Updated: February 23, 2021
Building Bridges Across Time and Space
Kumar Akhilesh & Shanti Pappu
Sharma Centre for Heritage Education (India)
Experimental archaeology in India has a long, although rather sporadic history of research. With the exception of stone tool knapping experiments, this work has built primarily on the continuity seen in craft traditions, and is often embedded within ethno-archaeological studies. Here, we present an overview of these studies, and proceed to situate our own studies, falling within three themes.
The first theme comprises research goals, where lithic knapping experiments focus on questions related to hominin behaviour and draw on excavated Palaeolithic assemblage from Attirampakkam and other sites in south India.
The second theme explores methods in developing content for teaching lithic studies and prehistory, particular for graduate students and early career researchers, with a strong focus on experiments.
The third explores ways in which we involve the community, in particular children and teachers in outreach programs on archaeology, where experiments form a major part of pedagogy. These include modules with hands-on experiences focusing on specific themes in archaeology and aspects of material culture.
Themes explored include stone tool making and use, traditional methods of crop cultivation, harvesting and processing, pottery, clay modelling, brick making, manufacture of seals, the lost-wax method of bronze casting, rock art, traditional architecture, among others. We discuss the evolution of our methods from 1999 onwards, and future plans to develop hybrid modules with a strong online content. Finally, we highlight ‘Building bridges’ across time and space, in our efforts to bridge gaps between experts and the community, in examining the interconnectedness of the multiple worlds of rocks, metals, sediments, animals, plants and people-past and present.
Testing Use-Wear on Non-Flint Rocks. Comparing African Lithic Raw Materials with European Flint
Alessandro Aleo1,2, Annelou van Gijn2, Geeske Langejans1
1 Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering, Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands)
2 Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University (the Netherlands)
To understand the development of use-wear traces on African lithic raw materials and to assess comparability with European flint, we conducted field experiments using a range of tools (hafted scrapers and handheld flakes). The tools were made from chert, dolerite, and quartz. During the experiment, we recorded the contact material (hide, bone, or reed), condition of the worked material, motion (longitudinal or transverse), duration (30 or 60 minutes), and tool effectiveness.
After use, the tools were subjected to an extensive functional examination. Both macroscopic and microscopic use-wear traces were analysed with light microscopy. Particular attention was paid to the distribution, combination, and association of traces along the used edge. These experimental traces were visually compared with use-wear on experimental flint tools that were exposed to the same variables (motion, contact material, and time). These latter tools are part of the comparative collection at the Laboratory for Artefact Studies of Leiden University.
The data collected here helps us to better understand use-wear formation and development on rock types that were commonly exploited by South African hunter-gatherers in the past. Our results highlighted strong similarities in the characteristics and distribution patterns of traces on chert and flint tools. Dolerite and quartz differ from flint, especially regarding the trace distribution pattern along the used edge. However, shared traits were observed in all the raw materials involved in this experiment, demonstrating a certain degree of comparability between use-wear traces on flint and non-flint rocks.
An Experiment with Heavy Loom Weights
Lorena Ariis (Austria)
The loom weights from the Roman settlements in the north of Piedmont are large and heavy, over 15 cm in diameter and over 1200 grams in weight. They cannot be used to weight warp threads in the classic way, because they are too heavy and bulky. This experiment aims to examine a different way to apply the loom weights to a weaving loom.
Exact replicas of the refractory ceramic loom weights were made with weight, size, and shape similar to the originals. A weaving loom was built that could be used with large loom weights, and was then used to weave a tabby canvas.
The weights were made by modeling a refractory ceramic mixture and letting it air dry. The construction of the weaving loom was based on correlations and comparisons with the warp-weighted loom and the double-beam loom, both of which were loom types used in Roman times.
I built a vertical weaving loom with poles inserted in quadrangular bases, with an upper beam and a lower beam that are not fixed but just supported by pin. The lower beam is weighed down by two weights that are suspended from a rope. The lower beam can be positioned over a support pin during the warping phase. During the weaving phase the beam is positioned under the support and the loom weights are positioned laterally. Once the entire warping is tensioned simultaneously it is ready to weave.
This experiment is not the solution, but one possibility of how to use the heavy loom weights for weaving, my research will continue in this direction.
I Wanted Wings: Recreating Wing Insignia Made by Allied Prisoners of War in Europe During the Second World War
University of Liverpool (UK)
Prior to capture, wing insignia were presented as part of air force uniforms. Although PoWs (prisoners of war) were supposed to be allowed to retain their insignia upon capture, this was not always the case. Wings were sometimes confiscated, or purposefully destroyed due to fear of retribution if they were identified as bomber crews or special forces. Airforce PoWs were at risk of being attacked or murdered either by local residents or officials after Hitler’s Commando Order of 1942. Once in camp, some men chose to recreate their insignia again. This paper will show the process of attempting to use the methods described in primary sources to reproduce surviving designs.
Once captured, the PoWs retained the structures from their military service. Non-commissioned officers and higher ranks were sent to officer’s camps where they were not compelled to work, and men with the highest rank in camp were in charge of the PoWs in it. This status may have explained the direct recreation of wing insignia, however there are also designs declaring PoW status. Therefore, this research will also consider nested identities evident in the insignia.
This paper will use artefacts, photographs, and POW accounts to understand and recreate the methods used by prisoners to obtain, melt, and shape metal to create wings. Sandcasting and lost wax methods were used, as well as full casts with plaster of Paris. This equipment was often obtained from Red Cross parcels. The smelting and shaping required skill, but the gathering of materials was an accessible activity. Therefore, this paper will also consider the significance of the wings to the men: asking if there was value of their creation beyond the object produced.
Casting Cat Heads – Experimental Studies based on ancient Egyptian casting Moulds (Qubbet el-Hawa)
Johannes Auenmüller1, Georges Verly2, Frederik W. Rademakers3 & Florian Téreygeol4
1 Fondazione Museo delle Antichità Egizie di Torino (Italy)
2 Sorbonne University (France)
3 KU Leuven, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Belgium)
4 CNRS UMR 5060 IRAMAT, Melle (France)
In 1969, a unique assemblage of intact casting moulds was discovered in the context of a burial at the Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis opposite of Aswan (Egypt). This burial is dated to the Late Period, more precisely around 570–480 BCE. In 2014, a project at Bonn University examined these moulds. The results allowed to study Egyptian casting technology in unprecedented detail. In 2017, the EACOM project at Brussels approached the casting moulds anew in doing experimental archaeology. Integrating all data gathered in Bonn, the motif of a cat head was chosen to act through the chaîne opératoire of casting such an object.
Following a rigid scientific protocol, about fifty wax models of the cat head were created. A ceramic core was formed, then covered with wax. After the finishing of the wax model, five layers of ceramic fabric were applied. After drying and dewaxing the moulds in the furnace, they were cast. Concerning the dewaxing, a dewaxing furnace was also made in order to control the heating temperatures and to recreate an oxidising atmosphere corresponding to the traces on the moulds. A full validation of the experimental data thanks to the the archaeological specimens was possible. The results not only allow for a better understanding of the chaîne opératoire, they also enable the archaeologist to excavate any production structures more accurately. Finally, the layers of the experimental moulds were sampled in order to carry out an archaeometric study.
A Model of Lithic Analysis Guided by Experimental Archaeology
Sergio J Ayala
University of Exeter, UK, The University of Texas (USA)
An experimental archaeology seminar was constructed in 2016 to study 6 prehistoric dart point technologies of North America. The experiments during the seminar created 32 debitage collection episodes in total, including the final dart point products. Analysis of the experimental products resulted in the creation of valuable analytical categories and methods to help amplify the understanding of primary behavioral elements embedded in lithic technologies. The derived behavioral modes and tasks categories are the working basis for a fully developed model of analysis that other lithic specialists can exercise in their own experimental studies and interpretations of archaeological assemblages. Theoretically grounded in cognitive anthropology, ethno-science, and experiment, the developed model of analysis can assist in high-resolution behavioral insights from artifacts and assemblages.
