Well I notice it’s nearly two months since my last blog post. I’ve been away, enjoying sunny Denmark! I had a great time and learnt a huge amount. The trip has already influenced some of my activities since returning, to do with edged tools – axes, this time – and holding devices.
It’s amazing to me how little attention is paid sometimes by archaeologists to the whole question of what is required to make something. The concept of the chaine operatoire is making its way out of flint analysis and into other areas. Even so, it’s really easy to concentrate on different forms of a tool type and loose the bigger picture.
Take holding devices, for example. This issue really exercises me, because I spend a great deal of time getting my holding devices right so that I can use my tools the way I need in order to complete tasks the way I want to. They really are essential.
I mean things like benches, dogs, pigs, clamps, brakes, cramps, donkeys, shave horses, vices, claves, holdfasts, grips…the list would go on and on if I further subdivided these classes according to trade or specific task (for example, cleaving brakes, shaving brakes, bending brakes, peeling or rinding brakes). I regularly use my shave horse and clave, and I’ve just built two pigs inspired by those at use in the boatyard of the Vikingeskibsmuseet in Roskilde.
I’m sure that tools which did the jobs of these holding devices would have been used in prehistory, just as they have been in historical periods and today, especially for woodworking. They enable a piece to be worked effectively – by which I mean, safely, accurately, efficiently, to attain the desired end result.
The aims of the Bronze Age boat project did not include anything about using prehistoric tools other than the edged tools and plank stitching that was so wonderfully applied at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (and rightly so, because the experiment design didn’t require it). But check out the photos and brilliant time-lapse photography in their boatyard. You’ll see just how important (modern) holding devices were to the build. Now think about all the materials that you might need, and their configuration, to do a similar job in 2012BC.