Bäckedals folkhögskola, Sveg
Våren 2000

Alexej Tarasov

Russian-Karelian type of macro tools and the technology of it's production in the general context of the Karelian slate industry

The ware-traces of the phenomenon defined as the "Karelian slate industry", is doubtlessly one of the most important groups of artifacts of the region of Russian Karelia. It would be enough to say that in the beginning of the archaeological investigation of the region it became a kind of "visiting card" defining to a high extent the archeology of Karelia among other regional archaeological systems of North-west Russia. 

After the slate industry had been introduced as an object of serious investigation, it became, more or less, a cultural-definitive phenomenon for this territory, serving as one of the main criteria for A. Brusov’s establishing of the "Karelian culture" in the 1940:s. This concept is only of historiographical interest nowadays, but this example is quite significant for the evaluation of the importance of the slate industry for Karelian archaeology.

Under the term "industry" I in this case imply the phenomenon of producing of certain set of wares made of the same, or different minerals with very similar properties, localized in a certain time and space and represented by certain sets of shapes, sometimes consisting of groups of shapes in their turn. I prefer to consider these sets of shapes as a system, determined by the physical properties of the mineral – the material base of the industry - and general morphological preferences of their creators and their position in the technological process. This statement is connected to the concept of three components of the shape emerging process given by a Russian researcher in the area of the technological analysis of stone industries, namely E. Girja (Girja 1997: 14-15), whose method of technological analysis is applied in this paper. The technological aspect emphasized in the term "industry" must also be taken into consideration: an industry emerges during the producing practice – by the choice of raw material and employment and sequence of employment of different technical modes.

Many aspects of slate industry have been under investigation for the last hundred years or so. Particularly the works of V. Filatova is devoted to the Mesolithic slate industry, even if it must be emphasized that it is not restricted to this period. However, this industry was commonly studied in association with different archaeological cultures presented in the territory of the region as an composing part of them and served as the object of typological or technical-typological research. The attempt of studying this industry as an intercultural phenomenon throughout the whole period of its existence history was undertaken by the author of this paper in his university diploma project.

This paper is designed to show the general traits of the Karelian slate industry giving particular consideration to the most original, in my opinion, phenomenon belonging to that – the Russian-Karelian type of macro tools.

Slate, which is known as an anisotropic mineral, served as the raw material base of the industry. I.e. for the most general approximation, the interior unity of the system is provided with very similar properties of minerals of the slate group. The main property of slate is known to be the capacity to exfoliate into plates according to the well developed system of parallel surfaces, "cleavage". Reference is usually made of the weak level of anisotropy, which is characteristic for the slate, whereby the controlled knapping is possible, although the isotropic minerals can be employed for the best. What is more, quite a lot varieties differing in their properties, including the hardness and the level of anisotropy can be determined among this group of minerals. Concerning the slates involved in the industry under discussion, reference must be made to the presence of very hard and homogenous varieties, sometimes having the conchoidal fracture ability quite similar to that of the flint. The extreme case is presented by the siliceous schist.

The slate industry can be established as a really significant phenomenon for the territory around of Onega Lake and farther to the southwest (here I only discuss the Karelia region), where the deposits of the slate raw material are located. In the north and the west Karelia the quota of the slate tools dissolves in the masse of quartz assemblages (the discussion concerns the relatively well-explored region of the Kem river basin). Besides the deposits, the pebble and boulder nodules are common findings on a very broad area, apparently due to the activity of the glacier. Thus, acquisition of this kind of raw material was not a problem for the ancient inhabitants of the south half of Karelia.

The absence of any flint supplies in the region can be established as the main cause in determining the most important trait of the Karelian slate industry – the monopoly on the group of macro tools designed for working on wood: axes, adzes, chisels and also some others like hoes or picks (these tools are distinctive typologically, but their function is still not understood). This list is not complete, the wares of small sizes like some arrowheads or adornments are also present, but the consideration of these categories will be omitted, because they determine the industry to a much lesser extent. The presence of slate mineral probably was a lucky coincident for the ancient inhabitants of the region even independently of their access to flint: by employment of the grinding technique, which slate usually requires, slate may be even more preferable as a softer mineral. This trait of the industry was reproduced throughout its uninterrupted existence during around five thousand years from the first occupation of the region in the first half of the 7:th millennium BC (Filatova 1996: 40) till the almost total shift from stone tools to metal ones during Early Iron Age, around the middle of the first millennium BC (Kosmenko M. 1996: 205, 212). The discussion of the industry as an intercultural phenomenon is enabled due to this trait.

Nevertheless, the statement given above does not imply uniformity. On the first hand, there is always quite a wide range of choices of features of shape, which one might define as "stylistic", impacting the face of a complete tool to no little extent. On the second hand, concerning the technology, the choice ability was made possible by access to supplies of slate raw materials of quite considerably differing properties. The technological component of the shape emerging process will be taken under particular consideration in the further discussion.

