The term chopper is used to refer to a simple and crudely made pebble artifact that has one cutting edge. A chopper was used for cutting, hacking, or chopping through various soft materials such as meat or wood. It is a simple tool that was made from a nodule or pebble of flint in which several flakes had been struck from one end or side to form a sharp edge (Figure 9). In most cases, percussion flakes were removed from only one surface of the nodule, producing a sharp but rather steep angled cutting edge. Occasionally, the cutting edge has been trimmed or shaped by additional flake removal from the alternate face of the nodule, producing a bifaced cutting edge.
One distinctive feature of the chopper is the presence of the cortex or outside unmodified surface of the original pebble or nodule of flint. This remains unworked with the exception of the cutting edge, from which only a small portion of the original cobble has been removed.
Choppers vary a great deal in their form, depending upon the shape of the original nodule or cobble used to make the artifact. Most of them, however, are of a convenient size to be held in the hand and the average specimen has a length falling between 50 mm and 120 mm. The chopper was apparently not mounted in any
way but was held in the hand for actual use. Although crude and simple in manufacture, it was an efficient tool for numerous purposes.
The term chopper is usually associated with "pebble tools" which were common in Africa, and elsewhere, during early Paleolithic times. Cutting edges made on a pebble, however, provided a simple and useful tool so that examples are found almost world wide and from various time periods. Because of their simplicity and crude appearance, they are often believed to represent very old artifacts, but this is not necessarily true as they frequently occur in late occupations.
Choppers are found in most sections of Oklahoma and appear to be more frequent in the Archaic period but do occur on later sites. Choppers can be confused with discarded debris to be found at lithic sources or gravel deposits where flint nodules are plentiful. Indians in search of lithic materials commonly picked up suitable appearing nodules or cobbles and removed one or more flakes from them in order to examine the interior of the stone to determine if it would be useful for making artifacts. This cobble testing produces chipped nodules which may resemble choppers in appearance, but they lack evidence of use wear along the cutting edges. Choppers should show some edge wear or evidence for use as a tool.