Crushed Notches & Metal Traces
The photo to the right shows a very fresh notch with a lot of powdery white flint crushing and residue. Often you will also see some copper or metal traces from the modern metal tools used to make the item in the notches. The little black dot is a trace of copper under 45X magnification.
In order to make a newly flaked artifact look old, fakers will apply a variety of different types of liquids and waxes to create an artificial patina. In the example to the right, under magnification you can see where this liquid has pooled on the surface and then dried.
An ancient artifact spends hundreds and thousands of years in the ground. While it is "in situ", as the ground slowly moves around it, it will weather. Sharp edges become smoother, loose hinge fractures come off with moisture, freezing and thawing, and the surface gets a patina (outer coating) from the minerals in the ground around it. The example to the right shows a new serrated edge on a reproduction (top) that is not weathered - and a nicely weathered edge. (bottom)
While not all authenticators use magnification to make decisions on authenticity, I personally find it to be an incredible asset, especially in today's collecting market. The advancements made by artifact reproducers in the last twenty years is scary. Some fake patination processes are very close to the real thing, and the use of foreign substances to replicate mineral deposits is something I see on a daily basis.
Iron Based Deposits & Halos
Iron deposits are the most common deposits seen on artifacts that are found east of the Mississippi. Many times, you will see both iron and manganese deposits on a relic. With iron, it will often leave a stain ring or "halo" around the deposit itself from the mineral leaching out onto and into the surface.
There are several main traits to look for when examining a point for potential rechipping:
> Steep angles from the tip down the edges, or down the face of the relic as seen in the photo to the right.
> Changes in flaking size and style
> Surface patina coloration differences. on some flint types, the use of an Ultra-violet light will show rechipped areas well, but it does not work on all flint types.
I often get asked what I look for under a microscope when authenticating an artifact, so I wanted to create this page to give a very general overview of some of the things I look for along with some example pics. While this is far from a complete list, it hopefully will entice collectors who are not currently using magnification to consider buying a stereoscope. They are not that expensive, and they are truly a collector's best friend.
When an artifact is in the ground, the minerals in the ground around it will often leach out and form deposits on the surface of the relic. The photo to the right shows manganese based mineral deposits. Iron, alkaline, calcium and other minerals will also form natural deposits. Mineral deposits are a positive sign an item is old.
I wanted to post this picture of an authentic, naturally formed iron based deposit so the reader could study the detail of its appearance. Most replicated deposits do not have the same 3-dimensional appearance as the real thing. I always suggest that people using scopes spend as much time as possible studying known authentic examples whenever they can. Field grade and broken relics are excellent study examples. With some self study a collector can become quite proficient at identifying the positive traits that point towards authenticity as well as the negative signs that an item is most likely recently made.
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Improper Sanding & Grinding
When the lower edges and bases were ground in ancient times, they were done a specific way and they weathered over time which left them very smooth and rounded. Many times, on modern items, the sanding and grinding is very abraded and rough as it has not weathered.
Filed ,Sanded and Dremeled Notches
Notches are the first place to check under your scope to see if there is any freshly crushed flint or really fresh hinge fractures. Remember - fakers will often pack the notches with dirt to cover the recently made evidence so take a tooth brush and some soapy water and clean the notches before you inspect them. This photo shows a notch that has been filed or dremeled to remove the white colored fresh flint crushing.
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When a flake is removed during the knapping process, it will sometimes leave "tears" in the flint as it comes off. These tears will usually weather off or smooth over in the ground with time. Sharp fresh tears can be seen under magnification which is an indication of recent manufacture.