Knox County Man Practices The Fine Art Of Flintknapping

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Flintknapper Ed Moreland displays a stone he's turning into an arrowhead(Photo: Sam Hendren / WOSU)
Flintknapper Ed Moreland displays a stone he's turning into an arrowhead(Photo: Sam Hendren / WOSU)

It might not be the world’s oldest profession, but it’s one of the oldest. Flintknapping’ crafting stone. A Knox County , Ohio man still practices the ancient tradition.

In a small workshop on a wooded Knox County hillside, Ed Moreland pounds two palm-sized rocks together. Look closer and you see he’s actually chipping away at the rock in his left hand.

“I’m a flintknapper. Ed Moreland, the flintknapper.”

What’s a flintknapper?

“One who actually breaks flint; chips it away and forms it into stone tools” Moreland says.

“It’s been done for thousands of years. It happened, probably, as soon as they found two rocks and struck them together and a sharp fragment fell off.”

Moreland does it the old fashioned way; no modern tools. He takes a moose antler and continues to pound.

“This is actually heavy and dense enough,” Moreland says. “We’re hitting right where the antler fell off the animal. It’s hard enough to shape flint as you can see.”

Flint is the rock of choice for knappers because it can be shaped into an arrowhead, spear point, knife blade or some other object.

“Here we go. There was a good one. Did you hear that? That snapping sound? That flake that just come off is about 2 inches wide where I hit it. But these edges are like razor blades. These edges you could shave with,” Moreland says.

Moreland started working with flint 18 years ago. Somewhere along the way he became a lithic artist; a stone artist. He fashions exquisitely beautiful arrowheads from multi-colored pieces of flint.

“Gray with little fine lines and then it goes into red, yellows, orange, some tan. You know it’s wild colors,” Moreland says.

Moreland does use a modern method to enhance the colors.

“The ancient people, they could not get the colors this way because we heat it in a modern day pottery kiln and that heat soaks through the stone and brings out the colors and also makes it easier to chip,” says Moreland.

Moreland digs up his own flint southeast of Newark near the Flint Ridge Ancient Quarries. Sometimes as h’s digging, he’ll pass through prehistoric piles of flint scraps that Native Americans left behind.

The pieces he makes are sold as reproductions. He signs each one to make it more difficult to be passed off as an artifact.

“We try to always mark our pieces and sign them as reproductions so they are not sold as fraudulent fakes. To me it’s an artwork. I want the people that buy them to enjoy my work and craftsmanship,” Moreland says.

When he started in 1996, Moreland says, there were very few flintknappers in Ohio. Now he knows of about 200 flint artists.

Many will come to a gathering known as the Flint Ridge Knap-In at the end of the month at the Flint Ridge State Memorial in Licking County.