Chert By Any Other Name

Gun Flint Comparison

Two types of chert found in the Ohio River Valley

The two artifacts pictured here are both gunflints recovered from a site near the Ohio River in West Virginia. The one on the left is made of Brandon chert (the geological name for flint), from the famous chert mines of England, where hundreds of thousands of gunflints were manufactured before being shipped around the world in the holds of ships. Its edges were made by removing material from only one side of each edge, a technique archaeologists call unifacial flaking. The one on the right is made from Kanawha Black, a common chert in West Virginia. It was probably made by a Native American. Native American-made gunflints are most often bifacially flaked, having material removed from both sides of an edge. The native made flints were not manufactured in the same manner as gunflints in Europe, likely because firearms were not a primary commercial manufacturing commodity in North America. These gunflints date from the mid-1700s to early 1800s, the peak time for the fur trade, land expansion, and warfare in the upper Ohio Valley.