thatI can’t do with any other part of my body. I can use this sharp edge tocarve 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 Ineed to make an entire fire kitto make fire. This is the only toolthat I need to butcheran entire animal. This is incredibly powerfuland this is what made us human. When you’re looking forthe 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 thestructure 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 youstrike 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 meanthat the same rules applyno matter what direction I hit this rock. A piece of slate is not isotropic. Slate is perfect for shinglesbecause if I strike itin one direction, itcleaves off into sheets. If I strike it in the otherdirection, it’s gonna crumble. This rock, this pieceof flint, if I strike itfrom this direction or thisdirection or this direction,the same rules apply. You need to remember thatit is a predictable process. This predictable process isbest 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 didthe same thing every singletime and I created this bytaking this piece of plate glassand dropping a BB on it, thesame exact cone with the sameexact angle would popout every single time. And if that’s the case,then I can start tocontrol certain things. So if I tip this piece ofglass, 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, itwould have a different shapeback in the other direction. So what does that have todo with making stone tools?Well, instead of hitting itin the middle of this glass,what if I moved it to theedge, and the piece thatpopped out was half of a cone?And that’s exactly what happened here. This flake that came outof this rock is a partof that hertzian cone, andI can control that shapeand that size by tiltingthat rock and hitting itwith different things. What does this look like in real life?And what are you lookingfor and how do you strikethese rocks in order tocreate these very basic tools?Again, you have to findthe right kind of rock. Rocks like flint, for example,or quartzites, or obsidians. Those are ideal rocks touse to make stone tools. If I took this rock, forexample, this flake came offof this parent one here. Instead of just using the sharpedge on it, I can envisionon the inside of thisrock, a finished knife. Something just like this. And I can strategically attackthis rock, change angles,change what I hit it with,to remove all the parts thatI don’t want so a finished bladelike this would be producedfrom the inside. I’m gonna use this rock veryquickly and show you what itlooks like to create thisuni-facial tool into somethingwe call a bifacial tool. In other words, I’m gonna controlthe two faces of this rockat the same time. One of the things you’llnotice is that I’m flippingthis rock over, I’m looking for angles. I’m looking for certain typesof morphology on the surfacesthat I’m gonna follow. And I’m starting to geta general outline of whatI’m looking for here isa very basic hand ax. The technology I used tojust create that flake,the technology that’s almostthree and a half million years old. The technology that I’musing here now to create thishand ax is two million years old. In addition to striking therock with all sorts of things,I can also modify the shape of the rockby pushing pieces off. And this is what you dowhen you really find workfor re-sharpening, creating notchesin arrowheads, adjusting angles. So in order to do that, I canuse a variety of materials. I can use a piece of wood. I can use an antler. You can increase leverageby taking pieces of antlerand strapping ’em to pieces of wood. And this is how it works. If I want to adjust theshape or the sharpnessof something small likethis 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 tipof this antler exactly whereI want it to be. I can line up the angle of theforce that I wanna initiateand then press the force off. This is really the beginning of it all. Once you’ve created your stonetool, you can create shelter. You can create a fire kit. You can create hunting weapons. You can create a tool thatallows 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.