The opinion that the employment of a technology with a low level of complexity can satisfy the needs of the slate ware production is met quite often. Concerning the region of northern Sweden, for instance, at least as far as I can judge, the technology of a low level of complexity could mean the almost exclusive application of the abrasive techniques as shape formative techniques and, accordingly, a low level of efficiency and a large extent of time consumption is involved in the production of a tool (Holm L. 1991: 117; Broadbent 1982: 84). Under the term "abrasive technology" stone working by friction, i.e. the blank being rubbed against the working tool, is implied. The shape emerges in the removing of tiny bits of the blank matter. This kind of technology contains such techniques as sawing, grinding and polishing. The necessity of the abrasive techniques for the slate tool production is unquestioned. It’s quite possible that the application of the abrasive technology could fully satisfy the needs of the working on the slate material. This variant is very simplified by the main property of the slate: a blank with a plate shape can be found in nature or be produced by the intentional exfoliation of a big nodule till it receives the shape desired, in a plan by sawing and in a cross-section by grinding. Like I implied, this variant probably is discernable in northern Sweden. Nevertheless, both technologies – knapping and abrasive – as a rule were established to be employed side by side in the production of the Karelian slate tools. The working on a slate tool was always finished by grinding and, more seldom, by polishing. At that the grinding cannot usually be defined as a shape formative mode: its task was to smoothen a ware surface and to sharpen an edge, but a general shape was obtained during the work stage which utilized the techniques mentioned below.

But first, a discussion must be made of the method of technological analysis applied in this paper. The method was developed by a Russian researcher E. Girja (Girja E. 1997). The main concept of it is called "the technological necessity" – "interdependency of the different elements of flaking process" (Girja E. 1997: 47). The list of the elements consists of the goal of flaking (producing of a certain shape), the shape of the knapping subject, the percussion technique and the knapping sequence, which determines the interdependence of the elements mentioned above according to different stages of the technological process. This interdependence is regular: "A master can control the fracture to obtain the desired product of knapping changing the shape of the knapping subject and the percussion technique, but he is not able to eliminate the interdependence of the enumerated elements." (Girja E. 1997: 46). Thus, the main goal of the analysis is to determine the technological necessities involved in any concrete technologies. The method is based on the morphological analysis of the forms included in the technological context; the relevancy is provided by the general understanding of the laws of the knapping process obtained by an experiment. The analysis is divided into two directions: the determination of the technological connection of the shapes, the knapping sequence, and the way of affecting these shapes, the percussion technique.

Knowing this law, a researcher gets some extra advantages. On the one hand, the obligatory dependence on the refitting method for the reconstruction of knapping sequence is eliminated (the contrary variant is present, for example, in Knutsson 1988: 21), although it can be used with the allowance that it is just a reconstruction of the knapping sequence of one concrete nodule. On the other hand, there appears a possibility to reconstruct the stages and the forms, which are involved in the technology but absent in the context, because they performed in some other place. The adequacy is provided by "the connection on the analogy of the technological necessity " – by the statement that these items, which the context consist of, could not be produced in any other way.

The consideration must be made of some concepts used by the researcher when discussing the knapping sequence. The phenomenon of this sequence has two aspects: the sequence of the knapping subject shape changing and the order of the fracture placements shifting. That is why this sequence can be divided into following kinds: on the one hand, the stage knapping, which implies the creation of a certain shape, "which appears to be the technologically required condition for the further work" (Girja 1997: 47), with the help of the group of the fractures and the permanent knapping. On the other hand, these are the concrete-situation knapping, which implies the placement of the fractures depending on the concrete situation but according to the general goal, and the serial knapping, when "every separate fracture is really related with the previous fracture or the group of preceding and following ones" (Girja 1997: 48).

The method was designed to analyze the technologies belonging only to the knapping technology and it was modified to use for the analysis of the technologies widely utilizing abrasive techniques.

20 sites of the period from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age mostly containing pure assemblages were selected for the analysis. Two main variants of the technological behavior were established. The first of them can also be referred to the application of technology of a low level of complexity. It is characterized by the employment of plate blanks; as was mentioned, slate gives quite auspicious conditions for the finding of blanks of this kind. The intention to change their shape minimally is discernible. The plate shape appears as an almost complete morphology, which would require only the shaping of a tool in a plan and the shaping of an edge – if the plate shape (rectangular in a cross-section) is satisfactory for the makers, of course. The shape of a tool in a plan is usually rectangular or trapeziform, and, if the selected blank is not like that, this can be obtained either by sawing or removal a part of the side planes by knapping. The "long fracture" established by V. Filatova – the transverse breaking of a blank, probably supported by the fixation of a blank according to the line of break desired, utilizing a primitive device, might be one of the variants of the knapping mode. When I tried to employ it, this mode proved to reach the result one wants in about 50 percent of the attempts, and, despite some risk, it could have been used in ancient time, but the criteria of its utilization on the artifacts are not developed, so the probability of its application is still hypothetical. This variant implies the predominance of the abrasive technology in favor of the knapping technology. Filatova discussed it quite comprehensively. At that the discovery of the technology, which widely utilized the knapping, in the early (for the territory of Karelia) Mesolithic, was determined by the researcher as the result of the lack of knowledge concerning the work on this relatively new material, which the first inhabitants of the region were characterized by (Filatova V. 1991: 27).

