Date: January 11 & 12, 2013
Venue: Organised by Cardiff University & St Fagans: National History Museum (UK)
Content: 19 lectures, 15 posters
See: Conference review by Heather Hopkins
Themed Collection EXARC Journal
The 7th International Experimental Archaeology Conference (held in 2013) was hosted jointly by the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University and St Fagan’s Open-Air Museum (UK). The conference consisted of two days of presentations, as well as a poster session at the end of the first day. Presenters published their papers in the EXARC Journal... Read more
Neither Rough nor Tuff; an Experimental Approach to Understanding the Durability of Prehistoric Irish Shale Axes
Bernard Gilhooly, University College Dublin School of Archaeology (IE)
Shale was the second most popular lithology used in Irish prehistory for the production of axeheads (Cooney & Mandal, forthcoming). Yet, as a fine-grained sedimentary stone, there have been questions about its robustness (see Kooyman, 2000, 35). As the testing of archaeological examples could not be undertaken, a two stage assessment was devised. Here, replica axeheads were constructed and used to work wood species which were native to Ireland in prehistory; ash and pine. Shale was sourced from two distinct locations within Ireland; Fisherstreet Co. Clare and Bray Co. Wicklow, to determine if the resilience of this lithology differed between source locations. With the durability of these experimental examples tested, a comparative analysis was then undertaken with archaeological specimens from the National Museum of Ireland (NMI). From this, an interpretation of the durability of prehistoric shale axes, with regard to working wood, was possible. The results of which are presented here. From observations made during both the experimental phase, and the comparative analysis, new areas of research were identified. These future experiments will include a widening of the range of uses shale axes are put to, and a quantitative comparison with the most popular lithology for stone axeheads in Irish prehistory; porcellanite. This research will, in part, run in unison with work planned for the UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Ancient Technology, which, following a number of very successful experiments, will look to construct a Mesolithic ‘house’ based on the remains discovered at Mount Sandel.
Reconstructing the Cook’s Galley on the Mary Rose – From Seabed Rubble to Working Kitchen
Christopher Dobbs, the Mary Rose Trust (UK)
During the underwater excavations of the Tudor warship Mary Rose, a large pile of rubble was discovered down in the hold of the ship. Shortly before raising the hull in 1982, the author was responsible for excavating this area and a small portion of the ships galley was found still intact at the bottom of this rubble. Later during the post-excavation analysis there was an opportunity to revisit the data and to reconstruct the brick galley on the basis of the archaeology carried out underwater. At first a reconstruction was made on paper of the brickwork discovered in situ and this led to a paper reconstruction of the whole brick oven and hence the whole galley area. However a number of details remained elusive: how was the archway into the oven finished and was there a flue? To answer these and other questions and to better understand the structure, the author embarked on a series of projects of experimental archaeology – first building a 1:1 reconstruction of the oven and then performing cooking trials using an enormous replica of the cauldron. Wherever possible, replicas of objects found close to the galley were used in the experiments and the public were able to watch all stages of the work. The result gives insights not just into how a galley was built and operated down in the hold of a Tudor warship, but also how they could have cooked basic meals for over 400 crew and specialised meals for the higher status officers.
Riding the waves: learning to build a Bronze Age boat
Linda Hurcombe, Robert van de Noort, Exeter University (UK)
A team composed of academics, museum curators, volunteers and a professional shipwright have been building a boat modelled on the stitched plank Bronze Age craft from Ferriby. The work has taken place in full view of the public at the workshop of the National Maritime Museum, Cornwall, an organisation that relies on entrance charges. An overview of the project will be presented drawing on a range of perspectives from across the team. The discussion points include; the theoretical themes of construction as performance, experiments as research and presentation, and skill development; management and motivation issues; and, last but not least, the intensely practical insights and compromises arising from the selection of the raw materials, bronze age tools and woodworking technologies, and little-known plant chaînes opèratoires. All this was undertaken to make an impressive full scale seaworthy craft thanks to our shipwright Brian Cumby and a wonderful army of volunteers.
A Burning Question: Structural and Isotopic Studies of Cremated Bone in Archaeological Contexts
Christophe Snoeck, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford (UK)
Of the various burial practices used by humans, cremation is one of the most common; both nowadays and historically. Since 2001, cremated bone fragments are radiocarbon dated and much research has been carried out to try and understand why cremated bone provides reliable radiocarbon dates. Many bone fragments have been burned in controlled laboratory conditions but only few have been burned on outdoor pyres. In order to study and understand cremated bone, it is crucial to burn bone in real environmental conditions. As part of my doctoral research, several outdoor cremations have been carried out using wood and coal. Different animal bones were burned, including lamb, pig, cow, and fish. The cremated fragments have been analysed by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) to observe structural and compositional changes. Some have been radiocarbon dated and carbon isotopic ratios (δ13C) have been measured by Mass Spectrometry (MS). In the proposed paper, I present the first results of this research. Experiments show that very high temperatures (above 900ºC) can be achieved in outdoor conditions but that it is difficult to reach full calcination of bone: some parts will be white (calcined) while others will remain black (charred). Preliminary results indicate that bone structure changes drastically after cremation, and that bone exchanges large amounts of carbon with its surrounding environment during cremation: burned with coal, a modern lamb bone appeared to be 4,000 14C years old. The paper proposes some implications of these results on radiocarbon dating and bioarchaeology.
