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THE GORSUCH SQUARE KNIFE
COPYRIGHT NOVEMBER 3O, 2003 PETER A. BOSTROM

A Very large Kansas square knife.
THE GORSUCH SQUARE KNIFE
REPUBLIC COUNTY, KANSAS
PRIVATE COLLECTION

Kansas square knife abstract.

ABSTRACT:
KANSAS SQUARE KNIVES 

    This article illustrates and describes a very large biface that is generally referred to as a square knife. It is one of several examples of this type that have been found in Kansas over the last 100 or more years. This 15 3/4 inch (40 cm) long example, known as the Gorsuch square knife, illustrates the size range for these very unique knives. Although there are square knives found in some of the eastern states, the Kansas square knives are not the same. They are much larger and more skillfully made.

     "The ends of several of the knives (Kansas square knives) are trimmed down into a shape that reminds me of the ends of airplane wings".---2001, Charley Shewey, "A Rare Paleo Square Knives Cache", "Prehistoric American", No. 1, 2001, pp. 30-31.

 A very large Kansas square knife.
THE GORSUCH SQUARE KNIFE
REPUBLIC COUNTY, KANSAS
PRIVATE COLLECTION

KANSAS SQUARE KNIVES
& THE GORSUCH SQUARE KNIFE

    The state of Kansas has within its archaeological record a unique form of square knife. Several have been found by surface collectors over the years. They are surprising for their unique artistic shape and for the high degree of skill involved to make then. They are particularly thin with delicate edges. Some examples also show evidence of use wear. They may have been made for some type of domestic use, but given their rarity and delicate form they may also have been used for some type of ritual purpose. The Gorsuch square knife, illustrated in this article, is the largest and most skillfully made example that has come to light. The first scientist who looked at it was Smithsonian archaeologist Waldo R. Wedel in the 50's or 60's. His comments to the family was that he thought it may date to the Paleo period. He restored the broken pieces and wrote down the basic information and suggested that the family donate it to the Smithsonian Institution.


CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGE TRIPLE IMAGE
THE GORSUCH SQUARE KNIFE
REPUBLIC COUNTY, KANSAS
PRIVATE COLLECTION

     This very large square ended biface was found by Bill Gorsuch in Republic County, Kansas in 1951 after a particularly bad flood. He discovered the broken pieces stacked on one another on the bank of a creek that empties into the Republican River. It is made of Niobrara jasper and measures 15 1/4 inches (38.7 cm) long, 2 inches (5.7cm) wide & slightly over 5/16 inch (8mm) thick.

    The Gorsuch square knife was found in 1951 by Bill Gorsuch on the bank of a creek that runs into the Republican River. He found it laying with the broken pieces stacked on one another not long after a particularly bad flood. It is made of a beautiful piece of red and yellow Niobrara jasper and it measures 15 3/4 inch (40 cm) long, 2 1/2 inches (6.3 cm) wide and 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick.

Magnified view of the edge of a Kansas square knife.
CLICK ON PICTURE FOR LARGE IMAGE
MAGNIFIED VIEW OF FLAKING DETAIL
THE GORSUCH SQUARE KNIFE
REPUBLIC COUNTY, KANSAS
PRIVATE COLLECTION

     This picture shows a magnified view of the edge of the Gorsuch square knife. This biface has very nice uniform percussion flaking on both sides and the edges were trimmed smooth with fine pressure flaking. This knife was made by a very skilled flintknapper.

    There is a much cruder variety of long narrow knife with rounded or even "squarish" ends that are also found in Kansas. They are called Munkers Creek points and were named by Thomas Witty Jr. in 1969. Greg Perino (2002) reports them as only found in eastern Kansas. He illustrates one that is square on one end and rounded on the other and measures 15 1/4 inches (38.7 cm) long, 2 inches (5.7cm) wide & slightly over 5/16 inch (8mm) thick. Munkers Creek points date to the Late Archaic period sometime between 3400 to 1300 B.C.

A Kansas square knife along with other stone artifacts.
KANSAS SQUARE KNIFE,
ALONG WITH OTHER ARTIFACTS
DOUGLAS COUNTY, KANSAS
PRIVATE COLLECTIONS

   The large gray square knife in the center of this picture was also found in Kansas several years ago. It was found along with eight other square knives in a cache in Douglas County around 1900. The cache was found by Roy Wise on a creek bank after a flood near Baldwin City, Kansas. One of the knives in the cache was broken but showed evidence of repair with four notches at the break indicating that it was once bound together. These knives also show use wear polish on some of the edges. It's hard to imagine such delicate knives as these made for a utilitarian purpose but maybe they performed some sort of ritual purpose instead. The knife in this picture is very thin and measures 7 3/4 inches (19.7 cm) long. The longest biface in the cache measured 9 inches (22.8 cm) long.

    A cache of 8 very skillfully made square knives were found in Douglas County, Kansas around 1900. The largest one was 9 inches (22.8 cm) long. Just like the Gorsuch square knife these were also very well made and of the same design. One example was broken and notched around the break indicating that the original owner had even tried to repair it. All the square knives described here were made by the best knappers of their time, although we don't know how old they really are. They were also made from the highest quality cherts in the area where they were found. Some of the examples in the cache of 8 had evidence of use wear on the blade edges. In all of North America, there really isn't anything quite like the exquisitely made square knives from Kansas. The Gorsuch square knife is one of the finest examples found so far.

"REFERENCES"

1991, Perino, Gregory, "Selected Preforms, Points and Knives of the North American Indians Volumn 2", "Square- End Knives" p. 213.
2001, "Prehistoric American, No. 1" "A Rare Paleo Square Knife Cache", by Charles Shewey, pp. 30-31.
2002, Perino, Gregory, "Selected Preforms, Points and Knives of the North American Indians III", "Munkers Creek" p. 164.

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