What is a Flake?; The Mask of Agememnon; Pumpkin Creek, Oklahoma.


What is a Flake?

A flake is a tool that was the major form of technology during the Stone Age. Flake technology developed at different times in different areas.

Lithic Flake ©José-Manuel Benito Álvarez
Lithic Flake
©José-Manuel Benito Álvarez

A flake is a piece stone or rock that has been modified by humans. This is done by striking a core and chipping off a piece of the rock. You can tell if this is human activity by the evidence of a point of impact and a bulb of percussion, as seen in the above diagram.

Once a flake has been struck it was sometimes modified further to make the edges sharper. The removal of small pieces of the flake down either side is called retouch. Retouch is part of  reductive technology.

Flake with retouch  ©Sue T Carter 2015
Flake with retouch
©Sue T Carter 2015

Flakes were part of the stone age tool kit. They had many uses including killing animals, scraping skins, carving bones and cutting plants. Archaeologists can tell what stone tools were used for by residue and use-wear analysis, where microscopic remains are studied.

Flakes were an essential part of life and there are an abundance of examples left, as stone does not decay. In certain areas around the world there is an abundance of flake technology.

Retouched Flake ©Sue T Carter 2015
Retouched Flake
©Sue T Carter 2015

Flakes and other stone tools are dated by typology – that is by type. In different parts of the world they followed a natural progression into more elaborate reduction technology and improved designs.

Stone tools are also called Lithics. The study of lithics is a specialized area of archaeology especially in countries like Australia and the United States, where First Nation people still survive today, and keep some of the old stone tool technology alive!


  • Andrefsky. W. 2005. Lithics: Microscopic Approaches to Analysis. Second Edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Holdaway. S., & Stern. N. A Record in Stone. The Study of Australia’s Flakes Stone Artefacts. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press.
  • Lithic Flake – José-Manuel Benito Álvarez [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons


Archaeology Wow!! –  The Mask of Agememnon

In 1876 German archaeologist Heinrich Schlieman uncovered some burials at Mycenae in Greece, a major Bronze Age settlement. When investigating one of the burials he came across a golden funeral mask. To his great surprise, upon lifting the mask he said he saw the flesh of the face disintegrate in front of his eyes and turn to dust. He is recorded as stating “I have gazed upon the face of Agememnon”.

Mask of Agememnon ©Xuan Che
Mask of Agememnon
©Xuan Che

Agememnon was a Greek leader during the Trojan Wars and is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as the Mycenae king. With the burial being located at Mycenae, and the mask being made of gold, Schlieman came to the conclusion that it must be Agememnon, and that he had found the kings final resting place.

Heinrich Schliemann Public Domain
Heinrich Schliemann
Public Domain

Over the years, testing on the gold mask has shown that it dates to between 1550 – 1500 BC, which is 300 years earlier than the legendary Agememnon. Measuring 25.4 cm high and weighing 168.5 g, the mask is now housed in the National Museum of Athens.


  • Gere. C. 2011. The Tomb of Agamemnon. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
  • Grimbley. S. 2013. Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. Oxon: Routledge.
  • Honour. H., & Fleming. J. 2005. A World History of Art. London: Laurence King Publishing.
  • “MaskOfAgamemnon” by Xuan Che – Self-photographed (Flickr), 20 December 2010. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MaskOfAgamemnon.jpg#/media/File:MaskOfAgamemnon.jpg


Archaeological Site Guide – Pumpkin Creek, Oklahoma

Pumpkin Creek is a Paleoindian site located in Love County, Oklahoma. It dates to the Archaic Period  9500 – 7000 BC. The site covered a large area but only 2 acres, 5%,  of it remains today due to heavy erosion.

Paleoindian Caribou Hunters ©www.j-and-dee-artifacts.com
Paleoindian Caribou Hunters

Archaeologists believe Pumpkin Creek was a temporary camp and lithic workshop. Over 517 lithics have been uncovered, including projectile points, scrapers and knives. A quarry has also been identified where they believe chert gravels were mined.

Pumpkin Creek Lithics ©http://www.ou.edu/archsur/counties/love.htm
Pumpkin Creek Lithics

The Paleoindians were hunter-gatherers who  hunted wild animals and were located across the American continent. Many sites were abandoned when the climate grew drier, and Pumpkin Creek was abandoned around 7000 BC for this reason.

A great site to visit so make sure you check it out when in Oklahoma!


  • Holliday. V. T. 2010. Paleoindian Geoarchaeology of the Southern High Plains. Texas: University of Texas.
  • Wyckoff. D. G., & Taylor. L. 1971. The Pumpkin Creek Site: An Early Archaic Camp on the Southern Plains Border. Plains Anthropologist, Vol. 16, No. 51 (February 1971), pp. 20-51.


Great Books to Read…….






Activity – word-search 19 June 2015-docx

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: