Last weekend I visited a group of guys who gather occasionally to practice and share their primitive skills. One of the interests that they share in common is primitive archery. I was able to view and handle hand made bows of various woods such as Osage orange and hickory. There were hand made arrows as well with different styles of fletching, made with different shafts of wood and cane. Many arrows had knapped arrowheads as well which added to their authenticity.
I’ve always maintained that indigenous people would have used Bic Lighters if they were available, but, alas, they used the resources that were available to them at the time. As I watched a circle of flint knappers at work, I noticed some of the materials that they used. Although I saw some antlers traditionally used as billets, most used modified copper capped pipes that had been weighted with lead. Although there was obsidian piled in a box, I also saw some white material that was unfamiliar to me. I asked what the material was and the response was “John” stone… which was the porcelain from broken lids of toilets (or “Johns”). One knapper said that, outside of the wilderness, you could always find this resource to use. I also saw some arrowheads that were knapped from beer bottles.
It pleases me to see primitive skills kept alive while incorporating modern materials and resources. It’s the gift of ingenuity that helps us to adapt and survive. By continual practice and evaluation, we can improve and build our skills to better prepare us for emergencies and challenges that may lie ahead.