The alternative technological strategy is oriented to the shaping of an initial blank, whose original shape very often proves to be impossible to determine, because it has undergone considerable deformation. This strategy implies discernible predominance of knapping in the shaping process and in the majority of the cases it was restricted to bifacial flaking sometimes producing shapes quite similar to those of the "core axes" (the discussion of the concrete types is omitted in this paper). A variant of this strategy that is much more efficient presents itself in the Russian-Karelian type of tools, which will be more thoroughly analyzed below.

Both of the established variants were detected on the every of the selected sites. However, the quota of the attribute wares proved to be different in the assemblages of different sites. The quota of the "reshaped" blanks in the assemblages of the most important sites is shown in fig.1. The level of the grinding and the polishing techniques is shown in fig.2 and 3. 


The selected sites are taken to be standard for the cultures and the periods of these cultures that they represent according to the system of Karelian cultures given in the collections "Archaeology of Karelia" (Arheologija Karelii 1996) and «Chronology and Periodisation of the archaeological sites of Karelia» (Periodosazija i hronologija arheologicheskih pamjatnikov Karelii 1991). I realize that this sampling is not quite sufficient but I hope that these diagrams are able to give the first idea of the general traits of the development of the Karelian slate industry. The predominance of the one or another of the technological strategies recommenced again after quite long periods of time. That reflects, in my opinion, preferences of ancient inhabitants belonging to different cultures. Moreover, the choice of different strategies can be followed by the preference of some special kind of slate raw material. One can object to this that the presence of the only one certain kind of raw material on a certain territory could determine the choice of the technology. That cannot be excluded, but there are several cases, when the sites, which are located near of each other, or which contain assemblages consisting of complexes from different cultures and periods, demonstrate the choice of raw material of different quality and different technological strategies. I observed such a difference between the sites Suna XII – XIII (I period of the Karelian Mesolithic under Filatova (Filatova 1991) with the predominance of the strategy of shaping of an initial blank and the hard slate, and the site Suna VI (Bronze Age) showing the contrary strategy. The same is characteristic of the site Vigajnavolok I containing a mixed ceramic complex including pit-comb and rhombic-pit ceramic. However, the slate assemblage of the site can be easily divided into plate forms, which must be related to the pit-comb ceramic in my opinion, and forms totally changed by quite an efficient knapping, apparently connected to the rhombic-pit ceramic.

In fig.1 there are two sites, which draw attention. They demonstrate the maximal level of the predominance of one of the contrary strategies: the late Mesolithic site Oleneostrovskaja (1:st half of 5:th millennium BC (Filatova V. 1991) and the site Vojnavolok XXVII, which belongs to the series of eneolithic sites with asbestos ceramic (C14 dates: 441050 BP and 42808 BP; the ceramic complex belongs to the group I according to the classification of A. Zhulnikov (Zhulnikov 1991: 133, 1993: 140-153). As to the Oleneostrovskaja, the intention to use the shape of an initial blank with the minimal changing implied the maximal level of the application of the sawing technique among the Karelian sites – more than 1/3 of all the complete tools. It was followed by utilization of a very soft variety of slate (with the hardness

3 according to the Moos scale), which considerably simplified the using of this technique. On the contrary, Vojnavolok XXVII demonstrates prevalent choice of the mineral, which is not inferior to flint in its hardness, and the most efficient level of knapping ever involved in the Karelian slate industry. This particular site represents the technological context of the Russian-Karelian type.

A. Brusov was the first to characterize the axes of the Russian-Karelian type. The trapeziform shape in a cross-section, the polishing of the whole surface and the massiveness were selected as the constitutive features of the type (Brusov 1947: 6). Two chronological varieties were established; the late one is less massive (Brusov 1947: 72). This type was recognized as one of the types, whose appearance detected the beginnings of " the Karelian culture".

