Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Flint Knapping Photos from Last Saturday

We had a great time flint knapping in the tent last Saturday. The sun even came out for us which was a bit of a surprise!

While a few of us had knapped before, it was brand new to a couple of us and we took the time to go over some of the basic information we'd need, such as a bit of terminology, and angles to look for on the flint cobble to take off a good flake.

 And then we got to knapping!

Here is some of the basic equipment...

Here's a little something knapped as it was the day after Valentine's...

I hope everyone that came felt they learned a lot!  We will be knapping again in two weeks, giving us an opportunity to improve on last time.

Friday, 14 February 2014

First Flintknapping Practical Saturday

Our first flintknapping session will take place tomorrow afternoon, and we're already full on RSVPs!

If you are not on the mailing list in order to hear about our upcoming events, please send an email to and we will put you on the list!

Stay tuned for a post about our last session at the Ashmolean, and we will be sure to take lots of photos of our flint knapping experience tomorrow as well!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Pictures: Looking at Ethnographic Examples of Cordage at the Pitt Rivers

On Wednesday we had a follow up session to the previous week's activity in Port Meadow, and we discovered that the Pitt Rivers is just full of cordage technology.

Some impressive pieces included cordage so fine and long that it looked machine made. The basketry was also interesting to look at, and some were woven so tightly as to be waterproof.

And as soon as it was highlighted to us, we discovered that cordage was everywhere to be found, from baskets, hafted tools, bow strings, fish nets, rope... even some sandals, brought in by Klint as a demonstration (well worn!):

We had brought some materials so that people that missed our rainy day in the meadow could learn the skill. A good way to learn is actually trying it out first on plastic bags (which actually make a really strong cordage):

Wandering through the Pitt Rivers, we continued to find other examples of cordage use from lots of different areas of the world through many different ages. The skill of cordage making will be able to help us in future activities with OxPalTechSoc, where we will be trying to make a number of the items we saw in the museum on that day - it was great for inspiration!

But all that discussion made us thirsty, so we eventually relocated to the Eagle and Child for some cordage making with some actual organic material instead of the plastic bags:

We had a great time at the Pitt Rivers, and will surely return again. The best thing about this museum, because of its seemingly jumbled layout and stuffed cabinets, is that no matter how many times you visit, there is always more fascinating things you never saw before.

Join us next week at the Ashmolean where we will be handling Lower Palaeolithic tools and discussing their manufacture and materials used (check out the below post!)

Friday, 7 February 2014

Ashmolean Museum Session Next Tuesday - Lower Palaeolithic Stone Tools

Photo Credit: BBC
Thank you to everybody who was able to make it to the Pitt Rivers museum session Wednesday! Even though it was a cold and rainy day (much like last week), we were inside this time and so managed to stay dry. A pub stop afterwards for some more cordage training was fun too. Stay tuned for pictures.

Next Tuesday (11 February) will be our first object handling and discussion session at the Ashmolean Museum with Alison Roberts. We will be looking at a broad overview of Lower Palaeolithic stone tool technology, discussing the material used and the manufacture methods.  If you are a beginner to handling lithics, this is a good introduction. And for people who are more familiar with lithic collections, it is a great opportunity to share your knowledge with others. 

We will be meeting on Tuesday before 2:00pm at the Ashmolean Museum side entrance on St Giles Street. The session will take 2 hours, but we have the room booked for a bit longer if you want to discuss things further.

*It is important to arrive early - if you arrive after we have gone up to the room at 2:00pm, you won't be able to come in. I recommend getting there at least 10 minutes early so you don't miss out.

Please RSVP if you are planning to come, by emailing - there is a maximum number of people allowed in the room, so the first 6 people to RSVP will be able to go. After that I will put you on a waiting list, and let you know if a place becomes available.

I hope you are looking forward to seeing some of the Ashmolean's great Palaeolithic collections!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Ethnographic examples of cordage use at the Pitt Rivers, 5th February

Photo credit:

OxPalTechSoc's next event is a follow-up to our cordage making last week: an informal walk around the Pitt Rivers museum, looking at how our newly acquired skills have been applied ethnographically.  

We will be meeting at the front doors of the Natural History Museum at 2:00pm on Wednesday 5 February. 

Even if you weren't able to make it to the first session, please come along, and feel free to bring a friend!  We will have with us some of the cordage we made last week, and can give you a quick run through (and if you were there last week, bring your own cordage to show off!). The Pitt Rivers always promises to be an interesting visit so it should be fun.

If you would like to join and become a member of the OxPalTechSoc, it costs £5 for the 2014 membership - this goes towards our purchasing and acquiring of materials, and renting of equipment.  Everyone is welcome, and the drop-in fee is just £2. Just give it to any of the committee members during a session (Klint, Will, Cory or Patrick).

Please RSVP by sending a quick email to to let us know to expect you. We hope to see you there!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Making Cordage in Port Meadow - a Beautiful Day!

The weather gods were on our side yesterday as we went out to the dry fields of Port Meadow...

Alright, that's not true.  It looked more like this:

But it was still a beautiful day if you didn't mind the spitting rain in your face! We set out to look for organic materials to gather to make cordage back in the much drier and warmer OxPalTechSoc tent.

Port Meadow is an amazing place - it has been owned by the city of Oxford since the 10th century, and has never been ploughed. Hence it is a unique little ecosystem, with its own Bronze Age round barrows (which are hard to distinguish, as they are just slight lumps on an otherwise flat field - today they were submerged under many feet of water). It is also used for grazing, so you might come across a herd of horses, cows, or the odd fat pony:

When we got to higher and drier Burgess Field, Klint showed us how to find materials with the right properties to strip long fibers:

We then hastily gathered bunches of material (dead stalks from poppy plants seemed to work best), and took them back to the tent, where we sat (steaming as we slowly dried off!), stripped the stalks and twisted the fibers together to make cordage. The cordage was twisted in two strands, which were twisted together the opposite way which meant they locked together. Here are two new professionals at work:

Ringo the OxPalTechSoc mascot was there to help anyone with any questions:

What we were creating looked something like this:

And here is the end result!  One little bundle of very very useful and surprisingly strong cordage - this can be used in trap or snare making, bow making, binding...

Thanks so everyone who was able to make it, we will be meeting next Wednesday at the Pitt Rivers Museum at 14:00, where we will be having an informal look around the collections to see ethnographic examples of cordage, and its applications.  We hope you can make it - an email will be circulating shortly detailing where to meet! Everyone welcome, free for members and £2 for drop-in guests.

See you soon!