Making a stone tool, 1893

1893 flint-knapping description by Father Morice. Source:

Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice was a Catholic missionary working in the Skeena and Bulkley River areas of western British Columbia during the later 19th century.  He is perhaps best known for his documentation and writing system for the “Carrier” (Yinka Dene) language, but he also published a major work entitled Notes Archaeological, Industrial and Technological of the Western Denes, with an Ethnographical Sketch of the Same (1893).  The work is a cornucopia of careful observation mixed with some interesting, and occasionally rather religiously judgmental and speculative, commentaries.  One of the most interesting short passages is excerpted above: Morice records how to make stone tools via flaking.  Because metal tools became widely available in the early historical period and had some superior qualities, such accounts of traditional flaked stone (the bread and butter of archaeological sites) are very rare.  The figure above appears accurate in its description of the slightly awkward-seeming way of holding the stone: I have seen this palm grip used by many contemporary flintknappers.  Elsewhere, Morice records a series of Yinka Dene names for different stones, including chalcedony and obsidian.  You can page through his book, but not download it in entirety, here at The illustration above is from Page 65 on the drop down menu.  (Why they don’t just make a link to the whole PDF is beyond me).  There are other informative sections, such as about 10 pages describing the operation of fish-traps and weirs.

Fish trap illustrated in Morice 1893. Source:

5 responses to “Making a stone tool, 1893

  1. Pressure flaking with a stone… hmmm… I wonder if the platform prep was different than with antler or the moose molar. And how was the moose molar held? And where can I get a moose molar?


  2. “And where can I get a moose molar?”

    Moose Jaw.


  3. good one Q!!!


  4. You actually can download the whole document from Early Canadiana Online. The way you have to it is by accessing the database through a post-secondary library (if not on campus – by using their VPN for remote access). After you are connected through the library, then the full document link will appear when you are on the ‘Detailed Record’ page.


    • Hi Misty — thanks for the comment, I didn’t know that.

      It doesn’t help a lot with my grumpiness though: is publically funded, the documents are out of copyright, and they aren’t selling advertisements based on how many page views they serve up.

      So why lock this document behind passwords for research libraries that only a privileged few can access?

      I’m not a big information-wants-to-be-free guy, but it seems there is a cadre of archivists and librarians who take a little bit too much ownership of their work. I love the fact this material is available online, but why not let it out in a format useful to everyone? It seems like they walk to the very edge of making it freely available, then at the very last moment, clutch it tighter to their ink-stained breast, murmuring “mine….mine….mine”.

      I should draw attention to the exemplary Vancouver City Archives who, after seeing me whine here, made the McLennan and McFeely Catalogue available as a single download rather than the page-flipper style:

      I wish would just open their vaults to the general public of Canada – who have already paid for it. If no-one else, First Nations people might well want free access to this material. The fact it is apparently available via password suggests they could flip a single switch somewhere in Vault-land and let everyone in. I urge them to do that.


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