Some like it hot: the effects of charring on crop remains
Mike Charles, Glynis Jones, Emily Forster, Michael Wallace, Nick Fieller and Eleanor Stillman, University of Sheffield (UK)
The preservation of plant remains by charring is one of the major sources of information regarding the economy and environment of the past. However, despite the importance of charring to archaeobotanical research, the conditions that led to preservation of plant material recovered from archaeological sites, and the effects of charring processes on the remains themselves are poorly understood. For example seed size may relate to growing conditions and/or genetic diversity between or within plant populations, but the measurement of charred seeds is of limited utility if the biases and morphological changes caused by charring are not taken into account. To address these issues a series of experiments was designed to test the impact of different charring regimes on modern grains of emmer (Triticum dicoccum). Grains were charred in anaerobic conditions, with the variables altered being temperature and duration of heating. Simple measurements (e.g. length and breadth) were complemented with more sophisticated computer-aided morphometric analyses. Grains were photographed before and after charring, facilitating one-to-one comparison of grain appearance, size, mass and morphology. Grains from each experiment were also cross-sectioned and examined under both a high-powered light microscope and a scanning electron microscope, to examine the effect of different heating regimes on the internal structure of the grain. Previous attempts to establish the minimum temperature at which crop plant remains would be charred sufficiently to survive within the archaeological record (e.g. Braadbaart and van Bergen 2005; Braadbaart 2008) concentrated on the apparent degree of carbonisation during relatively short periods of heating (with a maximum duration of two hours), but failed to account for drastic differences between the appearance of grain charred experimentally and that typically recovered from archaeological sites. Using the techniques outlined above, we believe we have identified a fairly narrow range of temperatures and durations of charring that produce emmer grain comparable to that which archaeobotanists would consider to be ‘well-preserved’. Having established the impact of different charring regimes on plant material, it is possible to estimate the degree of distortion to which archaeobotanical remains were subjected during the charring process.
- Braadbaart, F. 2008. Carbonisation and morphological changes in modern dehusked and husked Triticum dicoccum and Triticum aestivum grains. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 17: 155-166.
- Braadbaart, F. and van Bergen, P.F. 2005. Digital imaging analysis of size and shape of wheat and pea upon heating under anoxic conditions as a function of the temperature. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 14: 67–75
Getting to the bottom of it: experimental approaches to archaeobotany
Don O’Meara, Durham University (UK)
Replicative experiments have played an important role in the archaeological understanding of fields such as artefact production and. building construction (and destruction). However, the role of experimentation in the field of archaeological examinations of diet has often limited itself to issues surrounding food processing as evidence from the frequency of experiments on the effects of butchery on bone, or on the charring of plant remains. These studies have provided valuable information regarding how the archaeological record of food remains has been biased, however, it is also important to realise these experiments concern aspects of the archaeological record that may never pass through the human digestive tracts (i.e. charred remains and large mammal bones) The understanding of the physical and chemical process of human digestion and the possible effect this may have on the archaeological record has been little explored however. This paper focuses on the post-grad research of the author in his examination of the importance of experimental approaches to digestive taphonomy. This paper will discuss the research and experiments conducted by the author on mastication and full digestion on certain plant remains, (in the tradition of experiments such as those of AKG Jones on fish remains). These have been undertaken in the context of an examination of latrine/cesspit remains from sites in Northern England.
Were bifaces used as mobile cores by Clovis foragers in the North American Lower Great Lakes region? An archaeological test of experimentally-derived quantitative predictions Metin Eren Department of Anthropology, University of Kent firstname.lastname@example.org The notion that Paleoindians used bifaces as “mobile cores” is widespread in Late Pleistocene lithic research, although it can be difficult to test empirically. Here, we use experimental replication to establish two quantitative predictions that would be indicative of biface-core transport. If bifaces are being used as mobile cores, then we should see among a group of sites of varying toolstone procurement distances (a) a negative relationship between toolstone procurement distance and the mean unifacial tool maximum-thickness value from each site; and (b) a negative relationship between toolstone procurement distance and the variability (standard deviation) of maximum flake thickness values from each site. We then test our these predictions against data from six Clovis sites of varying toolstone procurement distance in the Lower Great Lakes region. The results show that both predictions possess a positive, statistically significant relationship with increasing toolstone procurement distance, which is inconsistent with the notion that biface-cores were transported. Since the Clovis presence in the Lower Great Lakes is widely acknowledged to be a colonization pulse, we conclude that the lack of biface-core transport there is an economizing and risk-mitigating behavior consistent with the models of Kuhn (1994) and Meltzer (2002, 2003, 2004).
Experiments with hafting of Scandinavian Funnel Beaker Flint halberds
Tine Schenck, University of Exeter (UK), Christian Horn, Göteborgs Universitet (SE)
This paper will present experiments conducted in August 2012 with the supposed flint halberds of South Scandinavian Funnel Beaker Culture. The experiments were designed to target the issue of an assumed transverse hafting of the blades through functional testing and use-wear analysis. Such hafting trace will be a determining feature for separating the halberd blades from multifunctional daggers and spearheads, which will not yield the same hafting diagnostics and use-wear. When the flint blades are proven hafted in this manner, we are faced with a pure form of weaponry in an Early Neolithic context of the North. This is an earlier stage than first assumed for organised warfare, and raises questions about planned, human conflict as a means of exchange in a period of prehistory not previously thought to have instituted violence as part of their societal structure and negotiation systems.
Evaluating Knapping Skill and Exploring the Cultural Transmission of Lithic Artefact Traditions
Stuart Page, Institute of Archaeology, University College London (UK) and Nada Khreishheh, University of Exeter (UK)
This joint paper presents two main research strands. Firstly it outlines a process for evaluating skill acquisition, by defining the difference between cognitively understanding knapping concepts and possessing the physical ability to actually execute them. This is achieved by training a group of volunteers to produce experimentally knapped examples of different lithic tool types and evaluating their performance. The second strand explains how the use of multi-generational transmission chains, often used in psychology, to explore the evolution of artefact form, can provide an experimental, Darwinian framework for the examination of how skill, copying error and social transmission strategies may have influenced the evolution of Palaeolithic technology. Using contemporary flint knappers, the first experiment focuses on blade technology; the remaining three experiments examine how the above factors likely impacted on Achuelean handaxe form. This paper presents findings from a completed study on blade technology and also reports progress to date on experiments being conducted on the manufacture of Acheulean handaxe forms. This is the first time this psychological methodology has been applied to an archaeologically attested technology such as flint knapping. Used in an experimental setting, it provides a controlled environment in which to examine how micro-evolutionary aspects of the knapping process may have possessed the potential to create different evolutionary trajectories in lithic artefact form.
