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Cordoba, Argentina September 2018
I was invited to offer a knapping workshop in Cordoba, Argentina by Nora Flegenheimer, Roxana Cattaneo and Salomon Hocsman. It was co-organized by the University of Córdoba and the University of Tucumán. There were 20 enrolled participants and several 'observers'including one local knapper who provided us with some stone to knap.
Nora Flegenheimer, me and Roxana Roxana Catteneo
List of participants
Pablo Emiliano Bianchi
Camila de Fatima Brizuela
Daniela Soledad Cañete Mastrángelo
María del Carmen Fernández Ropero
Lucas Javier Vetrisano
José María Caminoa
Lucía Gabriela Yebra
Flavio Ariel Ribero
Denis Ezequiel Reinoso
Maria Laura Salgan
Bengi Basak Selvi
Florencia Natalia Costantino
Agustín Cruz Castillo
Group photo at the venue
The course venue was the Observatorio Astronómico de Córdoba. We had use of a lecture hall for my introductory lectures and demonstrations and the adjacent grounds for knapping. On the first day of knapping participants paired up and took turns knapping with one observing and instructing while the other knapped. I have found this to be a very effective method of getting people to focus on beginning technique. If they work alone they tend to just bust rocks rather than reflect as they knap. On subsequent days they were allowed to knap in larger groups or on their own. Some chose to continue knapping as partners.
Outdoor knapping area
Friday 14th September
Introduction to knapping principles; raw materials, fracture mechanics, etc. Begin knapping
Saturday 15th September
Core tool and early flake industry technologies
Sunday 16th September
Field trip to Ongamira, Sitio Alero Deodora Roca and the local gaucho gathering and BBQ
Monday 16th September
Tuesday 17th September
Biface technologies and wrap-up
Wednesday 18th September
Evening lecture at the Museo de Antropologia by Prof.Carlos Alberto Aschero.
I interspersed demonstrations and discussions with knapping time. Theoretical (eg. experimental applications) and methodological (eg. analytical techniques) topics arose during these discussions and requested techniques and methods were demonstrated and explained.
One of the greatest challenges on putting on a beginners' workshop is getting sufficient flaking stone. It not only needs to be of reasonable quality but also be big enough to make large flake blanks. I have a teaching method that works really well but is best done with large flake blanks (for an example click here ). We managed with stones brought from different sources in Argentina, including cherts, basalt, silicified sandstone and a low-grade obsidian. A local chert was supplied by Gabriel Vivas, an amateur knapper. I am indebted to all those who brought stone.
We took a break on Sunday and a few of us visited an interesting area where Roxana and her husband Andres Izeta are conducting research and are engaged in public outreach. The area is know as Ongamira, about 80 km north of Cordoba. We passed through some interesting landscapes and I was regaled with various stories of personal exploits as we passed through various localities. It had rained heavily Saturday night and it wasn't clear if we could get to our destination. However, we made it. We visited a site they have been excavating; Sitio Alero Deodora Roca. It is a large abrigo (rock shelter) with deep stratigraphy. The excavation area is roped off but there are signs explaining the archaeology and the findings at the site.
General archaeological information
Site specific information
It happened that the day we visited Ongamira was the annual gathering of the local gauchos. Normally they would have various horse-related activities and competitions but these were canceled because of the wet conditions. They did hold a BBQ with asado, beer, music, etc. The traditional gaucho garb is very Basque in look, except each man carries a large knife in his belt. This is the community Roxana and Andres work in and they knew almost everybody.
Roxana and friend enjoying the asado
Starting on the Wednesday after the workshop there was the 1st Congresso Argentino Estudios LitÍcos en ArquaeologÍa, held at the University of Cordoba. I didn't participate in the formal presentations but joined of a day in outside activities. There were a number of 'primitive' technologies being demonstrated and available for participation. I tried 'primitive'archery but also did informal knapping and had casts of North American stone artifacts available for examination and discussion. That evening I gave a lecture, Rocking the Boat; Flaked Stone Assemblages as Indicators of Historical Connections: a case of the ‘Solutrean Hypothesis’ at the Anthropology Museum, which was very well attended (100+) and very well received.
This is an entry in my journal- "The time in Cordoba was very nice. The workshop went well and was much appreciated! I am impressed with the students and the organization of the Lithics Research Group. There is a lot of excellent research going on and although there are competing approaches there is good-spirited debate and discussion; a camaraderie." Everybody was friendly and enthusiastic and the hospitality was second to none. I am grateful for all the effort expended on organizing and running the workshop and am very optimistic about the contributions that will be and are being made by my Argentinian colleagues (including the students) to the understanding of the past through flaked stone studies.
Primitive archery- mostly missing the target. One said we were hunting grasses; I replied we do that differently in Colorado these days.