In a few words...
Here is Bernard Ginelli's story, how his passion for Prehistory was born.
Driven by his curiosity, experiments and meetings, Bernard has become one of the best flintknappers and has trained a whole generation of professionals as well as a large number of amateurs.
Though he is totally self-taught, he has been a major actor in the cultural mediation and has been working with several scientific teams for the past 20 years.
The origins of a passion
Bernard Ginelli was born on december 11th 1947 in Tamnies (Dordogne, France) and grew up in a small farm. He discovered archeology while picking up artifacts from the farm's fields, in one of the richest areas of the planet (as far as archeology is concerned !). Dordogne's caves, rich environment, rivers and mild climate drove virtually all species of pre-human and human in this area for thousand of years.
Spending most of his free time in Castel-Merle's museum in Sergeac, he quickly got acquaintance with Rene Castanet, the museum director who was one of Bernard's parents relative. Little by little, mister Castanet gave birth to Bernard's passion for prehistory, mostly by teaching him that, beyond the flint tools, a human brain was hiding...
Bernard then started an exhaustive search for knapped artifacts, picked up in surface of cultivated fields. This huge collection of artifacts taught him the bascis of typology.
He was in his twenties when he first started occasional flintknapping attempts then he created, with a small group of friends a tiny prehistory museum in Tamnies where he begun showing flintknapping to the public. But his real first flintknapping experience took place when he decided to create a museum display showing the differents flintknapping methods and the operating chains of various tools.
Tamnies' museum was inaugurated in 1974 by Dr Francois Bordes
(french scientist who is considered by many as the father of french flintknapping) who, surprised by the quality of Bernard's work, invites him to private flintknapping classes.
This meeting gave Bernard the sense of accuracy and started his search for perfection.
Bernard becomes more and more fascinated by flint: harder than steel, a deeply capricious material that cuts better than modern knives... After the museum had been inaugurated, Bernard was more and more often invited to flintknapping demonstrations. Then he started evening shows for miscellaneous organizations... Simply enjoying sharing his passion with others, Bernard also loved to put into light prehistorical man's intelligence.
Bernard further developped his flintknapping techniques with american scientists who came to search Pataud shelter in Les Eyzies (Dordogne, France). These american archeologists recognize the quality of his work and his reputation passed the Atlantic.
1988 A resolute change
In 1988 Bernard decided to quit agriculture to work as a fulkl-time flintknapper. His first attemps in the summer of 1988 in the PREHISTOPARC
is a success and allows him to fine tune his flintknapping technique, by daily practice.
At first visitors were amazed, but quicly got enthousiastic... and eager to see more
He got confirmation that his choice was right when the Catal-Huyuck knife (Turkey -8000 years), then the Gebel-el-Arak knife (Egypt -3500 ans, displayed in the French museum Le Louvres) where discovered. Those knives helped him in his search for technical perfection.
In march 1989, Bernard got an interview with a journalist of "Connaissance de la chasse (Hunter's magazine)" and shortly after the article was written, he had to supply his first orders. (Kindal cutlery- Avenue de L'Opéra - Paris- France).
Now the reputation of Bernard Ginelli steps outside prehistory's circles.
In 1990 Bernard opens a flintknapping workshop in Les Eyzies: PALAIOS
. Meanwhile, his expert flintknapper's reputation keeps growing... which implies to progress again and again.
PALAIOS: The flintknapper's workshop in Les Eyzies
In his workshop, Bernard dedicated all of his time to crafting flint knives. Many french and foreign archeologists regularly came to pay him a visit, giving him precious advices as well as a scientific knowledge background.
A few meetings:
André Morala, researcher in the National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies
Patrick Bidart, archaeologist, technically sharp
Doctor Laurence Bourguignon
Paul Boutier fom Montpellier University
Roland Nespoulet, archeologist in Pataud shelter.
Regularly Bernard gave commented flintknapping demonstrations, mostly for the public, but also for scientists and researchers. Among others, he performed in Solutre
's Museum and Neuchatel University
Never satisfied, Bernard Ginelli then focused on the following targets, in order to master flintknapping:
Late neolithic dagger blades , knapped out of "Livre de Beurre" cores.
solutrean laurel leaves, a risky and incredibly technical exercise.
Egyptian pre-dynastic knives blades, almost the limit of technical possibilities.
Type III and type IVdanish daggers, with square-section handles and their famous "stitches"
He reached his targets in 1998, but his results were still perfectible
Back to basics
Bernard is delighted to inform us that he is back in prehistory's heaven: Eyzies de Tayac since April 1st, 2008 !
Visit his workshop, located 45 avenue de la Préhistoire, facing the Pataud shelter ("Abri Pataud"), the entrance is free for all.
Feel free to watch Bernard knap flint, ask any question about any flint tools, see him make them out of rough stone blanks, touch and manipulate flint artifacts.
Knives, bifaces, neolithic axes, primitive bows and arrows, atlats and darts.. anything Man could ever invent to make his everyday life easier. He still creates beautiful stone and bone artifacts and now develops a real talent for sculture, visible on the handles of his knives or his magdalenian atlatl hooks replicas.
His creations and sculptures are inspired by prehistorical ones, such as (Brassempouy's venus, Niaux's buffalos, horses, human faces...
Bernard is also very fond of prehistoric weapons competitions, and was Europe's vice champion in 2004 and Europe's champion in 2005 in the European Prehistoric Weapons Shooting Contest.
He's also reached the top 10 of atlatlists in 2006 (10th place in International Standards Accuracy Contest - ISAC with 91X points)