“The secret is to bang the rocks together” – Douglas Adams.
For most of human history, technology has involved the modification of naturally occurring substances – wood, bone, stone, etc. When used as tools, to bash, stab, slice and chop, they all have some advantages; but stone is probably the most useful, because it can shape the other substances as well as shaping other bits of stone.
In the Bellinger Valley, three types of stone were most commonly used:-
Bluestone – a fine grained basalt used for hand axes etc,
Greywacke – a coarse grained sedimentary rock used for hafted tools etc,
Silcrete – a fine grained indurated stone used for sharp, flaked tools.
Since the test of any tool is in its effectiveness, all other suitable types of stone would also be used.
Types of Tools
Bellingen Museum has examples of flaked and polished hand axes, ground hafted axe heads and small flakes, and other tools.
These are quite heavy, and are made from Greywacke. From the amount of surface weathering they appear to be very old, and they do not appear to have been very sharp. One end bears a convex ground cutting edge, the other is a more rounded clublike shape. They have a groove around the middle for a bark or split lath handle. From their weight and shape they seem more suitable as weapons than for cutting or shaping wood.
These have been flaked to a range of convenient sizes, then carefully ground to a strong, sharp, convex edge. They are usually made from fine-grained stone -“Bellingen bluestone” – which will sustain a good edge. They would have been very handy for shaping wooden objects where an axe-like impact would be needed.
These are small, fairly thin pieces of stone, roughly 50mm across. Most are made of Silcrete. They may be shards left over from knapping operations, or deliberately made flakes. They have a sharp, concave cutting edge that is too brittle to absorb an impact, but would be useful for slicing operations, such as cutting meat, skinning animals, or performing ritual surgery. Some would also be useful as scrapers for finishing wooden implements.
We also have a variety of other stone tools. They include rounded items which were used as hammerstones and grinders, and cores which were used as source material for flakes. We also have a photograph of what is believed to be a spearhead, currently held in a private collection, which together with the examples above shows the range of tools which could be made by the skilled stone -worker.
If You Find a Stone Tool
Please, leave it where you found it if possible. Archaeological items are much more scientifically valuable when studied in their original context. Good manners (and legislation) would indicate that local Aboriginal elders should be consulted regarding any Aboriginal sites or objects found, before they are disturbed.