Filatova developed another point of view in the 70-s. She assumed the sources of the type to be aside of Karelia. This hypothesis was due to the absence of the type in the assemblages with the pure complex of the sperrings ceramic, whose native origin is the common knowledge now, and to its absence in the Karelian Mesolithic. Furthermore, this type looks like a really developed type appearing in Karelia – due to both its shape and the technique, distinguished by use of two modes: the polishing and "the preliminary abrupt fracture performed on a nodule of an arbitrary shape" (Filatova 1971: 35). The type was related to the foreign Pit-comb ceramic culture, whereby the sources were assumed to be sought in the country between rivers Volga and Oka, probably in the Balahninskaja culture (Filatova1971: 38). The wide presence of the type in the forest region of the European part of Russia was also emphasized. This hypothesis was supported by the presence of this type on the sites containing a mixed ceramic complex of sperrings, pit-comb and asbestos ceramic and the total absence of it on the sites with a pure complex of sperrings. The sites with a pure complex of asbestos ceramic had been not found yet. This point of view was supported by determination of several wares from the sites with a pure complex of pit-comb ceramic as belonging to this type. Later G. Pankrushev referred to the findings of chisels of the Russian-Karelian type on the sites with the rhombic-pit ceramic Vigajnavolok I and Vojnavolok IX (Pankrushev 1978: 7), which was evaluated as a mistake by Zhulnikov. (Zhulnikov 1999: 63).

The cultural relation of the type became much more distinctive when Zhulnikov discovered series of sites with a pure complex of the Eneolithic ceramic with asbestos admixture. These sites represent the context of the Russian-Karelian type, containing blanks together with complete tools. The researcher proposes that this type belongs only to the Eneolithic and is related to the sites with asbestos ceramic. Moreover, it is totally predominant for this cultural community in the south part of Karelia (Zhulnikov A. 1999: 60). The context of the discovered sites enabled to determine that the shape of every blank of this type was exclusively obtained by knapping, which totally changed its initial shape. In particular, A. Zhulnikov determined that this technology involved detaching of blade-like massive flakes (Zhulnikov A.M. 1993: 148). It was followed by a new attempt to solve the problem of the origin of the type, because now it became quite distinctive that it was impossible to relate the type to the Pit-comb ceramic culture. I would add that the slate tools of the Pit-comb ceramic culture are characterized by their plate shape. Zhulnikov assumed that the type began to develop in the Rhombic-pit ceramic culture, where the technology, in his opinion, was almost similar to that involved in the production of Russian-Karelian tools. However, the shape produced by knapping suffered some changing by grinding, which gave it a form close to an oval in a cross-section. This determination was made when analyzing the artifacts of the site Vigajnavolok I mentioned above. However, these wares should still be out of the type, because the trapeziform shape in a cross-section was established by Zhulnikov as its main feature.

One more aspect related to this type must be discussed. Brusov referred only to the Russian-Karelian axes. However, this name was also given to adzes. The only difference between the adzes and the axes was in the way their edges were sharpened: the axes had symmetrical edges and the adzes – asymmetrical. Sometimes this name was given even to chisels. It seems to me that it is allowed to call them "the fluted chisels of the Russian-Karelian type", instead of the "trapeziform in a cross-section chisels". These wares have a little bit different shape in a plan, which is much closer to a considerably elongated rectangular than the trapeziform shape. However, they were produced using the technology the same as that of the adzes and the axes. This technology, which is very different from all these ever involved in the Karelian slate industry, is the main distinctive trait of the type in my opinion. I also suggest to use the term "macro tools (macroforms) of the Russian-Karelian type", because all these wares, whose functions, being a little bit different, are still connected to each other in the process of wood working, show a very high grade of the morphological and technological similarity, which allows to relate them to the same type. Zhulnikov noted that the predominance of adzes of the Russian-Karelian type during the early period of the Karelian Eneolithic (the middle of the 3:d millennium BC) combined with the presence of axes made using a more simplified technology (bifacial reduction). However, during the final period of the Eneolithic in the south Karelia almost all the axes can be determined as the Russian-Karelian ones (Zhulnikov 1999: 60).

Because of the complexity of the technology of the Russian-Karelian type production, which cannot be described just with a couple of words, I decided to perform and present a detailed technological analysis. The slate wares assemblage of the site Vojnavolok XXVII was selected for it. This assemblage contains the most complete technological context related to the type nowadays. The assemblage consists of 112 wares, but only 96 were chosen for the analysis. The wares, which demonstrate really different variants of the technology, were excluded, namely the tools, which have a plate shape with a low grade of changing of the shape of the initial blank (2 examples), and those made by bifacial knapping (8 examples) and also some fragments, which cannot be determined for sure.

The selected whole contains 40 blanks, five of which are broken, and 56 finished tools. The attention is attracted by the lack of by-products, but one can judge about the face at least of some of them owing to several pieces entirely worked and even transformed into tools (fig.:4, 4; 6:1-3). There are two kinds of them: 1) blade-like flakes, whose dorsal is covered with negative scars of the flakes directed towards each other starting at the side fringes; 2) trapeziform flakes in a cross-section and considerably curved in a longitudinal section almost plunging at the distal edge but with feather-like terminations, quite massive at the proximal edge, with a very distinctive bulb of percussion and triangular or semi-oval platform remnants. This second kind was transformed into tools known as "Krummeisel" by grinding covering one-third part of their both dorsal and ventral surfaces at the distal end. The dorsal surface is covered with negative scars of the flakes directed according to the longitudinal axis of a flake.