The production of high carbon steel directly in bloomery process. Theoretical bases and metallographic analyses of the experiment results
Adrian Wrona, Department of History, The Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce (PL)
The problem of steel making in antiquity has been intriguing the researchers who specialize in the ancient metallurgy for decades. In the course of research different explanations prevailed in the scholarship. Recent experiments of the iron smelting clearly shows that the same mechanism like in the carburizing in so-called “Aristotle furnace” may occur in appropriate conditions during the smelting operation. It is basically the same operation as the one described by O. Evenstad and Japanese oroshigane process. This consists of a superficial melting of iron fraction situated near the tuyere, which actually became a cast iron and formed a multilayer clot with varied carbon content after falling to the furnace bottom. Then, in high temperature, the carbon from eutectic structures diffuses to the surrounding areas and increases carburization degree in the whole cross-section of bloom. Steel with a high carbon content were obtained during two smelting operations performed in recent year. The occurrence of the above process may be confirmed by the presence of the eutectic structures on the surface of iron parts which did not integrate with the proper bloom. The results of the metallographic studies will be presented as well as the description of the conducted experiments. Author is also going to discuss a further questions and problems related to the topic.
Surgery in the year 1350 AD. Reconstruction of medieval orthopaedic and dental treatment in Archeon, Alphen aan de Rijn, The Netherlands
Wiel van der Mark, F. Bloema, A. Cool textiles, M.S. van Hasselt, R. Knijpstra, M. Keereweer textiles, E. IJsveld, J.Rebergen, H.C. Fraza, J. Veldman, Archeon (NL)
In the medieval house of the surgeon Archeon demonstrates to visitors the theory and practice of medicine in the year 1350. We explain the doctrine of the Four Elements, the ancient system of internal medicine. Medieval surgeons had many surprising skills and methods in treating people with different sorts of injuries and trauma. Two medical treatments are interesting to reconstruct: - Treatment of open femur fracture - Treating holes in the teeth using a heated small pipe and pricker. The project is a craftsmen partnership. The goal of this team is to unlock and reconstruct these treatments based on a manuscript from the fourteenth Century. We will discuss this source and will describe the process and its outcome. Main source is the study by the Dutch professor Dr. E.C. van Leersum “The book of SURGERY” written by the Flemish surgeon Jan Yperman. Yperman described his knowledge and experiences of surgical practice. He dedicated his work to his son. We will make a study of the original texts, translate it in present-day Dutch and make interpretations if necessary an motivate. The process of the reconstruction and the treatment will be photographed and filmed. With the reconstruction of two medieval surgical treatments, we will make a historically accurate new performance. This will increase knowledge and insight of our visitors. By writing two articles in English we will transfer our experience and the opinion of modern physicians to the other European open-air museums.
Let’s Build a Kiln – Introducing Experimental Archaeology into the University Curriculum
Gaynor Wood, University of Central Lancashire (UK)
This paper discusses a small project based on the reconstruction of a fourteenth century tile kiln. It hopes to initiate discussion about how we can use reconstruction and experimental projects to inspire the next generation of archaeologists and crafts people, and to work towards further collaboration and sharing of knowledge between these different groups. This experiment repeated a similar experiment undertaken at Norton Priory Museum, Cheshire in the 1970’s. However this project was primarily designed as a learning experience for students, to explore the impact that planning, researching and managing the project had on them, discovering what the students thought that they learned about the process of replicative experiments, and about their ideas on working together with skilled craftspeople, museum workers and archaeologists. The kiln was successfully fired and our design tested, with ideas and comments put forward from the archaeologists and ceramicists for new repairs and changes to the design. Both student groups worked well together and shared ideas based on their own subject experience and research, developing skills in project management, co-operative working and communication. This project challenged and stretched these undergraduate students, introduced them to the practice and concepts of experimental archaeology and inspired their confidence to undertake this type of experimentation. I hope they also learned that experimental work is not just the tool of the “professional” archaeologist but that skilled craftspeople also have much to add to the process.
Contribution of tool curation in the morphometric variability of Aurignacian projectile points made of antler
Luc Doyon, Département d’Anthropologie, Université de Montréal (CDN)
In the last two decades, the study of prehistoric technologies has relied on the concept of the “chaîne opératoire” (production sequence) developed by the anthropologist Pierre Lemonnier (1976). The use of this concept has provided archaeologists with a better understanding of the interactions between human agents and the raw materials they transformed.
Aurignacian technology is of particular interest to prehistorians tracing the evolutionary history of the genus Homo. Conceived as an allochthonous cultural entity associated with the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe, the Aurignacian toolkit is distinguished by the standardization of its armatures used for composite technologies. The widespread adoption of blade production, the uniformity of the lithic blanks produced are two characteristics of Aurignacian technology used by Mellars (1996) to contrast with the Middle Palaeolithic toolkits. Mellars hypothesized that the standardization of material culture denotes important cognitive and cultural changes in anatomically modern populations. However, for projectile technologies made of antler, Knecht (1991, 1997) shows that despite the apparent morphological standardization, part of the metric variability remains to be explained. This paper is aimed at understanding the contribution of tool curation in the morphometric variability of Aurignacian projectile points made of antler. Experimental and experiential approaches in archaeology are combined in order to identify the natural and cultural sources of variability in the techno-economic scheme of transformation and production of osseous technology. A functional analysis was conducted to identify trends related to types of use-wear, damage and breakage. This approach enables the qualification and quantification of tool repair and curation in the morphometric variability of Aurignacian bone technology and, in turn, allows us to test the degree of standardisation in its production.