As a demonstration, this new model of analysis was applied upon a cache of Middle Archaic bifaces discovered in 2006 in the Trans Pecos Region of Texas by archaeologists from the Center for Big Studies at Sul Ross University, Texas. Hypotheses and postulations from observational analysis were tested by laboratory experimental work, and concluded in some unique insights and interpretations.
This direction of methodology and analysis demonstrates the merits of involving laboratory experimental work by specialists, the need for more behavioral approaches in lithic analysis, and moving away from purely morphological and statistical approaches that can often lead to the over-simplification of technological behaviors, and by effect, the ancient individual.
A brief History of the Development of Experimental Archaeology in Kazakhstan
L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University (Kazakhstan)
This article analyzes the history of the formation and the current state of experimental archaeology in Kazakhstan. The accumulated experience of researchers was examined by generalization and systematization methods. It is noted that the experimental method is more popular among researchers of the Bronze Age, where the archaeologists focus either on a specific artefact or on the type of technology for the manufacture of ceramics and metal. At the same time, based on assembled materials, the author marks out some problems and suggests ways to solve them. Moreover, the absence of experimental archaeological laboratories in universities, as well as experimental sites in museums, hinders the full development of this discipline. The author concludes that the inclusion of experimental archaeology in the program of summer field schools and various festivals contributes to the solution of problems. This study does not purport to be an exhaustive account of all the work carried out in Kazakhstan. Rather, it is intended to identify issues and indicate the types of experimental studies that have been conducted to date.
Wood Ash, Olla & Egg: Chemistry Between Pottery and Science
Igor Bahor & Milko Novič
Pottery Center Bahor (Slovenia)
Roman potters are known as producers of exceptional pottery creations, of which their terra sigillata undoubtedly stands out. Their work is particularly remarkable given the fact that they did not know modern deflocculants, nor modern viscosity and density meters. What they had at their disposal were high-iron clay, wood ash (due to the burning of pottery kilns), and simple systems for concentrating the fine fraction of clay and simple density meters. It is known from the literature that wood ash can serve as a base for glazes, as it contains potassium carbonate, which acts as a temperature lowering agent for surface vitrification. The technique of glossing ceramics with ash has been known to the Chinese since about 1500 years B.C. It is also evident from the literature that the top layer of terra sigillata on Roman vessels is vitrified to a thickness of about 30 µm and that the vitrified layer is enriched in potassium. Based on these facts, we decided to study the potential benefits of adding wood ash to the clays in order to achieve the appropriate clay segregation and later to enable surface vitrification of a ceramic pot coated with terra sigillata produced in the above mentioned way. The concentration of the diluted fraction of fine clay particles we achieved by removing removing in a ceramic pot (biscuit fired, uncoated), where water seeps through the wall and evaporates, while terra sigillata concentrates in the interior. The density of the concentrated fraction was checked "by touch" (silky feeling), and by the "floating egg" method. Namely, at a certain terra sigillata concentration, raw egg begins to float on the surface. In the present paper optimization of the proposed terra sigillata production process and its application will be presented.
From Reconstruction to Management: the Experience of the Terramara of Montale Archaeological Park and Open-air Museum
Monia Barbieri1, Marco Pio Lauriola2, Cristiana Zanasi1
1 Museo Civico di Modena (Italy)
2 Timber Design (Italy)
The Terramara Park of Montale was founded in 2004, starting from the excavations conducted between 1996 and 2001, and from the comparison with European models. These models were adapted to the territorial reality of the site, which was a partially urbanized area, and to the expectation, which later turned out to be realistic, of a large turnout of visitors.
The identification of Bronze Age dwellings during the excavations provided substantial information for the life-size philological reconstruction of two houses, made using mainly attested materials and carrying out some work with tools faithfully reproduced from original models.
The methodology was followed for the reconstructions, however, some adaptations had to be made to meet criteria regarding safety, accessibility, and economic sustainability, which in some cases limited the application of a strictly philological criterion in the design and building of structures. In this sense, over time it has been necessary to carry out a series of maintenance interventions that found a compromise between philological aspect, economic sustainability and guarantee of enduring.
To favor a systematic and targeted approach to maintaining safety conditions of the structures, we proceeded to their constant monitoring and improvement with the methods of technique and technology of wood construction.
With this paper, we therefore intend to present an example of management of structures made with potentially perishable material, partly built experimentally but mainly for education and dissemination, through interventions aimed at maintaining them over time respecting a certain conformity with ancient buildings and without altering the evocative impact for the public.
Integrating ‘Primitive Technology’ with Indigenous Material Knowledge in Studying the Early to Middle Stone Age Transition in Zambia, South-Central Africa
Lawrence Barham1, Christopher Scott1, Karl Lee2, Noora Taipale3, Maggie Katongo4
1 Department of Archaeology, Classics & Egyptology, University of Liverpool (UK)
2 Primitive Technology (UK)
3 TraceoLab / Prehistory, University of Liège (Belgium)
4 Livingstone Museum (Zambia)
The transition from the Early to Middle Stone Age marks a fundamental shift away from a long tradition of biface manufacture (handaxes, cleavers, core-axes) to a more diversified repertoire of flake and core tools, including hafted forms. Morphological and technological studies play key roles in documenting the transitional process, but little is known of the functional changes involved. The ‘Deep Roots’ project began in 2017 in Zambia, with the aim to bring tool function to the forefront of understanding technological change. A ‘primitive technologist’ (Lee) with more than 25 years of experience in making and using stone tools was embedded in the project to combine local knowledge of materials used in tool making with replicated archaeological tools.
The replicas were used in a variety of tasks, and provide the foundations of a use-wear reference collection for analysing changes and continuity in tool design and function (TraceoLab, Liège). Given the diversity of African lithic raw materials and their differences in use-wear formation, an important component of this research is the use of locally sourced materials and the further development of methods required for their analysis.
We present two examples of how local knowledge informed our understanding of the possible function of hafted ‘core-adzes’ (and the limitations of plant-based bindings), as well as the use of wood as a soft-hammer for biface thinning. The combination of experimental and local knowledge provides a model for functional research where such opportunities exist.
Not just a technicality: Re-evaluating Reference Collections in Micro-Archaeology through Experimental Archaeology
Jessica Bates1, Andrew Needham1 & Anita Radini1, 2
1 Department of Archaeology, University of York (UK)
2 JEOL Nanocentre, University of York (UK)
Reference collections are of paramount importance in Archaeology and Heritage Science, and encompass a wide range of materials and objects. Here we focus on microscopic reference collections for the identification and interpretation of organic and inorganic material in archaeological contexts. Such reference collections are also used in Forensic Trace Analysis, Food Quality Tests and Authentication of Artefacts. They are a powerful cross-disciplinary tool. Often however, the building of these collections is mistakenly simplified to a technical ‘lab’ exercise, and very often do not reflect human actions that produced the observed residues and material in need of identification. This paper focuses on the revaluation of reference collections as a research tool and the urgent need of incorporating Experimental Archaeology in a more structured way. We present two case studies, which use experiments with organic and inorganic material to build actualistic microscopy reference collections. We explore how these collections can be used to address topics from diet, to crafts and their health impact. The paper will discuss the challenges of making archaeological reference collections relevant to multidisciplinary studies, and propose some ways forward.
Different Tension, same Cloth? Investigating the Impact of different Loom Weight Masses on Warp-weighted Loom produced Cloth
University of Leicester (UK)
Experimental archaeology can sometimes turn up unexpected results. On occasion, the result of an experiment calls into question long-held beliefs about craft technology. As an experimenter, this type of result can cause discord since the assumptions we operate with are usually qualified, either through previous experimental work or through ethnographic study. Nevertheless, when a good assumption is questioned, it can be disarming. In textile studies relating to warp-weighted loom technology, there has been a repeated basic mantra: loomweights of approximately equal mass and thickness would be suitable as a ‘set’. The experimental program conducted at the Center for Textile Research in Copenhagen has demonstrated the importance of consistent mass and thickness among loomweights and have made a substantial, evidential case for upholding this assumption. However, in a recent experiment I conducted exploring the differences of similarly made British Iron Age loomweights from two different regions that had different masses, I was surprised by my results. For this experiment, archaeological loomweight samples were used to create testable proxies from two different geographical regions in the UK, Danebury hillfort, Hampshire, and Burrough Hill hillfort, Leicester. Linen and wool yarns were used in weaving experiments to understand the technical differences in similarly-shaped loomweights, with masses differing by 600g. Contrary to what was hypothesized, they produced strikingly similar fabrics, prompting the question of whether a large disparity in warp tension visibly impacts the cloth as has been assumed. The results of this experiment are presented and contextualized for the regions in the study to offer a new perspective on the utility of typologies, and to offer a new direction in archaeological textile experimentation. Experimenting with textiles has encouraged a reprisal of an important assumption.
