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Exeter Visiting Master Craftsman: Morten Kutschera

Date: 
Saturday, 7 November, 2015 to Saturday, 21 November, 2015
Responsible: 
Linda Hurcombe
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
Participants: 9 MA students, 4 PhD Students, 2 Members of Staff University of Exeter, 1 Archeon Staff Member and 4 Staff Members from the Ancient Technology Centre. Audience: Approximately 30 staff and students

Morten Kutschera is a specialist in Mesolithic period crafts especially flint knapping and tool manufacture and use. He was a participant in the flint knapping specialist ‘knap in’ at the Athra Gathering at Sagnlandet Lejre, Denmark which was the 3rd stop on the Dialogue with Science Roadshow. He was the Mesolithic knapping specialist at this event, and was then a participant in the Mesolithic Living project, AÖZA, Albersdorf, Germany where he was the only participating flint specialist. The interactions with the university team over weaponry production, advice on producing tools and their subsequent use, including advice for our experiments on usewear collection materials was invaluable over the summer. This close interaction with Morten as a fellow participant allowed follow up collaboration to be planned for the Autumn, and leads into further specialist work on the next Mesolithic Living project to be held in 2016. From November 7th to November 21st, Morten Kutschera was invited by the Department of Archaeology at the University of Exeter as part of the continuing dialogue with science activities of Openarch. This visit was preceded by preparation for the visit to Exeter which included Morten sourcing Mesolithic materials, making extra knapping sets and examples of tools relevant to the planned meetings and discussions.

The first week of the Autumn visit was devoted to a series of beginner, intermediate and advanced flint knapping dialogues around teaching and demonstration activities. This included a full day of teaching the basics of knapping to the Experimental Archaeology MA class using Morten’s technique of focusing on flake axes as a starting point for explaining cobble reduction and various types of flake mechanics. The more advanced interactions with students and staff covered blade making, bifacing, flake production, pressure flaking and preparing different types cores for direct and indirect blade production, which built on the experiences over the summer. Alongside the production of actual tools the concept of task, tool and technology was discussed. This discussion highlighted the importance of understanding tool use and the working angles applicable to specific tasks when interpreting and making archaeological stone tools and flakes. This approach was also presented in Tarragona by Dr. Linda Hurcombe and is different as it emphasises edge qualities for function over or alongside technology. This concept is especially important in usewear analysis, and these discussions helped to further inform the interpretation of the university usewear collection which has been added to over the course of the summer at various Openarch events.

Morten Kutschera making a Mesolithic flake axe from EXARC Net on Vimeo.The key issue for many archaeological open-air museum staff wanting to learn flintknapping is access to material and access to basic skills. As part of the University of Exeter activities within the OpenArch project we have looked at practical ways to help with flintknapping skills. These have involved several phases of knapping activities. Credits: Linda Hurcombe, Morten Kutschera, Matt Sweiton.

Discussions on identity in the archaeological record focusing on Mesolithic lithic evidence were the subject of a detailed session with PhD student James Glover. This formed part of one morning with specific discussions on the role of raw materials in Levallois techniques, blade techniques, variation in hard and soft hammer and the selection of these for and across different raw materials being covered in the afternoon with Morten contributing his Scandinavian experience. Another morning was devoted to discussions on varieties of raw materials and their knapping qualities showing variation within as well as between raw material categories. In addition to these group talks, conversations were had about individual learning, the Mesolithic living project and developments of collaborative work arising from this, all of which will be applied during the Mesolithic Living Project next summer. Alongside the varied discussion topics video sequences of the reduction process for producing a flake axe were recorded. These sequences will help expose future MA students and others to a wider variety of methods for teaching flint knapping and are the result of discussions on learning and teaching flint knapping arising over the summer and Autumn 2015. The subject has also featured in the Exeter Dialogue With Science workshop 4, Learning Craft Skills, with Bruce Bradley and in the dissertation of MA student Matt Sweiton. As weapons experiments undertaken during the Mesolithic Living project featured in the postgraduate research seminar (The Experience Behind Experimentation: chaines opératoires of Middle Palaeolithic spear production) and (Vein quartz tools during the Middle Palaeolithic: How the functional approach can be the key to understanding human behaviour)held on the Thursday, Morten was invited to attend.