A special focus will be directed on identifying the various constraints acting on the mental and cultural templates during the production sequence and their consequences on artefact standardization (Eerkens 2000; Eerkens & Bettinger 2001; Eerkens & Lipo 2005). The experimental results also allow us to reflect upon the cultural transmission of innovation and the relationship between material culture and action through the embodiment of culture and the corporal translation of knowledge (Ingold 2002; Leroi-Gourhan 1964).
Experience as foundation for Experiment: A Practitioners Progress
Elizabeth Cory-Lopez, University of Edinburgh (UK)
In building my research strategies for my doctoral programme which studies the Chaîne Opératoire of stone carving in the Cypriot Prehistoric period, the role of experimental approaches have always proved crucial. However, I am constantly faced with the dichotomy between the strict scientific methodological philosophy and a looser experiential pathway. This has become intensified with the knowledge that my complete lack of the necessary skill in the relevant techniques, such as intricate carving, knapping and polishing has hindered the overall development of narrowly focused experiments which might produce scientifically valid results. In overcoming these problems in my research I have come to understand the experimental method as series of interlinked processes that are designed to separate those strands of the research which might usefully be fulfilled by a strictly constrained scientific experiment from those which benefit from the experience of simply trying to complete an allotted task .Both of which have the end result of providing more solid ground to interpret the complex social behaviours in the past. In doing this I have approached persons with more experience in either the relevant artistic skill, the relevant technical and material expertise or both, and I have taken the role of interviewer and/or participant observer. I would therefore like to present to conference some of the results of these experiences, demonstrate how they have benefitted my contribution to enhancing archaeological methodology; and open up a discussion concerning where best the scientific branch of experimental archaeology might be usefully applied in my continuing researches.
Guerilla Archaeology: Experiencing and Experiments
Jacqui Mulville, Ian Dennis and Ffion Reynolds, Cardiff University (UK)
Guerilla Archaeology is an outreach collective that has as its mission statement a call for the public to get 'down and dirty with the past'. One element of this is the role of experience and experiment in engaging the general public and in academic research. This paper discusses the dual role that providing accurate reproductions of the famous Star Carr antler head dresses has played in improving our understanding of artefact production techniques (in terms of tools, techniques and expertise) and artefact use and meaning. These head dresses were used as ‘gateway’ artefacts providing the focus for a broader experiential event, ‘Shamanic Street Preachers’, that was taken to four music festivals and a shopping centre with over 5500 people taking part in activities. This event included an exploration of wider shamanic practice that involved disguise, drumming and conversations with a practising shaman. The role that such activities can have in archaeological research and in particular how engaging with the public can be highly productive, both in providing answers to questions and in generating new research directions, will also be discussed.
How warm was an Anglo-Saxon house? Testing reconstructed buildings and unravelling myths of Dark-Age discomfort: A case study at West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village
Mary Ellen Crothers, West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village (UK)
It has long been assumed that Anglo-Saxon Sunken Featured Buildings had pits underneath the floors of their living spaces to maintain heat within the house above, particularly at night and that the Hall buildings did not have pits beneath because they were not used as domestic spaces. Re-enactors’ experiences, perceptions and understanding of Anglo-Saxon living at West Stow vary considerably and are often based on comparisons between this and their modern-day lives. For experimental archaeology, awareness of subjective comfort is important but objective measurement is needed to avoid making value judgements on Anglo-Saxon lifestyle. Temperature and relative humidity were measured inside the reconstructed buildings and the pits below. The fluctuations between cold/wet and hot/dry margins were evaluated against other variables such as outside temperature, domestic activities and hearths. The aim of the tests was to determine if and how activity and weather affect temperature readings within each of the buildings. The findings have shown that the pit does not play the critical role that was once held firm and alternative explanations for them must now be sought.
Researching the Basics. Craftspersons as a “research tool” in an archaeological spinning experiment
Katrin Kania (DE)
Questions in experimental archaeology are often connected to specific crafts processes – which is a serious problem in regard to both objectivity and repeatability of an experiment. Different skill levels, talents, and changing fitness levels may influence the outcome of a crafts-related experiment considerably. On the other hand, those influences did also exist during historical crafts processes, and knowing about them is beneficial to the research and evaluation of historical crafts. While it is possible to take the human element out of the equation in some cases, crafts like hand-spinning do not allow for this. Thus, an approach is needed that both uses the individual persons’ skills and experience while at the same time gives an indication of how strongly the individual person influences the outcome. The spinning experiment presented here was designed to do this by isolating the possible influencing factors spindle weight, spindle MI (moment of inertia),fibre and spinner through a setup with specially designed spindles and a large number of participants. For the first time, a large number of spinners - fourteen persons - worked under identical circumstances and with identical material. This large-scale experiment resulted in a dataset that allows an estimation of how much influence the craftsperson had on the resulting yarn. It shows one possible method of designing a crafts-related experiment that is both repeatable and expandable using the toolset developed. This could lead to both a larger database and even better insights into the individual influence of the crafter working with historical methods today
The influence of the dyers’ craft on experimental context: investigating the affect of metals in the dyeing industry of Pompeii
Heather Hopkins, Katrin Kania, and Sabine Ringenberg (DE, UK)
The manufacturing apparatus of Pompeii survived the volcanic eruption in AD79 in situ, allowing a reconstruction of workshops and industries. This, in turn, allows an understanding of Pompeii’s scale of manufacture and economic significance, and its place in the Roman world. The manufacturing capacity of Pompeii's dyeing industry was calculated following research and experiments with a replica apparatus. A survey of the 40 original apparatus showed that the kettles were made from lead. This metal is weak with a low melting point and the kettles had deformed during use. A computer simulation showed that despite this, the kettles did not break. These findings formed the basis of an understanding of the dyeing industry, but questions remained, such as why lead had been used when it is physically unstable, as iron and copper were available. Possible answers only emerged during exchange with a professional historic dyer, whose craft experience lead to a reinterpretation of the apparatus. An experiment was undertaken to investigate the effects on the wool dyeing process of iron, copper or lead when used as a kettle material. Two dyes were tested and both gave spectacular, unforeseen results that have allowed a better understanding of the Romans’ choice.