Arctic Iron Smelting in northernmost Sweden – an Experimental Approach
Carina Bennerhag1, 2, Jannica Grimbe1 and Daryoush Tahmasebi1
1 Norrbottens museum (Sweden)
2 Luleå University of Technology (Sweden)
Current archaeological research in Arctic Sweden has provided substantial evidence that iron technology was an integrated part of the hunter-gatherer subsistence already during the Early Iron Age (ca 200 BC). Archaeometallurgical analyses show evidence of advanced technological know-how in all the operational sequences of iron technology, including bloomery steel production and the mastering of advanced smithing techniques. In this paper we present recent results from the inter-disciplinary research project Iron in the North coordinated by the County Museum of Northern Sweden (Norrbottens museum) and Luleå University of Technology. The project aims to create a broader understanding of the emergence of early iron technology in the prehistoric Arctic through the integration of experimental and public archaeology into archaeological and archaeometallurgical research. As part of the project, we conducted an iron smelting experiment based on the reconstruction of a 2000-year-old iron production site located close to the Arctic Circle in northernmost Sweden. The experiment was carried out as a public event near the excavated iron production site, in close cooperation with the local community. The active participation of the local community provided valuable knowledge of the range of raw materials that was available in the nearby surroundings, and which, furthermore, was used in the smelting experiment. Results shed new light on the technological processes and skills of ancient smelters, as well as resource management and utilization of the landscape.
Beautiful and like a Rainbow: Experimenting with true Colours and heat-affected Ostrich Eggshell
Silje Evjenth Bentsen
SFF Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour, Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, University of Bergen (Norway)
Ostrich eggs are found in many archaeological contexts in Africa and Asia. The eggs were sometimes used as food, while the eggshell (OES) could, for example, be used as a container or to make beads. OES fragments could be exposed to heat, intentionally or not, which would alter the colours of the shell. Previous experimental studies have examined the colour range of OES heated to different temperatures, but there is a need for in-depth studies of OES exposed to heat in different contexts. I conducted two series of experiments: 1. Control experiments in a laboratory furnace, heating OES fragments to specific temperatures and 2. Actualistic (outdoor) fire experiments with OES in, by, and under the fire. I recorded colours visually, with the Munsell colour chart, and through digital photography. I present preliminary results showing that, as predicted, the colour of heat-affected OES is strongly linked to the temperature range during exposure. These results also demonstrate the need to standardise colour recording of eggshell and I will discuss the possibility of distinguishing between intentionally and non-intentionally heated OES. These results have implications for studies of OES, but the methods could also be used in studies of other avian eggshell.
Get Scrumpy with it: Experimental Archaeology of the Crabapple and Anglo-Saxon Libation
Jessi Berndt (UK)
Cider, as a beverage, may seem innocuous. However, such a simple drink has had an impact on religious practices, politics, economics, trade, laws, medicine, burial practices, feasting rituals, socialization, and agricultural science. The study of cider in history and prehistory could lend new light to many subjects. However, it has been largely overlooked in archaeology as a subject of study. This presentation will discuss one of two experiments that were designed as an initiative to combat the lack of research on cider in archaeology. The particular experimentation to be highlighted here tackles the controversy over the interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon beverage known as beor. The primary question focuses on whether or not it is possible for the Anglo-Saxons to have had cider prior to the Norman Conquest of 1066. To do this, the characteristics of beor are identified through interdisciplinary research. This information was then used to design, execute, and analyze the results of an experiment to test a possible cider production methodology that would have been available to the Anglo-Saxons which would yield an end product that fit all the characteristics of beor. Several potential future projects of cider research in experimental archaeology will be outlined, with a brief look at the difficulties associated with research of cider production and consumption in archaeology, and how experimental archaeology may be used to combat these difficulties.
An Experimental Program to discuss Ancient Technologies Categories: a Micro-wear Analysis for Lithic Gouges, Chisels and cold Chisels
Camila Brizuela and Roxana Cattáneo
Instituto de Antropología de Córdoba (CONICET/UNC)(Argentina)
Departamento de Antropología, Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades (Argentina)
Gouges, chisels and cold chisels: these three typological groups were recently introduced by Carlos Aschero (creator of the morphologically-based typological classification used by the archaeological community of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay). Aschero noted the presence in archaeological sites of diverse chronology of instruments with edges that resembled those used in modern carpentry and for which only the brush/wood polisher category existed in their classification. The primary function defined for these instruments would be roughing, to which is added cutting in the case of chisels, with the expectations of working on wood and bone, among other materials. Later, this author, together with the archaeologist S. Hocsman, discussed aspects related to the primary functions and the modes of action in relation to the gestures of use of each one. However, the creation of new typological categories implies not only a macro- but also a microscopic characterization that allows to establish differences with other types of instruments. For this reason, we developed an experimental program to apply microscopic-based functional analysis to a set of these three types of instruments in order to discuss our analytical categories along with advances and paradigm shifts in the study of lithic material. The sample under study consists of 96 experimental lithic instruments, made from two different raw materials, quartz and vulcanite. A video of the flintknapping experiments by the Profs. Aschero and Hocsman, the actions of use of the same during the experiments, and the first results of the traceological analysis are going to be presented and the categories discussed.
Gold-Washing According to Pliny the Elder
Brigitte Cech1 & Heimo Urban2
1 Independent researcher (Austria)
2 Gold-washing expert (Austria)
In 2018 an interdisciplinary research project began at a recently discovered large Roman gold mining complex. The mining area is situated about 70 km to the south of Vienna. It covers an area of about 70 km2, including the catchment area of the leats. The gold-bearing placer deposit was exploited using hydraulic mining, a technique described in detail by Pliny the Elder in the 33th book of his Encyclopaedia of Natural History.
In the summer of 2020 an experiment was carried out to verify Pliny’s description of gold washing. A wooden sluice-box of a length of ten Roman feet and a width of one Roman foot was built and set up at an angle of 12° in a brook within the mining area. As Pliny describes, the bottom of the sluice-box was covered with heather. For quality control, a modern sluice-box was attached at the end of the Roman one. After feeding 40 buckets of a volume of 12 litres of sediment into the sluice-box, the heather was saturated with heavy mineral concentrate and had to be replaced. It became clear that the heather could be rinsed in a bucket and reused again numerous times. The resulting heavy mineral concentrate was then washed in a pan. Finally, the heather was burnt and the ashes were also washed in a pan. The fact that not even a tiny flake of gold was found in the modern sluice-box revealed the efficiency of the Roman gold-washing process. In addition to proving the efficiency of Roman gold-washing, insights into the arrangement of the sluice-box and the correct use of heather were gained. All in all 0,132 g of gold were extracted in this experiment.
Antler and bone Cheekpieces as Horse-control Equipment
Igor V. Chechushkov
South Ural State University/Archaeos: experimental archaeology association (Russia)
The long-term experimental project aimed to test whether the bridle with Late Bronze Age cheekpieces and soft bits can be used as a horse control device. Antler and bone cheekpieces are dated back to ca. 2000-1500 BCE and are widely known in the steppes of northern Eurasia. In conjunction with the analysis of use-wear, we conducted experimental work with horses in the controlled environment of a riding hall and in the open space of the steppes of the Southern Urals. The horses either worked with riders or were harnessed into a two-wheeled vehicle. The amount of work was sufficient enough to obtain use-wear traces, comparable to those on ancient artifacts. We concluded that antler and bone cheekpieces are efficient control devices that were developed out of a necessity to control swift-running chariot horses. Here, we aim to present our approach to the experimental work, as the scientific results have been published in leading archaeological journals such as the Journal of Archaeological Science and the Journal of World Prehistory.