The blanks of the tools are remarkable for quite a high grade of standardizing, taking into consideration special traits of their shape according to their function (fluted chisels – adzes – axes), namely their proportions and the shape of their edges. All of them have either the trapeziform shape in a cross-section throughout the whole length, or the trapeziform shape at the edge part changing to the triangular towards the butt. The angles between the side planes and the abdomen ("the abdomen" is here the most broad of the broad sides of a tool or a blank; the contrary surface I call "the back") are more than 45Ί and less than 90Ί, around 65-85Ί. The shape of the wares in a plan is elongated trapeziform broadening towards the edge; adzes` form is usually quite close to triangular (fig.4:2-3), chisels` – to rectangular (fig.4:1; 6:1-2). The abdomen is flat, lacking in working is noticed in 3 cases. It is commonly covered with negative scars of wide, flat, faintly longitudinally curved flakes directed transversely to the longitudinal axis of the blank. Sometimes they pass all the way to the opposite fringe of the abdomen; sometimes the "humps", a result of a failed attempt to detach a flake, can be seen. The side planes are also flat, particularly those of the blanks of fluted chisels. They are covered with quite standard negative scars of flakes, partly similar to those on the abdomen, but with the terminations located on the back. Their order makes it possible to assume that serial knapping was utilized. Shorter scars are also present. The back is quite flat too, but sometimes to a much lesser extent, occasionally even "wavy" in profile (fig.6:1). The back of one example is lacking in the working. However, the back is commonly covered with cross flake scars and in nine cases with blade-like flake scars. Some chisel blanks have an incomplete edge (fig.6:1). As far as I can judge, there are either finished shapes distinguished from the really finished tools only by the lack of grinding, or the shapes, belonging to the last stage of knapping.


Thus, according to my hypothesis, the debitage of the final knapping stage of this technology is present in the assemblage, besides the finished tools. I assume that it was serial knapping, by which this last stage is characterized, owing to the regularity of the placement of the flake negative scars on the side planes. That implies the application of the stage knapping for sure, because the systematic knapping is impossible out of the framework of the stage knapping (Girja E. 1997: 81). The knapping attributed to the previous stages has been performed outside of the site, probably on the deposit of raw material. The debitage, which belongs to it, lacks in the site assemblage. I decided to test this hypothesis by an experiment. The fit of the morphological features of the artifacts represented in the assemblage and described above with those received by the experiment was chosen as the criterion for the verification of its relevance. The shapes belonging to the early stages were supposed to be reconstructed, of course, discussing all the possible variants. Later, after a more complete context will have been found, it will be possible to choose one of them. The theoretical base for this reconstruction is "the connection on the analogy of the technological necessity".

Flint of a very high quality was chosen as the raw material, on which the simulation of the technology should be performed. Nevertheless, it seems to be possible to transfer the results of the experiment performed on flint to the technology based on slate. The slate involved in this technology does not differ from flint too considerably to make it totally impossible to apply of modes, which are characteristic for the isotropic minerals technology. As far as I can judge according to my observations of the slate artifacts of the site, they were probably employed. The anisotropy extent of the nodules present on the site can be estimated as little – middle (the estimation is made by naked eyes). The hardness (6 according to Moos scale) differs from that of flint (7) only in one index. The flaking capacity of this mineral is of a lesser extent, of course, but I think that the main cause is a higher level of the grain in the comparison with that of flint. In this connection, the observations concerning the percussion technique made during the experiment and, in particular, the type of the impactor, which was utilized, are of a much lesser evidence. Describing this analysis, I will mainly deal with the knapping sequence.

The initial nodules are absent in the assemblage. According to the blanks, whose initial shape proved to be possible to determine, they might be either massive nodules of the plate shape or quite massive boulders.

The first stage shape reconstructed by the experiment is shown in fig. 7:1. This is a rectangular in a plan blank. In a cross-section it must be trapeziform already, although the angle between the side planes and the abdomen can not differ from 90Ί too considerably. The obtaining of a relatively flat abdomen is of big importance, because the abdomen is supposed to serve as a platform for the side planes formative flakes, which cannot be detached from the flaking angles, which are more than 90Ί. If the nodule under work had initially one flat plane, which could be used as an abdomen, the abdomen could be lacking in the working at all. The back can still be quite "wavy" in a profile lacking in the working as well. Flake negative scars are broad and deep, in particular at the negative bulb, on the side planes with the overhangs at the proximal fringes of the arris. As a rule, the fractures created on the side planes do not have their terminations at the back. It is followed by the appearance of a distinctive ridge between a side plane and the back. The ratios are: the width must be at least not less than the height to give the ability to shape side planes: the practice shows that the majority of removals is detached from the side planes. The sizes must correspond to the approximate sizes of macroforms, giving, of course, the possibility to detach quite a big amount of flakes, which shape the tool. The described stage shape is transformed from the nodule of an arbitrary shape by concrete-situation flaking, as it usually happens when the technology is based on the knapping. The task of this stage is to reach the most general shape of the type under investigation, which is supposed to be kept during all the following stages, if mistakes of the flaking are avoided. In my modeling, this shape was produced by a hard (stone) hammer. The by-products of this stage do not show any regularity.