Lithic experiments in rescue archaeology – a case from Southern Norway
Svein Vatsvåg Nielsen (NO)
Archaeology in Norway is development-led. Through the Cultural Heritage Act, no development initiatives can proceed without archaeological surveys in the areas, which are performed by the County Council. All monuments and other traces of people predating 1537 are legally protected in Norway. When in conflict with development initiatives, many of these are first surveyed and then excavated by one of the five district museums. How can lithic experiments improve local Stone Age surveys? How can these experiments create knowledge relevant to the research initiated rescue archaeology of the district museums? A case is presented from Southern Norway. A Stone Age survey related to the construction of a new road (E18) was conducted by Aust-Agder County Council during the fall of 2012. Sites dated to the Mesolithic were discovered, several of them characterized by fragmented quartzite. Due to uncertain morphological and technological qualities, quartzite in Stone Age contexts is connected with much uncertainty in Norwegian archaeology. To prove the cultural historic significance of the discovered quartzite, experiments were conducted on imported flint and local quartzite by archaeologists working on the survey project. The temporary results from the experiments show (1) that a large amount of the discovered quartzite was formed by knapping, (2) possibilities to forming pragmatic criterions for detecting Mesolithic tool production in quartzite, (3) that preliminary lithic experiments can be useful for the subsequent excavations, and (4) a way to understand technological choices performed by prehistoric flint- and quartziteknappers in a specific time and region.
Barrows, roundhouses and medieval courts: archaeological reconstructions at St Fagans National History Museum
Steve Burrow, St Fagans: National History Museum (UK)
In August 2012 St Fagans began work on a £25.5 million redevelopment project. Groundworks have already begun and over the next five years we will be making major changes to the facilities and layout of the museum. Central to this project is the incorporation of Wales's archaeological stories into St Fagans galleries and grounds. This paper will outline the future of archaeology at St Fagans, with a particular focus on three major building projects which will allow visitors to explore the Bronze Age, Iron Age and medieval periods in new ways. The relationship between these projects and the wider European tradition of archaeological open-air museums (as championed by EXARC, www.exarc.net) will also be discussed.
Acorn bread in Iron Age of NW Iberia. From gathering to baking
Estevo Amando Rodriguez, Study Group for the Prehistory of NW Iberia - University of Santiago de Compostela (GEPN-USC)(ES)
Strabo's Geography is one of the main sources that archaeologists use for the study of the Castro Culture customs on food and consumption. Diet has an important place in their descriptions, where Strabo affirms that during two thirds of the year, those mountaineers fed on the acorn. The archaeological evidence shows that these people were mainly farmers; therefore Strabo presents this idea of gathering and poor agriculture trying to emphasize a civilizing image of Rome. However, the gathered products would constitute an important part of their diet, as the common finding of acorns on an important number of settlements seems to indicate. Acorn bread has occupied an important place in our work on food and consumption in the Northwestern Iberian Iron Age, being one of the first operational chains that we have investigated and reconstructed through experimental archaeology, paying particular attention to the final steps of this process, such as the extraction of tannins, the grinding with stone mills, and the different cooking methods depending on structures and artefacts.
From Mead to Snakebite: An ethnographic study of modern British University sports team drinking culture and its parallels with Viking drinking rituals and consumption
Matt Austin, Cardiff University (UK)
In this paper modern British University sports team drinking culture is used as an analogy to understand patterns of Viking-Age alcohol consumption in an attempt to bring the archaeology to life and engage a wider community through the medium of humorous modern comparison. Observations are made from the author’s own experiences working in a student bar and compared with Viking-Age archaeological and literary evidence to identify similarities between modern and ancient patterns of alcohol consumption. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of rituals in fostering group identity, encouraging a collective ideology and enhancing the enjoyment gained from drinking.
Stone moulds from Terramare (Northern Italy): analytical approach and experimental reproduction
Monia Barbieri and Cavazzuti C., Parco Archeologico Terramara di Montale (IT)
A large number of stone moulds has been found in Terramare sites since 19th century. They were made to produce a wide range of bronze objects, such as ornaments, weapons and tools; the most represented items are axes and daggers. Empirical observations pointed out that not all the types of stone have a good resistance to the heat of molten metal. This was the starting point of a research which involved a team of geologists, archaeologists and craftsmen, with two principal aims: on one hand identifying the lithotypes used by Terramare artisans and the possible supplying areas, on the other hand reproducing one mould for axe with the same stone chosen in the past, using bronze and stone tools, to test the characteristics of the stone and verify the level of knowledge and skills required in this kind of production.