Experimental Casting of high-leaded bronze Palstaves in the ATLANTAXES Project
Beatriz Comendador1, Aaron Lackinger1, María G. Faro2, Noemí Silva2, Pau Sureda2 & Xosé-Lois Armada2
1 Grupo de Estudos de Arqueoloxía, Antigüidade e Territorio, Universidade de Vigo (Spain)
2 Institute of Heritage Sciences (Incipit - CSIC) (Spain)
Palstaves are the most abundant metal object in the northwestern Iberian Peninsula during the Late Bronze Age and the transition to the Earliest Iron Age. They usually occur in isolated hoards, while socketed axes are underrepresented in the area, in comparison with other regions of the Atlantic Europe. Many of these palstaves contain high quantities of lead and have morphological features (such as the presence of the casting jet) that are incompatible with their use as ‘functional’ tools or weapons.
An ongoing research project, “Mass production and deposition of leaded bronzes in Atlantic Europe during the Late Bronze Age - Iron Age transition” (ATLANTAXES), funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, focuses on this topic dealing with issues such as technology, metal provenance and hoarding patterns through analytical techniques and experimentation, alongside other research strands.
This contribution introduces some of the experimental work carried out within the project, which aims a better understanding of lead segregation in high-leaded alloys. Previous research pointed out that some of these palstaves have a lead core resulting from an intentional casting of pure lead inside a bronze casing. In contrast, our preliminary results under laboratorial conditions, suggest that these cores are massive lead segregations formed under specific casting conditions using high-leaded alloys. Some prospects for future research are also discussed.
Ethics and Experimental Archaeology. The Singapore Statement for Research Integrity and possible Applications
Lara Comis (Italy)
While pursuing the modelling of a “best practice” in experimental archaeology during my PhD research, the crucial issue of Ethics emerged with striking prominence. Many questions arose from the application of a research integrity point of view to the discipline of experimental archaeology in research.
What makes experimental archaeology an ethical research practice? Is there a potential code of practice which can be referred to as “ethical” in experimental archaeology? At a wider scale, is experimental archaeology taking into consideration the environmental crisis we are all facing? And, at a smaller scale, is there an ethical practice to deal with natural and animal resources and livestock? Finally, is there attention to the ethical issues embedded in the social interactions which experimental archaeologist are engaging with while in contact with their peers, students, volunteers, and the public?
Despite a few years have passed since the Singapore Statement for Research Integrity (2010), this is seldom cited or explicitly endorsed within the research practice in experimental archaeology. The Statement was collectively written during the Second World Conference on Research Ethics by 340 participants to promote research Integrity at a global level. This important document focuses on 4 major principles (honesty, accountability, professionalism, and stewardship) and 14 responsibilities. In this paper an attempt to outline critical points of ethical issues in the practice of experimental archaeology will be shared using the Singapore Statement as a guiding document with the purpose of stimulating debate and promoting research integrity in the current experimental archaeology research practice.
Butser Ancient Farm: Bronze Age Roundhouse Collaborative Project 2021
Butser Ancient Farm (UK)
Butser Ancient Farm is constructing a Bronze Age roundhouse based upon archaeology recently excavated at Dunch Hill on the Salisbury Plain in southern England. The project is a collaboration between Butser and Operation Nightingale, who excavated the site.
Operation Nightingale is an initiative to assist the recovery of wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans by getting them involved in archaeological investigations. They have been involved in important archaeological excavations and heritage projects for a decade. We address the following aspects:
- To date, experimental roundhouse construction in Britain has been focussed overwhelmingly on Iron Age structures, based generally on the pioneering work of Butser's first director Dr. Peter Reynolds. While generally consistent with later structures, the archaeology of our Bronze Age roundhouse exhibits some features which suggest new interpretive approaches.
- Our collaboration with Operation Nightingale allows our experimental team to work in close collaboration with the excavators. We will outline this aspect of the build and its value to experimental construction.
- The project will also explore the health and wellbeing benefits of archaeology. Exciting preliminary studies in this field point to a correlation between archaeology and positive mental health and wellbeing outcomes. As part of our project we plan to conduct an assessment of this phenomenon with the objective of producing empirical data. To our knowledge this will be the first such study in an experimental context in Britain and we will discuss its methodology and potential for opening new doors for experimental and archaeological open air museums to involve ourselves more fully within the sphere of health and wellbeing. This is not merely of economic concern, as significant as that is, but of clear and increasingly urgent benefit to the communities we serve.
“Fire and Quartzite” - Prehistoric Mining with Fire - Testing Protocols Using ‘Fire’ to Quarry Toolstones
Jack Cresson, Barry Keegan, Steve Nissly, Dick Doyle, Darryl Daum, John Phillips, David Brill & Mike Bradshaw (USA), André Francois Bourbeau (Canada)
Recent experiments conducted in January and August of 2018 in the Cheshire formation of the Green Mountains, Vermont were inspired by recent research in Central Quebec, Canada at Colline Blanche.
At Colline Blanche, ancient quarrying behaviors suggested agencies related to thermal spalling extraction techniques and mining using controlled fire, ostensibly during cold conditions.
The Vermont location was selected as a ‘proxy’ to test “fire spalling” because Colline Blanche is held sacred and protected by First Nations aegis. Both locations in Canada and Vermont were also known as prehistoric sources of lithic toolstones. Each was also affected by ‘cold’ climate regimes and contained toolstones of highly siliceous (SiO2) materials; Mistassini quartzite in the former and Cheshire quartzite in the latter.
The Vermont experiments tested two separate locations, each with similar quarrying protocols, ie. Experiments were conducted on free standing blocks and on situ outcrop faces. The Vermont locus was also tested during more temperate conditions to compare cold and warm firing episodes. Eleven experiments were designed and carried out. The implications and results of these experiments will be presented.
Fire-Lighting in Chalcolithic Central and Southern Europe: An investigation into deliberate Ignition or Ember Transportation
University of Exeter (UK)
Understanding the background knowledge required to use fire over 5kya is imperative if we are to uncover the methodology of Neolithic pyrotechnology. At one level the pyrotechnology equipment carried by Ötzi the Iceman is well known and yet it has never been fully explored and tested using experiments. This paper investigates the claim that Ötzi carried burning embers to ignite his fires and offers an alternative fire-lighting process, through the analysis of the leaves, other organic materials and lithic artefacts found with him. Results of leaf examination and burning charcoal samples lend support to the theory that hot embers were not carried as proposed, but instead the ingredients for pyrotechnology were carried in their cold state. The experiments discussed here test the hypothesis that burning embers were not carried as proposed, as they would rapidly extinguish. Cold charcoal and hot embers were wrapped in leaves and placed in Betula bark containers. The resulting deposits on the container walls were then analysed. The data from the experiments test the importance of leaf species, size, moisture content conservation, charcoal size and burn time. The confirmation to support the theory proposed can be achieved using photographic microscopy on the 5,300-year-old fire transportation equipment kept on display in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology and comparing them with those taken during these experiments. The comparative results will provide valuable information on how fire transportation and deliberate ignition enabled intersocietal Chalcolithic social and trading networks. As Ötzi’s pyrotechnology mechanisms require knowledge but not complexed cognitive ability, it is reasonable to suggest the same techniques were employed in human migrating through Europe.
The Shining Life of Bronze: Replicating Polychromy in Hellenistic Bronze Sculpture through the Application of Metallic Features
University of Exeter (UK)
Ancient Mediterranean cities were filled with thousands of bronze sculptures according to writers such as Pliny. Despite these claims, few whole sculptures survived to the modern era, and as a result their depositions are found corroded and broken. This project aimed to tackle one aspect of the study of Hellenistic bronze sculptures: the use of different metals to bring about lifelike coloured effects. No painted bronzes are known and their colouring by way of induced patination is muddled by their long term burials. While most sculptures are fully bronze, some have features that were either cast or inlaid with different metals to better reflect real life. Against polished bronze skin, lips and nipples were rendered in red copper, while teeth and fingernails were made of bright silver. For added impact, the renowned Terme Boxer had copper and lead inlaid into wounds and splattered across his body to represent blood and bruises. These additions sought to reflect life just as the polished metal of the sculpture would reflect the viewer.