The second stage still implies the concrete-situation flaking, but the replacement of the hard impactor with the soft one is very probable. Its task is to prepare serial flaking on the side planes. That requires:

  1. On the side planes – leveling of their lines in a plan by the removal of the proximal part of the arris. In my experiments, I made attempts to reduce the distal parts of side planes. Its first variant consists in the detaching of the blade-like flakes using butt-ends (an edge or a butt in the future) as the platform. Taking into consideration that the obtaining of the blades was not the aim of the work, the flaking had probably to be stopped on one concrete section just after the first successful fracture had been created. Therefore, the dorsal of these blades must be covered with scars perpendicular to their longitudinal axis. The alternative variant implies the detaching of short broad flakes starting at the back (fig.9:6,7). This mode is quite dangerous, because a flake can be plunging, and its distal part cuts off a part of the abdomen and destroys the platform for the removal of flakes from a side plane. It could be expected in the combination with the mode of leveling of the back by the flakes, starting on the distal part of the side planes. This mode is common for the production of the south-scandinavian thin/thick-butted axes when a negative bulb side wall, remaining after a previous flake, is utilized as the platform for detaching of a new flake from the one of two contrary sides combined by an angle close to 90Ί.


  3. On the back – its leveling in profile, if it’s natural surface was not flat. Two ways could be used. The first one implies the detaching of blade-like flakes and this variant is supported by the "isolation" of the back received during the previous stage, if the blank became trapeziform in a cross-section. The second variant consists in the removal of series of flakes perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the blank. Their platforms are placed on parts of the side planes, which are close to the back. It is quite difficult to find a good platform. Utilizing the indirect percussion (I used an antler punch in my experiments), flakes can be detached even from the angles, which are more than 90Ί, but it is possible only on very "isolated", or remarkably elevated above the rest of the surface sections, where the impulse does not risk to disappear in the masse of material. As it can be seen in fig.5:1, sometimes it was impossible, and the profile of the back remained "wavy".

It is still very problematic to determine flakes belonging to this stage in the masse of an assemblage. The cut of the side planes is characterized by the remaining of series of flake scars of the previous stage, including flakes with stepped and hinge terminations, and scars, beginning at the back. Thus, the presence of scars oriented towards each other is obvious. I must also refer to the remaining of a distinctive ridge along the line of the combination of the back with a side plane.

The establishing of the entire working on the abdomen as the separate third stage was evaluated to be of relevance, although its number in the order of sequences does not have any real significance, because it recurs throughout all following stages without any changes in the knapping sequence and, probably, in the percussion technique. It consists in the preparation of the platforms for the flakes that shape the side planes. The necessity for that appears if the natural surface of an abdomen is not flat. In that case, its flattening by the flakes oriented perpendicularly to its longitudinal axis affects the height of its central longitudinal surface above the rest of the surface due to the natural longitudinal curve of every flake which is long enough. According to the steady movement of the fringes of a blank closer to its longitudinal axis by the reduction of the side planes, the flaking angle for the detaching of the flakes from the side planes becomes more than 90Ί, and it requires the removal of new flat cross flakes. The cavities on the negative bulbs create new platforms with the flaking angles a bit less than 90Ί. In my experiments, the removal of these flakes using the soft (antler) hammer connected their features with the general features of the biface thinning flakes by the concrete-situation bifacial flaking. These flakes are quite thin, flat and expanding in width from the platform, often with the presence of small lips on the interior (fig.9:8-10) (Whittaker John C. 1994: 185). The shapes and the sizes may differ very considerably; very flat blade-like flakes are also probable to appear.

The variant of utilization of the indirect percussion could affect the application of the mode attributed to the technology of the south Scandinavian square-sided axes production mentioned above. By the quite intensive use of the former on the one section of a blank the characteristic flakes for this technology, with their faceted platform remnants (Knutsson K. 1988: 52-53), were produced in my experiments, and then the beginning of the serial knapping on this part of a blank was determined. The probability of this variant being utilized concerning the tools of the Russian-Karelian type is very problematic, but now it cannot be totally excluded.

This stage is characterized by concrete-situation knapping. The probability of the appearance of the failed flakes with the stepped and hinge terminations and the flakes correcting this mistake by the removal of the "humps" remaining after them, which could be recognized in an assemblage, must also be mentioned.