‘Hut&Fire’: an ongoing experimental project in Sicily
Kati Caruso, Claudia Speciale, ArchaeoGreen (IT)
Aim of the project ‘Hut&Fire’ is the reconstruction of a Bronze Age hut, using techniques, methods and raw materials consistent with knowledges acquired by the excavation of the site of Case Bastione (Villarosa, Enna) and other known Sicilian and South Italian archaeological contexts. This kind of experiences are quite innovative in Sicily where, except from didactic activities, experimental archaeology is not much practised. Preliminary steps have been: the study of similar projects in making and using prehistoric and proto-historic tools and huts building; the close examination of bibliography about Bronze Age structural remains and of paleoenvironmental data. The following phase of the project, still in process, concerns the collection of raw materials and making of tools and architectonic hut elements. Afterwards, we will proceed in building one or more scale models of the hut in order to test techniques, static solidity and the possible variants of the structure. Finally, the hut will be set up and then burnt, with the purpose of a future stratigraphic excavation and documentation of the hut remains. The results of this experience will be useful to enrich the knowledge about Sicilian prehistoric material culture. One of the most important goals of the project is the widest diffusion of data collected among scholars (scientific publications) and non-specialist public: every step are being recorded, by photos and videos as well, and progressively shared on a website and social networks.
Cooking pots or cooking with pots? Experiments with Iron Age portable baking chambers of NW Iberia
Josefa Rey Castiñeira, Andrés Teira-Brión, Nuria Calo Ramos, Estevo Amado Rodríguez, Study Group for the Prehistory of NW Iberia - University of Santiago de Compostela (GEPN-USC) (ES)
Portable ceramic firing/baking chambers have been found in fifteen Iron Age and Roman period sites in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. They are circular in plan with a diameter ranging from 55–65cm. Their fabric is poorly tempered, often quite roughly finished, with only one decorated example discovered so far. In the archaeological literature they are referred to as “Castromao ovens” and can be comprised of two pieces, a lower grill with various perforations into which a cover can fit. Abundant soot deposits on the base and interiors of some examples indicate that they were exposed to fire. These ovens, with some variations in form, have parallels from the Bronze Age in Western Europe. One of the main difficulties in defining the functionality of these objects is the scarcity of contexts related to their use. They often appear dispersed or integrated in anthropic deposits alongside very heterogeneous material. So far only grill fragments have been found wedged between the stones of hearths within two house structures. Another factor is the high rate of fragmentation and poor conservation of pieces, a consequence of insufficient firing in many cases, which impedes the correct reconstruction of the oven. Until now various functions have been attributed to these objects. Some authors suggest that they were used as pottery kilns, while others link them to the preparation of food (e.g. domestic ovens, stoves, driers, smokers), with a third hypothesis proposing that they are connected with metallurgical activity. In order to assess the viability of these different interpretations, experiments were undertaken using a replica of a “Castromao oven”. The collaboration of a traditional potter in the construction of the oven added an ethnoarchaeological perspective to the experiment. During firing the oven was subjected to temperatures that reached around 700-800ºC in order to successfully fire the pottery. Once this step was completed, the oven was then used to prepare various types of food, trying different forms of providing heat. In these experiments the marks left by each process were taken into account, along with its impact on the oven. Preliminary results showed that the hypotheses suggesting that these chambers were used for the firing of pottery, and for food preparation are both viable, suggesting that this general morphotype could have been used for both. For future interpretations of these objects, the analysis of their surfaces and use-related marks, along with their archaeological contexts, should provide data as to their exact function.
CEP: Centre of experimental archaeology in Estinclells (Verdu, Catalonia)
Ramon Cardona Colell, Centre d’Estudis Lacetans (ES) and Josep Pou Vallès, University of Lleida (ES)
The goal of this proposal is to bolster a centre of experimental archaeology, an association dedicated to research on the Iron Age Iberian Culture (Protohistory), that intends to reach out to both the educational system and the general public. With this goal in mind, a centre of experimental archaeology (CEP) is being established on a plot of land owned by the town council of Verdú (l'Urgell). This land is adjacent to the archaeological site of Els Estinclells, a settlement of the ancient Iberian Ilergetes tribe. The fact that this site is almost totally excavated and that its features have been consolidated and are in the process of museological valorisation, increases both its scientific and social potential. The two most significant lines of this proposal are therefore the programme of scientific archaeological experimentation and the pedagogical potential, in a close collaboration with local and regional organisms: 1. The first is a pilot project dedicated to Protohistory, in particular the ancient Iberian Culture, that is already in place (master plan in 2010 and sub-projects carried out in 2011). The project, nonetheless, requires a final definite thrust. One of its most innovative aspects of this proposal on the scientific level is the strategy to integrate several different spheres of experimental archaeology. (a) agriculture and archaeobotany: this line of research focuses on the reconstruction of the ancient agricultural system of the Iberian culture, based on the three main productions found on archaeological sites in the area: cereals, grapevine and olives. (b) Protohistorical building systems: this aspect is based primarily on the construction from scratch of buildings to shelter the future wine or oil presses. These building will be attached to a segment of the city rampart which will also be erected. (c) pottery production: the idea of this sub-project is to rebuild the different parts of pottery kilns so as to grasp the ancient construction techniques. A replica of a large pottery kiln based on the « Casa Grande » at the site of Alcala de Xúcar is currently being reconstructed. Other smaller kilns are also planned based on the structures of the site of Pontons (Alt Penedès).
Living conditions and indoor air quality in a reconstructed Viking house
Jannie Marie Christensen, Section for Medieval and Renaissance Archaeology, Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University (DK), Morten Ryhl-Svendsen, Department of Conservation, National Museum of Denmark (DK)
How harmful to a person’s health were the indoor conditions in Danish Viking Age houses? We do not have much direct evidence describing that, but we know that currently exposure to smoke from the solid fuel used for cooking and heating in open fireplaces in Third World homes is to blame for about 1.6 million deaths annually, and accounts for about 3% of the global burden of diseases, mainly for women and children. During the winter of 2011-2012, a study was conducted in two Danish reconstructions of the ”Hedeby House” (870 AD): for five weeks in October-November at Moesgaard Museum, and for ten weeks in February-April at Bork Viking Harbour. The houses were inhabited by volunteers with living conditions matching as closely as possible our knowledge of life in the Viking Age. During the study, the thermal environment and indoor air quality were monitored. Heating and cooking were in average maintained by a daily fuel consumption of 50 kg hardwood. The mean temperature was 15-18°C inside the two houses, while the outdoor mean temperature was 10°C lower. The indoor temperature distribution was, however, very asymmetric and dominated by radiant heat, which we will show on the poster by infrared images. The air quality was dominated by wood combustion products, with daily levels of fine particles on the order of 0.80 – 3.4 mg/m3. Carbon monoxide was in the range of 5.5-22 ppm (mean conc.).The study is the subject of a master’s thesis by one of the authors (Christensen, expected 2013).