This project set out to replicate a number of polychrome features through a series of small-scale casting sessions. The goal was to gain a deeper understanding of the bronze casting process and to examine the interplay of features rendered in different metals. A finger cast in bronze during the project with an inlaid nail of tin and a loop of copper around a knuckle (reflecting two separate archaeological sources) presents a strong case for how the realism that Hellenistic artists desired could be obtained in bronze without the addition of paint or patination. While rare, this technique is reflective Hellenistic advances in art and technology.
Weaving in the 3rd Millennium BC: the Loom Plates from Vila Nova de São Pedro (Azambuja, Portugal)
Pedro Cura1, Andrea Martins2, 3, 4, César Neves3, 4 and Joana Carrondo1
1 Prehistoric Skills (Portugal)
2 FCT (Portugal)
3 UNIARQ (Portugal)
4 AAP (Portugal)
As part of the VNSP3000 project - “Vila Nova de São Pedro, again, in the 3rd millennium”, an experimental archeology program has been developed in which the weaving theme clearly stands out. Vila Nova de São Pedro (VNSP) is a fortified Chalcolithic settlement (c. 3000-2000 BC) located in Western Iberia (Lisbon region), which was excavated three decades ago and where thousands of archaeological artefacts have been collected. Among these artefacts, we highlight the iconic VNSP pottery loom plates - objects with a rectangular or square shape and four perforations. In addition to the morphological specificity of the large collection (more than 500 elements), the majority have schematic motifs engraved on one or both sides of the artifact. Apart of these loom elements, several flax seeds were also identified, revealing that VNSP was a place during the Chalcolithic where weaving would have had a very important role. From a functional point of view, the presence of four perforations may indicate that they had a plate function arranged on a horizontal loom. The experimental archeology program started from this premise, using the four perforations for the crossing of the flax. Then, a horizontal loom was created where, depending on the movement of the plates, strips of different dimensions and patterns were produced. With this video presentation, we intend to show an unprecedented demonstration of the horizontal loom with VNSP plate replicas, proposing a hypothesis for its functionality. We also suggest that the iconography motifs present on these elements had specific functions, namely in the mnemonic of the weaving action and in the very representation of the woven pattern.
Surface Treatment in Prehistoric Pottery: an analytical Approach through Experimentation
Sara Díaz Bonilla1, Ignacio Clemente Conte2, Xavier Clop García1, Niccolò Mazzucco2 and Ariadna Benavides Ribes3
1 Departament de Prehistòria, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain)
2 Departament d'Arqueologia, Institució Milà i Fontanals, Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spain)
3 Independent researcher, Escola d'Art i Disseny, Rubí (Spain)
The surface treatment of handmade pottery is often described in ceramological studies of prehistoric collections, but it has rarely been approached from a global and experimental perspective. We propose an experimental program about surface treatment on pottery and the used toolkit, where the main variable being explored is the category of tool involved in the fabrication of prehistoric handmade pottery. Therefore, we start from the hypothesis that different tools generate differentiable traces. A catalogue of traces generated by several pottery tools (pebble, flint spatula, pottery spatula, shell spatula, linen rag, grass, leather, etc.) was created, with the aim of characterizing and systematizing them. From the experimental program it is also possible to analyze the differences in traces according to the drying state of the material, together with the working time invested. The resulting macroscopic analysis allowed a qualitative classification of the traces, and microscopic analysis by confocal microscopy then confirmed the classification with quantitative data. The potential of the proposed methodology for traceological and textural analysis of surface treatment in ceramics is highlighted. The possibility of discriminating different surface treatment techniques opens new perspectives for the study of prehistoric pottery.
Bread and Porridge at Early Neolithic Göbekli Tepe, Turkey
Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Berlin, (Germany)
The contribution presents an experimental project on grinding stones used to process cereals designed for the Early Neolithic site Göbekli Tepe, which has produced the largest corpus of grinding stones known today in Northern Mesopotamia. The research design was based on combined optical and tactile analyses as well as geometric analyses of shape deformation, and 3D-modelling of surface roughness on original grinding stones and experimentally used replicas. This approach can be used to differentiate between fine and coarse flour as products of cereal processing as they result in different wear-markers. Also, it can be applied to quantify use-lives of handstones. At Göbekli Tepe, handstones with markers for fine flour production, which can be possibly linked to bread-like products, are in the minority while handstones with markers for coarse flour clearly predominate. The presentation includes a discussion of the term “wear-marker” as measurable indicator of wear conditions and object functions.
Telling Research Stories through Art, Film and Children’s Books: an Easter E.g.
Sean Doherty1, Adrian Bott2, Ben Frimet2 and Naomi Sykes1
1 Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter (UK)
2 Freelance (UK)
The AHRC-funded ‘Easter E.g.’ project is exploring the “shifting baseline” phenomenon, whereby people consider the socio-environmental circumstances of their childhood to be 'natural' and morally absolute. In the absence of deeper historical and archaeological understanding, these nostalgic ideals are adopted blindly (and often erroneously) as the foundation for decision-making both at a personal level and more broadly in science and policy. In this project, we examine the role of shifting baselines and their impact on the value-judgements placed on 'native' and 'alien' animals, people and ideologies through the high-profile and publicly engaging example of Easter.
Alongside traditional academic research papers, our dissemination strategy includes a research-led nostalgic novel from children’s fantasy author Adrian Bott, an animated film, and art by Ben Frimet, outputs linked to our exhibition at Butser Ancient Farm. In this paper we showcase these in the run-up to Easter 2021, and how we seek to encourage the general public to explore the evidence and outputs created by our project, reflect upon childhood memories and recognise their own role in the perpetuation of the shifting baseline phenomenon.
Hoes or Axes? Experimental Reproduction and Use of Deer Antler Tools from the Terramara of Pragatto (BO, Italy), Bronze Age Site
Arianna Durante1,2, Sara Maria Stellacci2, Alessio Pellegrini1,2, Antonella de Angelis1,2, Federico Scacchetti3
1 ”Sapienza” University of Rome (Italy)
2 Laboratory of “Sapienza” University of Rome LTFAPA (Italy)
3 Ar/S Archeosistemi S.C. (Italy)
This research aims to evaluate the hypotheses of production and use of a collection of deer antler tools from the Terramara of Pragatto (Po Plain, Italy) dated between the Middle Bronze Age 2 (ca. 1550-1450 BC) and the early stages of the Recent Bronze Age (ca. 1325/1300 – 1150 BC).
The six objects examined fall into the category of sharp-edged artefacts, probably handled and used in agricultural activities.
An experimental protocol was initially applied for the reproduction of these instruments aimed at creating a historically accurate comparison collection, in order to provide information regarding the possible chaîne opératoire related to their production. For this purpose, experimental replicas of well attested utensils from the site were used: a kit of bronze tools used to shape the antlers and to make holes, and a kit of sandstone abraders for finishing and sharpening the cutting edges.
The second step of the experiment permitted an evaluation of the potential versatility of the experimental hoes from a functional point of view, supporting the hypothesis of their alternative use not being exclusively connected to tillage. The experimental activity was therefore essential to perform a final comparison between the traces observed on the archaeological sample and the experimental one through a microscopic analysis of the surfaces.
This study allowed to determine which tools and methods were used to produce these artefacts and the multiple possibilities of use, offering perspectives on understanding their role in economic and craft activities of the Pragatto population.
Ancient Technologies as Sustainable Solutions to Current Ecological Problems
Amatek Institute (Germany)
During recent decades, ancient technologies have been reinstated around the planet by the United Nations, governments, and non profit organisations as efficient solutions to pressing ecological problems. While this places archaeology as an important partner in the center of climate change solutions and sustainable development goals, archaeologists are often not involved in these projects, and archaeological publications are scarce. In the most relevant fields of water harvesting, agriculture, and architecture it is usually engineers and agronomists conducting experimental studies to gain a deeper understanding of the potential and applicability of ancient technologies in modern contexts. Many of these studies display serious flaws in their experimental designs and the interpretation of the results, simply due to a lack of archaeological background knowledge.
