Contributed by blanc

This grindstone was used for sharpening knives and tools. It's a round piece of sandstone, about half a metre in diameter, with a metal bar through the middle connected to a handle. It would have been mounted in a wooden or metal frame so that it could be turned by the handle with one hand, while pressing the blade against it with the other to sharpen it. It's a technology which dates from the early middle ages, and this one is almost unchanged from that time, although it was probably made in the late 19th or early 20th century.

It was found in the medieval French village of Blanc in southern France. Until the second world war this little mountain community had existed since at least around 1000 AD, living off small scale agriculture. Barter - trading goods and services - was generally used instead of money, and the stone was probably an important communal resource.

There was no road connecting the village to the outside world until the 1950s, so this grindstone symbolises one of the biggest changes in modern life: the transition from rural communities limited by the need to make everything they needed to survive, to urban ones which buy or mass produce most of what they need.

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Southern Aveyron, France


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