Where were the Viking Brew Houses?
Merryn Dineley, Graham Dineley (UK)
There is no doubt that the Vikings drank Ale - it is written about extensively in the Sagas. Nor is there any doubt about what the Ale was made from - malt. So, where was the Ale being made? We have identified the Viking Brew Houses at a number of well-known sites. Some of these facilities have been misinterpreted as saunas or bath houses, simply because of the presence of drains and fire cracked rocks. Others have been interpreted as dairying facilities, or as sheep or goat barns. All the products and by products of brewing ale are ephemeral and leave no trace in the archaeological record. The Ale is drunk, the draff or spent grain is fed to the animals and residues are washed down the drains. All that is left is the equipment and installations and, in order to recognise these in context, it is essential to know how to make ale from the grain. This is something which few people do nowadays, but it is an ancient and traditional craft that has changed very little over the millennia. Merryn has been investigating ancient and traditional malting and ale-making techniques for the past 15 years. Graham has 30 years' experience as a craft brewer and it is this knowledge, as well as an understanding of the necessary facilities and installations that any brewer requires, that has enabled us to identify the Brew Houses at a number of Viking sites. Over the last two years, we have been visiting some of the best preserved Viking settlements in the UK, including Jarlshof, Shetland, the Brough of Birsay on Mainland Orkney and Cubbie Roo's Castle, Wyre. We have also been studying the excavation reports of a number of sites, such as Stong, Iceland, and several sites in Caithness and Sutherland. Once the relevance of fire cracked rocks, drains and large vats is realised, then the identification of ale making facilities is obvious.
An Experimental Investigation into the Clovis Snapped Blade Technology
Steffan Klemenic, University of Exeter (UK)
This poster presents the results of an experiment which attempted to cast some light on the purpose of notches, and how breaks were initiated on snapped Clovis blades from the Gault site, central Texas. The experimental aspect focused on three methods, and used porcelain blades made by Professor Bradley, University of Exeter rather than the original blade material of chert. The experimental results of this project were that of the methods used, method 1 (which used a wooden rig to support the blades while a stick was pushed down over the notches to break the blade) and method 2 (which used a split stick to break the blades) produce results most similar to those seen in the Clovis snapped blade technology, but that further work needs to be undertaken with stricter methodological controls to produce a firmer conclusion. This may shed some light on the possible organic artefacts used by Clovis people that are not often found archaeologically.
Copper Plus Tin Plus People: Public Co-smelting Experimentation in Northwestern Iberia
Aaron Lackinger, GEAAT, Universidade de Vigo (ES), Beatriz Comendador, GEAAT, Universidade de Vigo (ES), Elin Figueredo, Instituto Superior Técnico/Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (PT), M. Fátima Araújo, Instituto Superior Técnico/Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (PT), Rui Silva, Departamento de Ciências dos Materiais, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (PT), Salvador Rovira, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Madrid (ES)
The reconstruction of the chaîne opératoire of prehistoric tin bronzes from the north-western Iberian Peninsula has been discussed mainly based on theoretical proposals. In recent times some relevant information based on the analytical study of the archaeological contexts of production has given some new insights on the subject. We have made an initial experimental approach of one of the proposed models for obtaining bronze, the co-reduction of copper and tin ores. One of the main aims was to gain knowledge, through experimental methods, about the chaîne opératoire of bronze production in north-west peninsular prehistory – an area where signs of early metallurgical production have long been well-known. The development of this initial experiment turns around had a series of aims, namely:
- The realization of a co-reduction experiment associated with a specific chronological moment and geographical area, using minerals originating in the north-west of the Iberian Peninsula.
- The empirical corroboration of theoretical proposals from archaeological evidences.
- Analytical studies of the smelting products, such as metallic prills, slags and others, to infer about the success of the experiment and obtain data for future comparison with archaeological evidence.
- Full development of educational and outreach potential within the process of knowledge transfer, by the conversion of the experiment into a public experience. This involved the participation of diverse implicated discourses (craftwork, chemistry, archaeology).
In this poster we present an initial approximation of the results of the experimental co-reduction which will serve as a foundation for new proposals and projects.
From Wax to Metal: An experimental Approach to the Chaîne Opératoire of the Bronze Disk from Urdiñeira
Aaron Lackinger and Beatriz Comendador, GEAAT, Universidade de Vigo (ES)
The so-called “Treasure of A Urdiñeira” (A Gudiña, SE of the province of Ourense, Spain) consists of an assemblage of three metal artefacts: two gold bracelets and a bronze button or disk, dated from the transition between the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age. This hoard found by chance around 1921, combines sumptuary objects made of gold and bronze, which are not usually found together in the context of the Iberian Peninsula (Comendador & Lackinger 2012). From a morphological and technical point of view, the gold objects were well studied by B. Armbruster (2000), who indicates that the closed bracelet was made by a lost-wax process and with the use of a lathe, and includes them in the Villena/Estremoz technological domain system, from the Late European Bronze Age. Despite its singularity, the bronze object has received less attention than the gold objects, except from the typological point of view. Based on direct observation and the analyses made on the archaeological material (SEM), we can establish a hypothesis about its manufacture and we propose an experimental approach to the chaîne opératoire of the disk from Urdiñeira. Our proposal revalues the NW Iberian Peninsula artisans' community knowledge, as it suggests an experimental recreation of the chaîne opératoire with recourse to certain technical uses by these artisans. We aim to test coherent experimental processes and formulate precise questions related to prehistoric technologies.