Experimental archaeologists have multiple options to get engaged in solving current ecological problems, for example by:
• designing and conducting replicable experimental studies to provide substantiated data for further research and field projects;
• participating in collaborations with engineers, agronomists, architects, material scientists, etc. that aim to further develop ancient technologies;
• looking for ancient solutions that have not yet been thought of and testing their potential for modern use;
Therefore, this presentation has three objectives:
1. to raise awareness for applications of ancient technologies in modern contexts;
2. to demonstrate their potential as sustainable solutions in the context of the sustainable development goals;
3. to inspire experimental archaeologists to get involved in the application of ancient technologies with the aim of helping to solve current pressing problems.
In order to do so, experimental studies and applications of two ancient technologies will be introduced, and their impact on today's lives, as well as their future potential, will be outlined and discussed: Clay pot irrigation in dry areas in agriculture, and afforestation and earthquake resistant housing in developing countries.
Experimental Bipolar and Freehand Knapping On Quartz. Alternatives or Different Goals
Débora Egea1, Samira Clauss2 & Enrique Moreno1, 2
1 Centro de Investigaciones y Transferencia Catamarca (CITCA – CONICET/UNCA) (Argentina)
2 Escuela de Arqueología (UNCA) (Argentina)
Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals in the world and has been used by humans throughout time for the manufacture of lithic instruments. The eastern area of Catamarca, Argentina, is no exception. There, lithic knapped technology recovered from archaeological sites showed quartz utilization percentages of about 96%. Nevertheless, due to its hardness, as well as the presence of fracture planes and imperfections, it is very difficult to control the fracture and obtain the expected technological results. Also, lithic technology analysis becomes a complex task due to the limited development of diagnostic features on the mineral. However, diverse researchers have faced this same situation and have begun to provide suggestions to better understand quartz behavior. This work aims to be a contribution in this direction. In particular, we are interested in showing the experimentation carried out to evaluate the presence of bipolar technique for quartz reduction. The question is if bipolar technique was used in the study area and for what purpose: for the production of certain specific products, for raw material maximization, or as a simpler knapping technique. Finally, our interest in experimentation is focused on trying to record quantitative and qualitative aspects that allow us to differentiate bipolar products from free-hand flakes. We will present the result of knapping experiments carried out on 22 quartz nodules, which were worked either by free-hand or bipolar technique, as well as knapped sequentially. Our results show that the bipolar technique would have been used to obtain certain type of blanks, of smaller thickness, that allowed the manufacture of cutting instruments, as well as its possible use for the primary reduction of large nodules.
Reconstruction as Research: An Investigation into the Efficiency and Durability of Bladder Water Containers
Theresa Emmerich Kamper
University of Exeter (UK)
Reconstruction has the potential to provide unique insight into processes undertaken in the past. Processes which are often impossible to directly observe in the archaeological record, most notably surrounding organic material culture which rarely survives the ravages of time. This presentation highlights this potential using a case study outlining the construction, use, and analysis of a set of water containers made from cow bladders. The set is comprised of eight bladders which underwent two variations of pre-processing: split/thinned and full thickness. These were then tanned using three contrasting tannage technologies: fat tan, vegetable tan, and rawhide, recording the number of hours needed to produce each container. The containers were then continuously used for four weeks by a group of eight outdoor skills experts travelling through the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria as part of television documentary. The containers were used to both store water in camp and to transport water between camps, during which each container was monitored daily throughout their use. At the end of four weeks, one of each type of container was observed both macroscopically and microscopically to assess the level of deterioration. Though the main goal of this project was to provide insight into the sparsely researched subject of how pre-pottery societies could have stored and carried water, it also provided an avenue for bringing experimental archaeology to a wider audience through a commercial media venture!
Rauf Ersenal (Cyprus)
The Vounous Symposium is an ongoing project in North Cyprus in which artisans and archaeologists are working together to explore the area’s Bronze Age culture and to restore its lost heritage.
The first study of Vounous was carried out by Einar Gjerstad, who led the Swedish Cyprus Expedition team in 1927 and 1931. Since then several multinational expeditions have excavated the area. When the excavations ended, the objects were divided between the Cyprus museum and the countries that hosted the excavations.
In 2014, Rauf Ersenal spearheaded a project in Ayia Irini that would serve as the inspiration for the Vounous symposium. He assembled a team of 34 ceramic artists to recreate the effigy statues that were excavated by Gjerstad. The loss of the effigies created a cultural void in the community that is still felt to the present day. The project not only returned the material cultural heritage of the region to Ayia Irini, but it also became the beginning of a larger project that has grown to encompass traditional arts, cultural heritage, and experimental archaeology.
The work continues to this day with the Vounous symposium. In 2017 Rauf Ersenal was instrumental in organising an event that would bring together artists, archaeologists, and the public that would celebrate the area’s heritage. Ceramic artists worked to recreate the effigy statues along with decorated pottery and whimsical statuettes that are typical of the Vounous culture. In 2018 the symposium expanded to include metalwork, incorporating smelting local ore and casting it into replicas of knives, tools, and the delicate ornaments seen in the museums there.
This video describes the history of Vounous and the symposium, highlighting the work of artists and archaeologists there along with their plans for the future of the symposium.
Approaches to Experimental Pit Dwelling Reconstructions in the Japanese Central Highlands: Architectural History, Community Archaeology, and Ethnology
John Ertl & Yasuyuki Yoshida (Japan)
In Japan, over 1,000 prehistoric dwelling reconstructions have been built at 350 different locations since 1949. Pit dwellings from the Neolithic Jomon period (14,000–300 BCE) are the most common, based on archaeological remains largely limited to pits and postholes. Therefore, decisions on material and designs come from various sources - some based in science and others rooted in cultural ideologies or individual’s preferences.
This paper compares reconstructions at three sites in the Central Highlands region of Japan. Despite archaeological similarities (settlements from same period with similar artifact assemblages), the shape of, and approach toward reconstructions at each site are remarkably different. At the Togariishi site (built 1949) the design was made by Horiguchi Sutemi, a modernist architect and historian inspired by the past to find a “Japaneseness” (based in traditional farmhouses) that could intermix with Western architecture. At the Idojiri site (built 1958, redesigned 1993) archaeologists rejected “academic” concerns with scientific accuracy and embraced a community-centered approach to archaeological research and reconstruction. Lastly, the pit houses at the Umenoki site (2014 to present) have been based on ethnological examples from North America. Unique to Japan, Umenoki hired a “live-in” re-enactor to collaboratively (with site archaeologists and the public) and experimentally rebuild several structures.
Our paper is premised on the idea that reconstructions “reflect the culture and times of their creators, rather than being faithful reproductions of the original” (Stanley-Price 2009: 37). As such, we argue that questions about the “accuracy” of reconstructions cannot be examined outside of ethnographic questions surrounding their creation. Our analysis shows how these buildings reflect the post-war history of archaeological practice and its relation to issues of community, nationalism, and social memory.
Flaked Axes to cut Trees and dig Soil
Henry Luydy Abraham Fernandes
Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia (Brazil)
Our contribution to the growing field of experimental archaeology in Brazil comes from the study of a late Holocene ceramist culture widespread through Central Brazil between 1000 and 500 BP known as the Aratu tradition. A strong recurrence of bifacially flaked instruments, popularly known as flaked axes, was noticed on sites studied in the valley of the São Francisco river, state of Bahia – Brazil.
Macroscopic use-wear analysis of 512 instruments showed striations, polishes, and brightness on the edges of 36% of them. The ethnography of horticulturalist indigenous groups points to actions possibly linked to planting – chopping trees and digging soil. An experimental programme was developed to understand the wearing on replicas of these instruments. The tools were produced with raw materials found on the sites (silicified sandstone, chert, basalt, and granite) and their façonnage was based on the archaeological finds.
