Popular flintknapping program returns to Etowah Indian Mounds on Saturday
by Marie Nesmith
Aug 24, 2011 | 2924 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Steve McCarty, interpretive ranger at Etowah Indian Mounds, looks at a piece of chert and flint, the two most popular materials for flintknapping.  
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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For primitive artisan Randy Ballew, the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site's upcoming flintknapping program will be the ideal opportunity to showcase the art of creating weapons like spear points and arrowheads. On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Chatsworth resident will provide demonstrations during the annual event.

"I'll mostly be demonstrating how the Indians made their stone tools, arrowheads and [items] like that," said Ballew, who has been flintknapping for about 12 years. "Most of the materials I'll be using will be obsidian, which is a volcanic glass. I'll be using different tools. I'll be striking the material, and I'll actually be driving flakes off of the material and thinning it out and shaping it. I can make a point in about 10 to 15 minutes.

"[At events like this, I enjoy] mostly talking to the public and sharing the knowledge of it. Most of the time ... they don't realize that that is how it was made. They're thinking it was made by heating the glass and dropping water on it."

Based on the venue's previous flintknapping programs and the growing interest around the ancient art form, Steve McCarty -- interpretive ranger for Etowah Indian Mounds -- anticipates a large turnout.

"This program is very, very popular. People like it simply because there are so many collectors -- people that like arrowheads [and who] hunt arrowheads," McCarty said. "They like points, and a lot of people make points themselves. They make blades. It's a very popular hobby, very widespread. These people have big get-togethers every year.

"[So this is] a very popular program. They like to compare. They like to see other people's techniques, and they like to learn more. This is [an] annual [event]. It's always the last Saturday in August every year. ... To actually be able to hold some of the finished product and, to maybe sometimes, to hold the beginning product before it's transformed, [and] to see it being made really fascinates a lot of kids."

Along with viewing flintknapping demonstrations, visitors also will be able to tour the 54-acre venue, where several thousand American Indians lived from A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1550. Regarded as the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast, Etowah Indian Mounds at 813 Indian Mounds Road in Cartersville features six earthen mounds, a village area, a plaza, borrow pits and a defensive ditch.

The site also provides several educational displays, such as a wattle-and-daub house, which is a 15-foot-square replica of a residential structure; an American Indian garden at the venue's front entrance; and a 9-foot-by-7-foot diorama designed to show what the location could have looked like in A.D. 1300.

For more information about the Etowah Indian Mounds and its flintknapping program, call 770-387-3747. Admission will be $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors and $3.50 for youth.