- Armbruster, B.R. (2000): Goldschmiedekunst und Bronzetechnik: Studien zum Metallhandwerk der atlantischen Bronzezeit auf der iberischen Halbinsel, Montagnac. Monique Mergoil.
- Comendador, B. & Lackinger, A. (2012): The bronze disk of “A Urdiñeira” hoard (A Gudiña, Ourense, Spain). Conservação e técnicas de análise para o estudo e salvaguarda do património metálico AUCORRE, Lisboa (29-30 Março 2011): PDF
To use or not use a Minoan chisel? Ancient technology in a new light
Maria Lowe Fri, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Section of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, Stockholm University (SE)
This paper concerns the use and users of the Minoan chisels. Previous research conducted includes chisel typologies and hypotheses of the chisels’ use on wood, stone, metal and bone. However, no further investigations have been conducted in order to try and substantiate these assumptions. Furthermore, if the chisels were used in these different materials and for different work, would it not be possible to exclude certain types of chisels for certain use? That is, would all the chisels be suitable for working on wood, stone, metal or bone? Would the use-wear on the chisels be the same for stone and metal? My aim is to complement and explore these theories with experiments and visual examinations of the Minoan chisels. So far, I have experimented with cast bronze replicas on stone. This exercise probably seems rather straight forward, however when considering the Minoan archaeological record the chisel was used for attaining a variety of working tasks such as dressing stone for building, to more complicated objects such as vases, detailed reliefs, plaques and moulds. In order to draw conclusions, experiments have to be conducted in all these working fields. I have, so far, with help from two stone masons had a mould and a relief-plaque made with the chisel replicas. All the chisel types were included in the experimental studies and some could be excluded, at once, since they were either too broad or too long for the small and tricky parts of carving details. Other interesting results were that depending on if a stone or a wooden mallet was used as a hammer, the striations made by the chisel on the worked stone were different; an important result when addressing questions of different tools-kits for different users during the Bronze Age. An important aspect in concluding use and users is to study the Minoan chisels and the use-wear visible on them. This in order to compare the Minoan chisels with the replicas and the use-wear created during the experiments. The comparison will, hopefully, show what types of chisels really were used on stone during the Minoan period and further substantiate the question of use and user in the Minoan archaeological material. This work is in progress, and further experiments in stone, wood, metal and bone need to be conducted in order to conclude further on the Minoan chisel’s use and users. This conference will give me the opportunity to widen my horizons with possible solutions and fruitful discussions in the sphere of experimental archaeology.
Use-Wear Parameters of the Shahabad Limestone Flake Tools: An Experimental Approach
Debanjan Mitra, Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune (IN), Dr. Vijay Sathe, Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune (IN), Dr. Prakash Sinha, University of Allahabad, Allahabad (IN)
Use-wear analysis has been one of the key investigative methods to discern the functional aspects of prehistoric tools and provide a more empirical perspective of typological classification. Use-wear patterns are governed by several depending factors and vary largely with the changing geological contexts. The use-wear patterns are highly sensitive to changes in the mineralogy of raw-materials. Hence, it is utterly crucial to establish standard parameter for different raw materials and their varied contexts. In the Indian context, limited attempts have been made in this front. This project attempted to create a parameter to calibrate the use-wear patterns of the Indian Palaeolithic tools made on limestone. The focus of the work has been on the Shahabad limestone which has been exploited optimally by the Palaeolithic tool-makers of Hunsgi-Baichbal valley. The limestone has been collected from the Isampur provenance to retain an analogical parameter for the archaeological record. Carcass processing of Bubalus bubalis was carried out using the flake tools made of the Shahabad limestone in a controlled laboratory environment. The experimented samples were observed and analysed under both low and high power microscopy to determine the edge-damage and polish patterns. Several parameters like edge angle and activity have provided further categorical results. This experiment will definitely open a new space for understanding and determining the functional aspects of the Palaeolithic tools made on Shahabad limestone, both in synchronic and diachronic perspectives.
Methods of drilling holes in prehistoric artefacts made of antler – first results and conclusions
Justyna Orłowska, Institute of Archaeology, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun (PL)
The occurrence of antler artefacts on prehistoric European archaeological sites is one of the most interesting evidence of highly developer manufacturing system in these times. Such products as tools, weapons and ornaments are often an indicator of certain specific cultural traditions. Among the wide range of different categories of such artefacts, especially interesting, on account of the way of production, tend to be those with characterictic, large (greater than 1 cm) holes. Upper Palaeolithic perforated batons, different kinds of Mesolithic hammer adzes or Neolithic T-shaped axes were an inspiration to take up the subject associated with the process of making such kind of holes. The main goal of presented experimental program was to verify previous theories and determines related to the presented subject. For this purpose, a series of experiments were carried out with different techniques and tools that could be used by our ancestors.
Observations on Italian Bronze Age swords production: archaeological record and experimental archaeology
L. Pellegrini, F. Scacchetti (IT)
In spite of the very large quantity of Bronze Age swords in Northern Italy, only few stone moulds have been found. In effect we have tested that carving such big stone moulds (more than 60 cm long) requires a big amount of raw material, deep knowledge and skills, rather than a wide set of implements. It has also been proved experimentally that long sandstone moulds for swords, especially on blade details, are affected by fragility of the material itself, when stone comes in contact with the flowing melted bronze. For these reasons, this could mean that they were made in other materials and through other techniques, which did not leave any visible (or identified?) trace on metallurgical sites. A team of archaeologist and craftsmen is now working on other methods, which will be presented in this paper.