A total of 38 experiments with 30 replicas was conducted. To improve control, both time and number of strikes were measured summing up a total of 540000 strikes in 84 hours. The results show that regardless of raw material, there is a very quick formation of brightness, polish and striations when digging soil. These wear marks became visible to the naked eye after an average of 800 strikes or 7 minutes of use. After an average of 1500 strikes, or 13 minutes of use, it reached saturation, when the wear marks were unmistakable. The digging wear was so intense that it covered the woodworking wear, with the latter only being identified through edge flaking with characteristics of soft percussion.
Hafting polish patches were also noticed with the experiments. To conclude, the flaked axe blades were also useful digging tools.
Experiments in the Reproduction of Late Archaic Copper Tools
E. Giovanna Fregni (USA)
The Old Copper Complex of the Upper Midwest United States lasted from c. 3000 to 1000 B.C. spanning the late Middle Archaic and the early Late Archaic (Gibbon 1998:27). During that time the indigenous peoples manufactured copper tools, ornaments, and weapons without the aid of smelting or casting. The period is also noted for a lack of ceramic manufacture, or any other pyrotechnology.
Artifacts from the Archaic and Old Copper Complex have been known since the turn of the last century, however, little has been written about how copper tools were manufactured during this period. While smelting and casting were not used, it has been seen that techniques using temperatures high enough to anneal copper have been employed.
Early experiments were done by Cushing in 1894 and Willoughby in 1903 in which they replicated the manufacture of pierced ornaments by pounding float copper (pure copper nuggets found in the western region of Lake Superior) into sheets and then cutting them using bone and antler tools, and abrasion. However, a type of socketed spearhead described by Wittry has a triangular cross section and a socket formed with long flanges bent in a 90-degree angle (Wittry 1957). Creating this type of spearhead with only hammerstones and anvils would be impossible and it has been proposed that these were made using a swage, a recessed mould into which the metal can be hammered (Steinbring 1975).
The proposed experiments will begin by replicating Cushing and Willoughby’s experiments in which copper nuggets will be hammered into sheet metal using stone tools to recreate ornaments similar to those found during this period. The second experiment will explore the creation of socketed spearheads formed by swaging copper into a wooden form.
Experiments in Roman Minting
University of Liverpool (UK)
No flan moulds associated with official Roman mints have been found in the archaeological record. As a result, there is much debate surrounding Roman minting technologies. These experiments tested the suitability of different mould materials (e.g. clay, limestone, bronze) for casting debased Roman silver coinage, typical of the third century. Silver-copper blanks with varying elemental compositions were cast in closed moulds to see what effect debasement has on casting. Previous investigations have failed to cast relatively small objects such as blanks directly into the mould. However, the current investigation proved successful in producing silver-copper blanks across the full range of compositions. Of particular note was the success of the bronze mould. The use of bronze moulds in antiquity could explain the lack of finds related to Roman coin minting, since any metal moulds would have been melted down for their raw materials. The proposed video will include a PowerPoint presentation on the experiments in Roman minting carried out as part of my PhD thesis. In addition, the video will include footage of the actual casting experiments.
The Value of Experimental Archaeology Projects for the Study of Medieval Boatbuilding in the Western Indian Ocean
University of Exeter (UK)
Reconstruction and replication of a complex assemblage, such as a vessel, is an essential step in archaeological research, and an invaluable tool for the study of past boatbuilding technology and coastal societies.
In the western Indian Ocean, several projects exist that involve the experimental reconstruction of archaeological and historical sewn vessels, predominant in the region during the medieval period. Four of them — the Sohar, Jewel of Muscat, beden seyad, and al-Hariri Boat — were built in Oman and relied on different sources of evidence, including iconography, ethnographic records, and excavated material.
This study illustrates the contribution of these projects in offering a wide range of possibilities for the interpretation of the archaeological evidence of medieval sewn vessels in the region, with particular focus on the collection of sewn-ship timbers discovered in the medieval Islamic site of al-Balid (10–15th centuries), Oman.
While not all these boat reconstructions fall into the category of experimental archaeology projects, they nevertheless expand our knowledge about medieval boatbuilding in the Indian Ocean. This region makes the experimental approach particularly important because of a dearth of evidence about medieval watercraft in both historical sources and archaeological records. Moreover, the persistence of traditional boatbuilding practices here until recently, indicating a strong link with the past, provides archaeologists with an invaluable source of information for boat reconstruction projects.
The data produced by these projects widens our view regarding various aspects of boatbuilding and provides invaluable insights into material handling, work organisation, techniques, construction sequence, and tools. Most importantly, they tell us about the people involved in the building, repair, and use of these vessels which shaped the history of the Indian Ocean in the medieval period.
Making a Dugout Canoe: testing the Efficacy of Bone, Antler and Flint Tools
Annelou Van Gijn, Annemieke Verbaas, Leo Wolterbeek & Diederik Pomstra
Laboratory for Material Culture Studies, Department of Archaeological Sciences, Faculty of Archaeology (the Netherlands)
At the late Mesolithic site of Hardinxveld-Giessendam De Bruin, located not far from the present-day city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, a complete dugout canoe was excavated in the late 1990s. It was made of a lime tree and measured 5.50 by 0.50m. On the inside chisel marks were visible, their shape suggesting that the used tools were probably bone or antler adzes. Microwear analysis of the archaeological adzes from the same site indeed showed traces from woodworking. We decided to experimentally reconstruct this canoe, using both bone and antler adzes, as well as the typical Mesolithic flint tranchet axes, comparing the efficacy of these tool types. We made a distinction between the work of experienced woodworkers (one of whom, Leo Wolterbeek, made many dugout canoes) and that of inexperienced novices. All users considered the bone and antler tools to be more effective than the flint ones. Calculations of the time it took for the different implements to remove standard chunks of wood support the qualitative assessment of both expert and novice users that bone and antler tools were more effective. Making this canoe also showed us how the structure of the lime wood, and the way it split in sometimes rather twisted ways, had a great impact on how the work progressed. Especially in the last phases of thinning the vessel wall, there was a danger that the lime wood split "outward", leading to holes in the vessel wall. This sheds light on the repairs that were for example visible in the canoe from Tybrind Vig.
One and the Same: An experimental Study of the Effects of Trampling on Bone Flakes
Victoria Gordon & Jerome Reynard
University of the Witwatersrand, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies (South Africa)
Trampling can produce bone flake modifications – or ‘pseudotools’ – that are often mistaken for anthropogenically created tools. An experiment was conducted to examine how trampling modifies bone flakes, and to document the diagnostic criteria that distinguishes trampling modifications from those created anthropogenically. Bone flakes were created from the tibia and femur of a cow and utilised to replicate foraging activities. Some flakes were used to cut raw meat and scrape dry wood and other flakes were not utilised. The flakes were then trampled in four pits containing different types of sediment: fine beach sand, coarse sand, gravel, and clayey sand. The trampled specimens were then compared to un-trampled, utilised bone flakes. The results show that surface modification differed between sediment pits. Fine beach sand showed high proportions of abrasion, while gravel produced the most diverse surface modifications including notches, striations, edge rounding and abrasion. Clayey sediment produced minimal results, likely due to sediment compaction. Notches similar to that of retouch were not found on trampled flakes. Edge rounding was present on both trampled and utilised bone, making this criterion less useful for diagnostic determinations. The most prevalent modification resulting from trampling were striations, notches, abrasion, edge rounding and grooves. Our experiment indicates that trampling can cause removal of modifications, especially in fine beach sand sediment. It was found that trampled flakes and utilized flakes display similar characteristics, including edge rounding and abrasion. Generally, trampled flakes have abrasion across the entire surface while worked bone display abrasion along the utilised edges. It is suggested that this criterion may be best for differentiating trampled bone from worked bone.
Reconstructing the Scents of the Past – Challenges in Recreating the Historical Fragrances from the Ancient Greco-Roman World and the Early Islamic Caliphates
Independent Researcher (USA)
Fragrances are generally considered a frivolous topic, though they were an important part of daily life. I am interested in recreating the actual odor of historical fragrances. I based my redactions on recipes preserved in primary texts (Materia medica or cookbooks) or on the results from analyses of extant samples, and I aim to use exclusively the methods mentioned in source texts.