The fourth stage shape is shown in fig.7:2b. (in this picture only the one side plane belongs to this stage). The work implies only the reduction of side planes, excluding the situations of the return to the third stage discussed above. The task consists in the creation of a uniform relief on those planes and the removal of the ridge along the line of their combination with a back. The stage is characterized by the shift to serial knapping. It implies the detaching of a series of flakes with relatively equal distance between them (around 3 cm) along the whole length of the blank. Their terminations are supposed to be plunging, because in that case they can cut off the mentioned ridge (fig.7:2a). It is possible, if the flaking angle is quite close to 90Ί, preferably a bit less, and if the point of percussion is quite considerably outstanding from the edge (Girja E. 1997:44). The creation of the deep negative bulbs follows these fractures. A fracture can be evaluated as successful if the angle between the deepest point on the proximal end and highest point on the distal end is at least a little bit more than 180Ί, i.e., if the proximal end is "higher" than the distal end according to a parallel of the fracture plane. In the case of failure, the return to the second stage on this section is necessary.

The flakes connected to this stage are quite massive, with very distinctive bulbs of percussion, the width of the platform remnants is around 1 cm, the remnant is of semi-oval or triangular shape. The flake is usually expanding towards the distal end, plunging and containing on the distal end a part of the surface of the back with the part of the ridge between the back and the side plane cut off by this flake. The cut of the rest of the dorsal can also contain flake scars oriented towards each other from the distal and proximal ends. The stage shape – the result of this stage – differs from the form of the second stage by the covering of the surface of the side planes by parallel scars of wide flakes finishing on the back with high overhangs on their proximal ends; and also by the fluent, rounded change from the back towards the side planes.

The fifth stage consists in the leveling of the general shape of the ware in a plan and the creation of the desired sizes, particularly width. The creation of the general shape is finished after the fifth stage has been performed, excluding the shaping of the edge and the butt. The stage foremost implies the reduction of the side planes. The knapping is serial in general. The parts of the abdomen close to the arris on a side plane are commonly chosen as platforms, at that the reduction of overhangs is of necessity. However, it is necessary to stress that the aim of the serial flaking was not the decoration of the blank surface – this surface is supposed to be ground – but its maximal flattening, which simplifies the grinding process that follows. The seriality of the flaking could be neglected because of the necessity of the more thorough working on the one selected section, and the extent of the seriality could be estimated as little.

The fractures of the side planes shaping follow the way created during the previous stage, if the mistakes of the flaking have been avoided. They start on the abdomen and finish on the back. At that they cannot be determined as plunging because of their considerable thinning on the distal end, and, despite their significant curve, they are flakes with feather-like terminations (fig.9:1-5). The more flat the surface of a side plane is, the flatter these flakes are and the closer to the fringe the point of percussion. However, the situation when the side plane became excessively flat on one part of the surface before the shape desired in a plan has been created, requires the detaching of new quite massive flakes from that section by the secondary outstanding of the point of percussion from the fringe.

The flakes detached from the central part of the surface of a side plane usually expand fluently towards the distal end and get trapeziform shape (fig.9:1-3, 5). However, the back can decrease in profile towards the butt-ends of the blank. In that case, the flake removed from the surface which is close to the butt-ends, would expand only along one of its edges, whereas it could even converge arc-wise (fig.9:4) along the other one. The dorsal of a flake usually contains parts of several flake scars oriented in the same direction as the flake itself. On the proximal part of the dorsal, the scars, remaining after the reduction of an overhang, are also probable to be seen.

An item, attributed to the fifth stage shape, obtained by my experiment, is shown in fig.8:1. Principally, its features fit with those mentioned for the blanks of the Vojnavolok XXVII assemblage, probably differing only due to the butt and the edge, which have not been shaped yet, and due to the remaining of some overhangs on the side planes.

The sixth stage consists in the shaping of the butt and the edge. The knapping can be concrete-situation again. The detaching of thick plunging flakes (fig.9:11) cut a considerable part of the butt section of the tool and blade-like flakes and edge shaping flakes with the same features as the abdomen thinning flakes discussed above are probable. The blade-like flakes are short if detached from the butt and longer if detached from the back, when the butt or the edge has been utilized as a platform. The removal of blade-like flakes could even be serial on this stage, and the flakes can be determined as the right blades in an assemblage, and a butt can even look as a core (fig.4:1, 8:2). The attempt of leveling the back by detaching a large blade-like flake from it can be also performed. This is quite a dangerous mode, because it can be followed by an end shock (Girja E. 1997: 45), which crushes a blank, and all of 5 broken blanks of the assemblage were determined to have been crushed this way (fig.4:5-6).

The concrete strategy of the reduction depends on the kind of a tool one intends to produce. It can imply decreasing of the relief of the abdomen until it is combined with the back. Some decreasing of the back by blade-lake flakes removed from it, starting on the edge, can also be expected. It could also be a reciprocal decreasing of the abdomen and the back, which is followed by the creation of either a symmetrical edge of an axe (the Russian-Karelian axes lack in the assemblage under consideration) or an asymmetrical edge of an adz (fig.4:2-3; 6:4). The blows could be oriented either from the side edges across an abdomen/back and from the edge along an abdomen/back.

