Woman the Toolmaker
Hideworking and Stone Tool Use in Konso, Ethiopia
Woman the Toolmaker portrays the remarkable lives of a group of Konso hide workers from southern Ethiopia who may be the last people in the world to make and use flaked stone tools on a regular basis. Unlike the “Man the Toolmaker” stereotype, virtually all of the Konso hide workers are women who as young girls learn flintknapping skills from their mothers or other female relatives. The complete life cycle of making and using flaked stone artifacts is documented in this ethnoarchaeological portrait of Konso women scraping hides to produce soft leather products for bedding, bags, drums, and even ritual clothing. The hide workers use quartz, quartz crystal, chalcedony, and chert collected from dry river beds, eroding hillsides, and abandoned hideworker households to manufacture scrapers from cores by the direct percussion and bipolar techniques. Using a gum-like resin obtained from local trees, the scrapers are secured in the open haft of a wooden handle. The handles are then used to scrape cow, goat, sheep and occasionally wild animal hides until the inner fat is removed and the hides become soft and pliable. Heat-treating, resharpening, recycling, and discarding are also clearly depicted in the film. Woman the Toolmaker places stone tool making and hide working in their social and economic contexts, and speaks particularly to the importance of women’s roles in past and present societies. This unique video is an excellent addition to both undergraduate and graduate courses in anthropology, archaeology, and women’s studies, including material culture, technology, methods, and ethnography.