The evening of Thursday the 12th a group consisting of Linda Hurcombe, Theresa Emmerich Kamper, Morten Kutschera, Lucia Ros, and Alice La Porta travelled to Cranborne in Dorset to visit the Ancient Technology Centre and Stonehenge. Accommodation for the evening was in the ATC’s Viking longhouse. The morning of the 13th was spent at Stonehenge where the group was given a tour of the experimental houses built by the ATC as part of the interpretive centre for this national monument. Discussions surrounding the interpretations of the interiors based on the archaeological evidence as well as the ongoing experiments with a variety of roof construction and thatching materials were had with Luke Winter, Paul Grimsby, and Antony Whitlock. These members of the ATC staff were involved in the planning, construction and maintenance phases of the buildings. The 2nd Exeter Dialogue with Science workshop had visited Luke and the ATC team when they were experimenting with the design of the houses, so it was good to have this chance to see the set of houses fully built and discuss issues of their life-cycle to date. Touring the archaeological collections allowed the group to observe some of the flint artefacts and discuss the differences and similarities to the techniques they had been learning during the previous classes. In the afternoon the group visited the Ancient Technology Centre and were given a tour of the site by Pascale Barnes which included visiting the extant buildings and those under construction, as well as an explanation of the centres history and ethos. After the tour the group sat down for a twilight knapping session which allowed the ATC’s resident flint knapper, Antony Whitlock, to exchange knowledge with Morten and compare different knapping techniques.

On returning to Exeter the programme shifted again and the activities surrounding flint knapping were accompanied by targeted research topics involving Levallois point production. From Saturday the 14th Morten Kutschera and Alice La Porta started a period of controlled experimentation to better understand Middle Palaeolithic reduction sequences involving this technology. The experiments were held during a 5 day period and were a process of mutual exchange between practical skills and theoretical knowledge. The teaching/learning exchange was achieved step by step. The first day was devoted to a better understanding of specific vocabulary and previous literature reviews. Alice and Morten discussed theoretical definition and personal interpretation of stone tool reduction methods.

During the second day the main objective was the technical comprehension of Middle Palaeolithic reduction sequences. This required combining the academic knowledge, “connaissance”, of Alice La Porta with the hands on aptitude « savoir faire » of Morten Kutschera. By following step by step the flint core reduction sequences, and using notes, drawings, schemes and pictures both researchers achieved a thorough understanding of specific reduction methods, and the production of numerous Middle Palaeolithic end-products and tools.

The experimentation followed a strict protocol based on a methodology for recording core reduction sequences and tool production. This recording will help facilitate the future data analysis phase of the research. The results achieved were considerable, in terms of better understanding reduction sequences and the tools produced both from an academic and individual standpoint. The working relationship between the two researchers was solidified over the course of the week, and the possibility of long term collaboration established.

In addition to the collaboration on Levallois technology, Morten and PhD student Sabine Martin discussed the vein quartz as a material type. In the context of a technological approach on different raw material, Morten helped to better understand vein quartz knapping procedure. His knowledge of vein quartz and crystal quartz is a consequence of extensive quartz tools production during prehistory in his home country of Norway.

During the discussion they focused on the different structure formation of vein quartz and compared the archaeological types which were preferred across France and Norway during prehistoric times. After observation of some French artefacts and based on his experience and current savoir faire, we agreed that the target type of vein quartz that prehistoric people would have selected would be of the large crystal grain variety with larger flat surfaces. While he knapped an experimental vein quartz core from south East of France, It was interesting to see that he approaches it according to the specific structure of vein quartz. Indeed, its intra core fractures make it predisposed to break into square flakes. This particularity makes quartz difficult when it comes to predicting the results of knapping procedure. Morten decided to follow the natural breaks into the core to create a platform that he could follow. This turned out to be a successful way to produce a “voluntary” flake.

The question of retouch was discussed as well as use deformation and how it can modify the aspect of the vein quartz flake cutting edge. There was focus placed on notch shape type deformation of the cutting edge on archaeological flakes. After very little experimentation time the researchers observed very specific use deformation of the cutting edge after the use of a scraping motion. This result needs more quantifiable data but tends to demonstrate the functional aspect of “look alike” knapping deformation. Finally, it was with great interest that different knowledge on vein quartz was shared which is a rarely studied raw material type. It was a good opportunity to have a comparative approach between technology and function.

Flint knappers specialising in the Mesolithic period material are extremely rare and few have built up 26 years of practical experience making and using the tools from this period. This made Morten’s visit to the University especially beneficial as from a usewear standpoint the hafting and use of each tool is as important as the actual production of the stone tool. This experience was also very useful when the aim of producing tool kits which would be used on a daily basis in the context of next summer’s continuation of the Mesolithic Living Project.

Images

Morten explaining the basics of breaking...
Smiles all around after the MA students...
Using drawn lines to help the students...
Drawn explanation of the flake removal...
Morten interacting with staff and students...
Talking through edge angles
Marissa learning to make blades by indirect...
The group in the Ancient Technology Centre...
The group at Stonehenge.
The Exeter group with Luke, Antony and Paul...
Luke discussing the archaeological basis for...
The buildings reconstructed by the ATC at...
Touring the Ancient Technology Centre.
Twilight knapping session with ATC staff...
Material comparison session
Looking at different qualities of quartz as...
Discussing edge wear and rejuvenation on...
Discussing tool edges and use.
Skype discussion with Matt Sweiton about the...
The post graduate lecture series where Alice...