Hard as Flint and in America (9/25/2023)

Cutting Tip

Hard as Flint and in America.

We are confident that we have determined how Early Americans used a flint burin to inscribe the characters and images onto the surface of Stone Number 32 from the John White Collection.

The engravings on Stone 32 have clear connections to the ancient Phoenician alphabet. We are fortunate that Brian Nettles has translated that stone meaningfully. Click here to see the link.

The engravings of Stone 32 are cut in blue limestone. We have access to the location where we will get samples of blue limestone for use in further investigations.

Limestone is a relatively soft stone, rated between a 3 and 4 on the Mohs hardness scale, similar to marble. After today’s tests, we can claim that flint burin tools were used to engrave Phoenician letters in limestone in America thousands of years ago. Limestone has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale. That differential in hardness makes it possible for the flint tool to cut into the limestone.

We believe the Phoenicians came to America from the Old World 2,000 years before Columbus. These ancient seafarers brought with them their language and culture. Captain Philip Beale showed how the Phoenicians had the technology to cross the Atlantic. The proof of their presence in the New World is found cut in stone in the valleys of the Mississippi River.

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Cutting Tip of Flint Burin.

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Flint Burin. Stone Tool in Hand of Artisan.

Flint Burin.

Burins are a relatively common stone tool in America, Europe, Western Asia, and Africa. They were usually made by truncating a flake or blade and using the truncated surface to strike one or more flakes down its edge.

This creates a steep and sturdy edge on the end of the burin scar for engraving organic materials, and the steep lateral edges of the scar are suitably robust and uniform for scraping tasks. The flake detached from a burin is often called a ‘burin spall’, which may have been used as a tool. Click here to see more information.

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Flint Burin Engraving Limestone Rock.

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Engraved Character After Cutting with Flint Burin.

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Weathering of Limestone Takes Time.

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New Steel Knife Blade.

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Flint Burin Engraving on Steel Knife Blade.

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Srcatches Show that Flint is Harder than Steel.

Flint is Harder than Steel.

The above macro images illustrate how strong the flint burin is.

Today, we compared the hardness of the limestone to flint. First, we tried to mark a new steel blade with limestone. No luck. Then, we took the flint burin and quickly made a mark on the surface of the polished steel blade. Early Americans clearly understood how to use the hardness of a flint tool to engrave letters and images onto limestone.


Phoenician Characters Cut in Stone Meaning Scurvy.

Weathering of Limestone Over Time.

Generally, limestone is durable. It does, however, absorb water, and since it is a carbonate rock, it is highly reactive when exposed to acids or even mildly acidic rainwater, and it can suffer substantial deterioration. The most common effect of weathering and erosion is loss of precise detail.

A process of carbonation chemically weathers limestone. As rainwater absorbs carbon dioxide as it passes through the atmosphere, it becomes a weak carbonic acid. The water and carbon dioxide combine to form a weak carbonic acid.

Stone 32a

John White Collection Stone 32 shows the Effects of Limestone Weathering.


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