Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

14.1 Rocks and Minerals Used as Tools


14.1: Rocks and Minerals Used as Tools

Here are some examples of rocks and minerals that have been used by indigenous cultures around the world in crafting tools or making artworks:

Flint: flakes easily, with sharp edges, making it good for knapping into arrowheads, spear points, and knives.

Obsidian: another source for knapping into arrowheads, spear points, scrapers, and knives.

Agate and jasper: two more sources of stone suitable for flaking and knapping.

Kaolin, or clay: soft and malleable but bakes rock-hard when heated, thus making it perfect for crafting cups, bowls, and other vessels and for making beads.

Granite: heavy and coarse, and thus good as a grinding stone or for making tomahawk or club heads.

Basalt: also heavy and coarse and good as a grinding stone.

Tar: at places with oil seeps, native cultures have exploited tar for things such as caulking boats or waterproofing bowls (note: tar is technically not a mineral, but it is a natural resource that has long been exploited by people).

Hematite: ground to make red paint.

Azurite or lapis: ground to make blue paint.

Malachite: ground to make green paint.

An interesting book that goes into all sorts of materials used by stone-age peoples to craft tools for survival is David Wescott‘s Primitive Technology: A Book of Earth Skills (Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2001). The materials he discusses include stone, wood, bone, natural fibers, fire, etc. He even includes a chapter on primitive art and music.

Note: Kids who make a collection of rocks and minerals used to make stone tools can use this activity toward satisfying requirements for earning the Collecting badge simultaneously (Activity 5.1). If they give a presentation to share their collection and talk about how these rocks have been used as tools, they can also use that presentation toward earning their Communication badge, as well (Activity 7.1).