Year 6 Day 105

ObsidianAlmost any stone will do for pounding, Little Gnu assures me, but for tools to cut, the stone and how it is shaped depends on what is to be cut. Most of the cutting tools he showed me were some form of microcrystalline quartz: chalcedony, flint, jasper or even agate. A few decorative pieces, more for showing off or for grave offerings than for use, were of colored quartz. But his real prize, used only for the most delicate of tasks, was a carefully chipped piece of obsidian as sharp as any steel knife.

“The stone is rare,” he told me, “and not easy to work. Sometimes I can arrange to trade a worked piece for a much larger piece of the raw material. But sometimes a thorn or a spear is driven into the body, and this is the best kind of knife for cutting it out.”

“It is also,” Gazelle remarked, “the best thing for cutting hides. When I can get my hands on it.”

It took me a moment to remember that Little Gnu was not at the gather the year I presented them with obsidian. “Would you like some raw stone to work?” I asked. “I know where I can find some, and it would be easy enough to get it. You could make knives while you cannot walk well enough to hunt.”

He was delighted at the suggestion, and so was Gazelle. “If he has more of that stone, perhaps I could have a knife of my own,” she said, “just to use for cutting tanned skins.”