I arrived in Professor Ulrike Sommers office, full of books and boxes on the 4th floor of the UCL archaeology department on the 4th of august. I asked Ulrike to show me some archaeological drawings, she quickly produced a pile of archaeological dig drawings on water proof graph paper and explained what the drawings indicated. My first thought was that some of them looked like drawings of the epidermis of the skin. As we looked at drawings of flint. Ulrike told me how each different mark showed point of impact or where the object had been modified by humans over time. It was fascinating, as I realised that drawing a piece of flint from and archaeological point of view means looking in a completely differently way and mark-making very specifically.

Together we went to see one of the archaeology students who was having difficulty drawing flint, we looked at a piece of flint and discussed how from an archaeological perspective, the drawing should not have any details of the flints natural qualities, only the modifications and impacts made by man.

We had a short crit of the students drawing and looked at some flint in detail, Ulrike told me that flint was the most interesting and important thing to draw in archaeology and that no other medium can convey the  information like drawing.

Aside from arrow heads and axes, I was very interested In problematic flint after reading Robert plots records of curious pieces of flint that resembled an owls head and a human foot.

Later on in the day I went back to see Ulrike In the archaeology department and told her about Robert plots odd shaped flints. She had not seen them but showed me another very oddly shaped flint that is her favourite. It was amazing and I realised that I need to find my own strange flint to draw, both in the way that I would normally draw and from an archaeological study view-and have begun my search.

 

 

I contacted the palaeontology department at the natural history museum and got a very quick reply saying “yes- we have problematic flint”.

The next week I arrived with a copper plate to work. The palaeontology department has all kinds of treasures, forged fossils and huge corals, but it was one specific draw of limb and animal shaped flint that I was after. And after a few journeys I had managed to assemble some of the characterful flints into a strange figure, much to the amusement of the palaeontology staff.

Above- Robert Plot- plates that illustrated his findings found in the rare materials room of the wellcome library and an etching I made of problematic flint at the Natural History Museum.

Below is an interview with Ulrike Sommer about Archaeology and Drawing-

G.A- Can you tell me how you use drawing in archaeology?

U.S- We use drawing to document during excavation, we draw plans and sections people have to dig, and we draw artefacts.

G.A- Is drawing still used in archaeological education here in arc at UCL?

U.S- Well not as much as it should be- when drawing an artefact you have to pay very close attention, observing its shape, drawing is the best way to learn about an artefact.

G.A- Why is it especially important to draw flint?

U.S- You cant document flint through a photograph as you cant see the technical details- which give you information about how it was made.

G.A- What is it that you are looking for when drawing a flint

U.S- First, the orientation- to find the front and the back, you need to work out if it has  been modified, if so which side and find out if it is complete or incomplete and then  draw the outline. We normally only draw flint that has been modified, only drawing the modification and cortex, outer crust.

G.A- The French are known for being very good at drawing flint, can you tell me why this is?

U.S- In france there is a long tradition of excellent flint mappers and drawers. I come from the German tradition, where if you study archaeology, and you cant draw an artefact, you wouldn’t be considered to be any good as an archaeologist.

G.A- Thinking about drawing and observation and drawing as a knowledge building tool, are students losing an important way of looking and observing by not drawing

U.S- Yes definitely, you can use photography, but a photograph will only show you what things look like, whereas drawing can tell you about the soil and the environment- things the camera cannot see.

G.A-Does drawing act like a language in archaeology that archaeologists can understand?

U.S- Definitely, we don’t draw after nature- a field drawing or a drawing of a pot or flint follows certain conventions, in order to draw flint you have to know how it was made-

G.A- So all of the shapes and marks covey in an arch drawing have meaning to you?

U.S- Yes

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