A Family Heirloom

1980s

A Family Heirloom

Era: 

  • 1982 - 2000
  • stone tool on the diagonal

    This is the flint-knapped chisel

As a young lad, I received a family heirloom from my mother.  It was a smooth stone tool, greenish in colour, that looked like some sort of chisel.  My mother told me that my grandfather had dug the item up while turning over the soil in the vegetable garden behind the family home in Husum, in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany.  The family had no information on the origin or the item, but assumed it was very old.

Many years later, and now a staff member of the ROM, I brought the item to work with me to have it identified.  ROM colleague and then Head of Collections Management, Dan Rahimi looked at the piece and immediately recognized it for what it was.  "Come with me" he said, and he took me into the West Asian collection room.  He opened a drawer containing a number of stone chisels, remarkably similar to my own.  Dan explained to me that the chisel dated back some 5,000 years, and could reasonably be expected to be found in that part of Europe.  It was made by hand, out of flint, by a process called "flint knapping".

It was exciting to have a piece of family history, heretofore a mystery item, revealed in this way.  Having the contextual information to go with the item makes it that much more special, and I'm now able to include the story of the item, when I pass it down to my sons.

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