JPPM Admin
Applied Science, World Cultures, History, Ancient History, Physical Science, Geology, Physics
Material Type:
Upper Primary, Middle School, High School, Community College / Lower Division
Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum
  • Flint Knapping
  • Flint Napping
  • Flintknapping
  • Flintnapping
  • Geology
  • Knapping
  • Napping
  • Physics
  • Stone Age Period and Stone Tools
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution
    Media Formats:

    Animations - The Science of Knapping

    Animations - The Science of Knapping


    Explore the physics and material science of making stone tools. Educator Nate Salzman walks us through the surprisingly complex science of flintknapping, or the process of turning stone into blades, arrowheads, spear points, axes, jewelry and more. Making tools from stone may be thousands of years old, but required people to think about the properties of the material they were using and the physics of striking the stone to shape it just right.

    NOTE: These are animations derived from the video "The Science of Knapping" which is linked here and published under its own listing on OER Commons.

    This resource is part of Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum’s open educational resources project to provide history, ecology, archaeology, and conservation resources related to our 560 acre public park. More of our content can be found on YouTube and SketchFab. JPPM is a part of the Maryland Historical Trust under the Maryland Department of Planning.


    YouTube - The Science of Knapping:

    A short (<5m) video explaining some of the material science and physics behind flintknapping. This resource has its own listing on OER Commons at The following animations were created during production of this video or to support presentations on site at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.

    Animation - Pool Table Regular:

    A metaphor for the distribution of particles in the best materials for flintknapping: they are evenly distributed and of uniform size, so they transfer energy in a predictable fashion.

    Animation - Pool Table Irregular:

    A metaphor for the distribution of particles in less desirable materials for flintknapping: they are unevenly distributed and/or of varying size, so they transfer energy in an unpredictable fashion or not at all.

    Animation - Hills and Ledges:

    A term unique to Jefferson Patterson's flintknapping, indicating the orientation of an edge in relation to the center of the stone to be worked. Flintknappers traditionally speak in terms of "platforms" instead. It is important to hit on these hills rather than ledges when working the stone to prevent shattering the piece.

    Animation - Flake Size and Angle:

    Flintknapping exploits the tendency of knappable stones to create "conchoidal fractures" when hit. By varying the angle which the knapper strikes the stone or applies pressure, they can cause this cone-like shape to intersect the work piece more or less and thus control the size of the flake.

    Animation - Center Line:

    A visualization of the imaginary center line extending through the lateral edges of the work piece. When knapping it is important to strike below this line to avoid shattering the stone.