Of all of the knife forms produced by Native Americans in Texas and the Southwest, the Harahey Knife is one of the most unique styles. In the current volume of “A Guide to the Stone Artifacts of Texas Indians” by Ellen Sue Turner and Thomas R. Hester, they refer to these particular knives as the Two- and Four-Beveled Blade Bifaces. In the older version, these were referred to as the Harahey Knife. Over the years I have heard many collectors call these knives “Texas Four-Blade Knives.” However, using this nickname is misleading. The distribution of the Harahey Knife not only covers nearly all of Texas, but these stone artifacts also occur across much of the Great Plains and the Southwestern states.

What makes the Harahey Knife so unique is how it is re-sharpened and the general changes in its outline as it goes through these modifications. From time to time I use the term, first stage, which means the original shape of a finished stone tool or weapon tip before it becomes modified through either the re-sharpening process or if part of the piece is broken off during use and instead of being discarded, the maker is able to modify the piece into a smaller version of the original or even completely chip it into another useful tool. We see this quite commonly on dart points from the Archaic time periods where the tip of a projectile point has been broken off and the Native American modified the piece into a drill. This can easily be determined by the fact the lower portion of the projectile point still remains with the stem and the shoulders or barbs present but the tip has been modified into a drill or perforator.

The original first stage Harahey Knife starts off as a fairly large diamond- shaped piece of chert, flint or quartzite. It is not uncommon to see a first stage Harahey measuring five to seven inches in length and the widest part which is the two side points of the diamond possibly two to three inches in width. Like many of the other knife shapes I have written about recently, there isn’t any stem or tang for the attachment of a handle. Only the Corner and Back Tang Knives have a portion of the piece set aside specifically for the attachment of a handle. Without a handle, this means the Harahey Knife had to be held either by grasping the mid-section or possibly wrapping part of the knife in a piece of leather or hide to prevent being cut by one of the sharp edges.

Just like all of the other stone knives, the cutting edges of a Harahey Knife were constantly being dulled every time the knife was utilized to cut and butcher an animal. Since these knives were thin and made out of stone, tiny flakes were being discarded off of the piece every time the blade came into contact with a piece of bone or a tough area in the hide. As each tiny flake was removed, the cutting edge becomes more rounded and therefore unable to slice effectively through the meat or hide. Therefore, the owner of this knife had to constantly be re-sharpening each cutting edge. The beauty of the Harahey Knife is the fact each one had two or four cutting edges depending on which type we have discovered. The Four-Blade variety is by far the more common of the two shapes and the distribution of the Four-Blade covers a much larger area. Each time one of the four edges became dulled, the Native American would probably use a deer antler tip to remove a new row of flakes from one side of each edge. And typically he would only flake off one side of the edge rather than flake both sides of each cutting edge. In turn, this would cause the piece to become more beveled on the two opposing edges of one side and on the other side, he would re-sharpen the other two opposing edges. As each side is slowly whittled away, the overall shape of the Harahey Knife starts to look more like a miniature propeller for an airplane. J.B. Solberger, one of the best replicators in the United States, told me each edge of a Harahey could be re-sharpened 200 times. This twisting effect is very hard to see in the illustrations used today. Eventually the piece will be totally exhausted and will take on the look of a double pointed drill. Archeologists from Southern Methodist University found one of these on 41FT 200, Bird Point Island, during the excavation phase at this site and they were trying to topologically force this piece into a known dart point style. I had looked at several examples of exhausted Harahey Knives from sites along the Red River so I was able to identify this piece correctly for them.

In the book I mentioned above, the authors noted many examples of Harahey Knives are made out of Alibates Flint from the Alibates Flint quarry north of Amarillo. In fact, last year a good friend of mine found one in this area made out of the Alibates material. Others are made out of the high grade Edwards chert but I have also seen examples made out of our local Uvalde quartzite.

You will note I illustrated not only the Four-Blade variety but also the Two-Blade Harahey Knife. According to the same reference book the Two-Blade variety’s distribution area is limited to South Texas but this is an incorrect statement. About 15 years ago I saw a Two- Blade Harahey in a collection from a site on the Trinity River here in Navarro County. This is why archeology can be fun because what has been written as fact can sometimes be proven to be incorrect information.

Next week: Knife forms from East Texas, an adaptation to a local environment

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