Michael Frank demonstrating the spear thrower at the Atlatl Golf Games near Orlando, FL
Occoquan Paleotechnics is the creation of primitive technologist Michael Frank, run from the edge of the Occoquan reservoir in Virginia. Growing up there, Michael had a place to experience and connect with the natural world. That connection led to a further study of native skills during four years of classes at the famous Tracker School in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. After a degree in Anthropology and further Archeology Field School, Michael found himself in a wonderful job at the Smithsonian Institution conserving archeological artifacts from all over the world. It was here that he had access to the objects in hand, the great knowledge of the staff, and visiting experts and scholars. Heavily influenced there by pioneering archaeologists Dr. Dennis Stanford and Dr. Pegi Jodry, Michael sought out the correct stages of how paleo objects were made, as well as the end result.
" I consider the research and skill level of Michael Frank to be the highest caliber. Over the years I have watched him develop as a student with an insatiable thirst, perseverence, and curiousity for knowledge and understanding into a mature practitioner bordering on the verge of perfection. No longer just a student but one of the few both willing and able to carry the highest standards and traditional ways on to the upcoming generation. Some of Michael's areas of expertise include flintknapping, bow making, hafting, firemaking, and their archaeological consequences and application. His years of employment at the Smithsonian Museum have given him a perspective few other prehistorians can claim." Dr. Errett Callahan, PhD Founder and former President of the Society of Primitive Technology 8 August 2010
In this bow making demonstration, the archaeological replicas were the tools used to work the wood stave
During the 90's, Michael found a mentor in experimental archaeologist Dr. Errett Callahan, former president and founder of the Society of Primitive Technology. In 2007, Michael was the teaching assistant for his course on Lithics. From years of intense personal study with him, Michael learned the most authentic techniques possible, as well as the proper ethics for reproducing artifacts. Michael is currently conserving the Thunderbird Clovis Archaeological site and analyzing the lithics for the Smithsonian Institution. He is also a contributing writer for the Society of Primitive Technology and a proud member of the World Atlatl Association.
The practice of using natural materials in ancient techniques brings with it a deeper connection to the natural world. When tangible objects are held and understood, archaeology comes to life in a way that looking at pictures cannot accomplish. This is the theme of Occoquan Paleotechnics.
Michael at Smithsonian Staff Lecture Series
Eastern woodland arrow replicas
These mid-Atlantic woodland period arrows were made for the First Landing Foundation museum in VA Beach. The materials had to be authentic for the time and place. The points are made in quartz and rhyolite, and are lashed with deer sinew and hide glue. The shafts are seasoned Viburnums, a favorite choice of the Eastern Native Americans.
Influenced by academic knappers such as Callahan, Stanford, and Bradley, Michael's stone tool instruction started with working through the archaeological record worldwide. This mid-stage Clovis biface shows practice of the "edge to edge" or "overshot" flaking shown in Paleoindian archaeology. It was then mold and cast to use as a teaching tool.
Clovis style "overshot" biface
Occoquan Paleotechnics has made many replicas for museums and academic institutions. These include the Virginia Museum of Natural History, Norway's Arkikon archaeological park, and private display collections in Germany, France, Belgium, England, Japan, and Australia. North Carolina's Schoolhouse of Wonder and the Morrow Mountain Museum, and many other schools across the country have used Michael's functional replicas for teaching aids and science experiments. After interviewing the Smithsonian, Occ Paleo was chosen to make the atlatl and stone tool props for the History Channel special "Journey to 10,000 BC". In 2011, Michael added artifact casting to OccPaleo, and is currently working on Ice Age stone tools for the Smithsonian Institution. Many of these casts will be used as teaching tools for the Anthropology department at Washington College and teaching institutions around the world. In 2013 Occpaleo is providing study collections for George Washington University, Washington College, Porterville College, Northern Arizona University, and graduate students around the world. It is a great honor this year for Occpaleo to provide study collections to the Odyssey Paleoindian Archaeology conference later this year in Santa Fe, NM.