Without any doubt, the description of the flaking sequence involved in the technology under analysis is idealized. The stages and the stage shapes are established according to the criterion suggested by Girja – they must serve as the technologically required condition for the further work. The reaching of these features and the transition to the next stage could appear at different times and in different order concerning different parts of a blank. The return to the previous stage is also very probable, as well as the expanding of the work connected to the previous stage from the one section to another, which is close to it, where the transition to the next stage has already been performed, and so on. What is more, the working on the abdomen was established as a separate repeated stage. The working on the back, logically belonging to the second stage, can also be continued.

It is necessary to take into account the probable percussion technique. There is no doubt that its base is the blow technique throughout all stages. In my experiments the antler baton and the antler punch (using the indirect percussion) worked equally well. The continuous application of indirect percussion on the abdomen can result in the appearance of the flaking sequence and features of the debitage corresponded to the square-sided axes technology. The flakes, detached from the side planes, do not show any difference whether they were produced by a baton or a punch, except the situations when they were involved in process of preparation of platforms for the flakes removed from the abdomen by the application of modes connected to the square-sided axes technology.

I can assume that the difference between the percussion techniques involved in the technology, which was used to produce the wares of this type, and those employed in my experiment, is not too considerable, because the difference in properties between flint and the slate utilized for the production of the tools of the Vojnavolok XXVII assemblage is not too considerable either. Probably, the role of the hard hammer, which in the experiments was restricted only to initial flaking of a nodule on the first stage, could prove to be much more important.

I can also make a reference to the qualitative final abrasive working, which, as was mentioned, is excluded from the shape formative techniques. All the finished tools of the Russian-Karelian type are totally ground (fig.5, 4) and usually even totally polished. I would add that this process, which is always very labor-intensive, was troubled by the hardness of the utilized kind of slate. The grinding has a functional reason – an edge, which has not been ground, works worse and the surface without grinding on all the sides with "humps" remaining after the failed flakes could make some troubles when the tool should be put in a handle. On the contrary, the polishing is determined only as a decorative technique and they did not use to utilize this technique widely throughout the history of the Karelian slate industry (commonly, even if it occurred, the polishing was restricted to the edge part). Principally, concerning the history of the final abrasive working on the territory of Karelia, the presence of the "progressive" development can be really established, as it can be seen in fig 2 and 3. (when analyzing this stage of the slate macroforms production, the expanding of the grinding throughout of the surface of a tool (1/4, 1/3-1/2, 2/3-3/4 quota of it) and the presence of the polishing were chosen to be the criteria for the estimation of its level).

The solution of the problem of the origin of the Russian-Karelian type is not the aim of my discussion. Nevertheless, I must stress that this type seems to be the most original phenomenon of the Karelian slate industry, because that so efficient technology employed for the production of tools of slate characterizes only this type at present. The probability of its foreign origin and even the probability of its development on the flint raw material still cannot be excluded (its genetic relation to the forms, represented in the Vigajnavolok I assemblage is quite arguable and it must be furtherly investigated). However, I must make an account of the kind of slate material enabled to employ such a sophisticated technology, which can really be found in the region. Therefore, the statement of the existence of a specific slate technology would not be completely correct. Different kinds of minerals belonging to the slate group could potentially enable the application of different technologies, moreover, minerals of "middle" properties concerning their hardness and anisotropy – the use of different technological strategies applied to the same raw material. The choice of concrete ways among all the possible can be a "cultural" index not to a lesser extent than the certain types with their complete morphology.

*, **, *** The dating and the cultural relation of the sites present on fig.1-3:


The Mesolithic: the Mesolithic culture of the Onega lake region: Suna XII – XIII – the first half of 7:th millennium BC (Filatova V.); Orovnavolok XV – the end of the 7:th millennium BC, Orovnavolok IX – the first half of the 6:th millennium BC; Oleneostrovskaja site – the first half of the 5:th millennium BC. According to V. Filatova (Filatova 1996).

The Neolithic: the Sperrings culture: Pegrema IX – the second half of the 5:th millennium BC, Vojnavolok XXVIII, Sandermoha IV – the second half of the 4:th millennium BC. According to P. Pesonen. (Pesonen 1991).

The Pit-comb ceramic culture: Chernaja rechka I – the first half of the 4:th millennium BC, Pegrema V – the second half of the 4:th millennium BC. According to N. Lobanova (Lobanova 1996)

The Eneolithic: the Rhombic-pit ceramic culture: Pegrema I-III – the first halve of the 3:rd millennium BC. According to A. Zhuravlev (Zhuravlev 1987).

The Asbestos ceramic culture: Vojnavolok XXVII – the mid of the 3:th millennium BC. According to A. Zhulnikov (Zhulnikov 1991).

The Bronze Age: the Textile ceramic culture: Suna VI – the first half of the 1:st millennium BC. According to M. Kosmenko [Kosmenko M. 1996].


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Institutet fφr Forntida Teknik 2000-09-23