The term "Stone Age" refers not to a specific era so much as to the long pre-metallic phase in the development of human cultures when tools were formed from stone, bone, antler, and wood. Reflecting the endless inventiveness of humans, sophisticated assemblages of tools and weapons were developed to suit the specific needs of the cultures that used them. While the first tools used by early humans were naturally formed objects, later Stone Age artifacts were expertly fashioned for specific uses.
Often made from quartz, flint, obsidian or other hard rock types, Stone Age tools were fashioned through “knapping,” the process of flaking off small pieces of stone from a larger one. There is evidence that stone materials may have been pre-heated to make them more amenable to shaping into high-quality tools. Among the artifacts of the Stone Age are “blade cores,” large rocks that served as portable and ready sources of new blade flakes that could be shaped as needed into knives, drills, projectile points, scrapers, and cutters for slicing meat. Softer rocks and animal bones were also shaped into useful implements from needles for sewing to fish hooks to musical instruments. Crafted for the individual and the task, Stone Age tools were formed into various shapes and sizes.
Stone Age Knives
Ranging in size from as small as a guitar pick to a length of several inches, Stone Age knives were usually flakes of flint, quartz or obsidian. Small and typically rounded, knives used for slicing through animal flesh had a cutting edge and a thick blunt side for holding. Tapered knives had either one or two cutting edges. Some knives, used as weapons and for killing other animals, also had pointed tips to be more efficient at stabbing. As opposed to today’s knives, which are usually a two-piece handle and blade, Stone Age knives had the blade and handle in one solid piece.
Stone Age man hunted animals for their meat and hides. Made of the same materials as the knives, but typically larger, “end scrapers” were used for stripping fat, flesh and hair from the animal hide or to shape bones and wood as needed. End scrapers could either be hand-held or attached to handles made of wood or bones.
Hunting Tools -- Harpoons and Spear Points
Extensively used in Paleolithic Europe for hunting seals, whales and even land mammals, harpoons made from antlers were also used by tribes in Alaska and Canada, but not until much later. Spear points attached to wood were the weapons of choice for hunting mammoths and other large game. Symmetrically crafted from blade flakes, most spear points were either triangular or diamond-shaped. Most notable among spear points, the Clovis points used by North American tribes were leaf-shaped and almost perfectly symmetrical. With wide grooves on both sides, Clovis points were easily attached to wood or bone shafts and were one of the most common tools of the Stone Age.