One of the biggest challenges to the recreation of historical fragrances is the availability of ingredients. There is an ambiguity in modern translations and identification of plants and other ingredients. Some plants used in historical recipes are no longer available, or their qualities have drastically changed (like their ability to produce resin). Ingredients from the animal world can be illegal in some countries, prohibitively expensive, or ethically questionable.
Recreating the fragrances becomes an exercise in historical accuracy. Each substituted ingredient needs to be evaluated for potential change to the original quality and odor.
So far, I have recreated 15 fragrances from Roman antiquity and 8 from the early Islamic caliphates. The Islamic fragrances often require compound ingredients (like rosewater, prepared opercula, ramik) and I have found methods of preparation for these semi-finished products in medical texts.
Similar to the experimental archaeology of food, the recreated fragrances are assessed using the olfactory approach. I observe the stability and maturation (aging) of fragrances over time, as well as their longevity when applied to skin. In agreement with extant texts, the flower-based fragrances generally last only from harvest to harvest (a year), where the wood/resin-based ones are still maturing 3 years after production. Distilled waters have much shorter shelf lives when compared to oil-based perfumes.
Long term Experiment “Middle Bronze Age Tumulus” at MAMUZ Asparn, Lower Austria
Karina Grömer1, Franz Pieler2, Michaela Fritzl3 and Michael Konrad4
1 Naturhistorisches Museum, Wien (Austria)
2 MAMUZ (Austria)
3 Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austria)
4 Universität Wien (Austria)
In 2018 and 2019 we carried out a series of experiments for cremating bodies (of pigs) on a stake in the archaeological park of MAMUZ Asparn, Lower Austria. In 2020 we started a long term experiment, both in continuation of the 2018 and 2019 experiments, and to widen the scope in order to gain additional data for the preservation of cremated and uncremated textiles and organic materials under conditions of a burial. We are currently rebuilding tumulus No. 26 from the Middle Bronze Age Cemetery of Pitten, Lower Austria. In the first chamber, we plan to place the salvaged and since thoroughly documented cremated remains from the 2018 and 2019 pyres. In the second chamber, we will place an uncremated body, with full dress, bronze applications and tools. The main focus is on studying the effects that bronze corrosion has on organic material and textiles. Of special interest is the genesis of “skin imprints” on bronze surfaces, as occasionally observed on original finds. How precise a picture does that phenomenon provide of the body surface? Does body paint or tattooing show? Is skin tissue discernable from leather surfaces? How well do textile or wooden structures show? Does bronze corrosion have any effect on the preservation of hair fibres? The mound will remain under surveillance for at least 20 – 25 years, to await excavation. All items used will be subjected to meticulous documentation. Analysis by a range of scientific methods will accompany each item throughout the course of the project, which will end only after the excavation in some 25 years.
Feature and texture-based Measures for Dental Wear Analysis of Etruscan population in Valle Trebba, Spina, Italy
Janani Gunasekara & Sabrina Masotti
Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical Sciences, University of Ferrara (Italy)
The study aimed to investigate the dental wear in human remains from the ancient Etruscan necropolis of Spina site - Valle Trebba in North-Eastern Italy (6th-3rd century BCE). A methodological and experimental study was conducted, specifically addressing the multivariate and correlated features, the extent patterns of dental wear, to reconstruct the eating habits and lifestyles of the ancient Mediterranean population.
100 permanent teeth from 60 individuals were selected while giving priority to the first incisor (LI1) and second molar (LM2). Non-metric methods including occlusal attrition stages of Smith, Scott’s attrition scoring system for molar teeth on dental wear rates were employed. Replicas of the original teeth were examined under the light microscope in 10X magnification. Digital photomicrographs were taken with the light microscope and analyzed according to the method of low magnification light microscope for dental wear analysis. Finally, images were analyzed using ‘microwear 4.02’ software and statistics.
The study attested significant sex dimorphism in dietary behaviors, generated through Striae in Q1 (Mesial Buccal) in microwear and macrowear patterns in Q2 (Distal Buccal) and Q3 (Distal Lingual), and masticatory behavior in Q1 (Mesial Buccal) in both dental wear types showed clear differences between male and female molars. The linear regression analysis for the number of macrowear scores vs microwear features of teeth showed similarities in dental wear percentages parallel with the hypothesis of greater percentages of microwear pits which would be associated with greater degrees of dental macrowear.
Although some challenges are to be overcome, there is a possibility of applying dental texture and feature methods for multivariate analysis to reveal more accurate results in nonscientific methods in dental wear analysis.
A Sea of Ornaments: Traces and Techniques of Ornament Making in the Pre-Colonial Caribbean
Catarina Guzzo Falci
Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University (the Netherlands)
A myriad of ornaments types have been recovered from archaeological contexts dating to the Ceramic Age (ca. 400 BCE - 1500 CE): squatting human-like figures, zoomorphic creatures with folded limbs and bulging eyes, and multiple geometric bead shapes, among others. During their object biographies, such objects often circulated as raw materials, preforms, and finished products. Their producers, Indigenous Caribbean peoples, worked with lithic materials of various properties and marine shells. The goal of my research is to disentangle the techniques used to transform such materials into elaborate ornaments. For this purpose, we used microwear analysis of archaeological specimens using different ranges of magnification. Examining the micro-stratigraphy of traces on the surface of ornaments was a crucial step in identifying biographical events and their sequence. We carried out sets of experiments replicating individual bead making techniques to characterize the micro-traces they produce. This allowed us to identify different techniques and tools used for sawing, grinding, and drilling ornaments. The results of this study provide insights on the highly sophisticated technologies used for making beads and pendants in the pre-colonial Caribbean. Their continued study can reveal patterns in ancient interaction networks and socio-political organization.
Investigating the Effect of systematic Hearth Maintenance (Ash Removal) on the Size, Morphology and Microstratigraphy of Long-Duration Fires
Magnus M. Haaland
Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE), University of Bergen (Norway)
Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen (Germany)
In-situ hearth features that are used continuously over a long period of time often result in a thick accumulation of ash (>10 cm). Ethnographically, we know that these types of long duration fires often are subject to systematic site maintenance, i.e. the repeated and intentional removal of excess ash. Through the raking-out or sweeping of ash the original hearth feature is partially removed, partially reshaped, and partially rebuilt, ultimately leaving behind a multi-generational combustion feature with a complex life history. In archaeological contexts, these types of hearth features have proven difficult to decipher, as their intricate depositional history can only be fully appreciated through microstratigraphic investigations. Currently, however, there is a general lack of reference observations to which archaeological microscale observations can be compared. In this presentation, I report on the preliminary results from an experiment aimed at investigating the effects of systematic hearth maintenance (ash removal) on the size, morphology, and microstratigraphy of long-duration fires. In this experiment, two identical fires were systematically refuelled for more than 10 days. One fire was subject to repeated maintenance while the other was not. During the fire we recorded temperatures, the amount of fuel, the frequency of refuel, as well as the amount of accumulating ash. The content and structure of each fire was carefully documented through excavation and micromorphological block sampling. The final result of this investigation is expected to offer valuable insights into the formation, alteration, and preservation of long-duration fires; observations that can be used to inform us on how to best study and interpret similar combustion features at archaeological sites.
Roman and Early Medieval Mosaic Beads and Millefiori Canes – the hot Glass Techniques of Manufacture
Sue Heaser (UK)
Mosaic beads from the Middle East from the first millennium AD are found in excavations across Europe to Scandinavia and the British Isles. They first appear in Roman times and various forms continue through to the 9th and 10th centuries. These beautiful and distinctive beads are usually inset with intricate millefiori cane slices of geometric, floral, and facial motifs.
Speculation on the manufacture of these beads in existing literature shows a lack of understanding of the working of hot glass, and I have been using my skills in hot glass bead making to investigate the techniques used to make these beads. I have experimented with re-creating the ancient millefiori canes, testing different methods, and coming to some unexpected conclusions. I use a simple low temperature gas blow torch to simulate ancient heat sources, such as a small, single beadmaker's furnace or open hearth, and I use replica tools so I can understand how the ancient makers worked.
My presentation will include illustrations and videos showing the stages of manufacture of millefiori canes of bullseyes, flowers, and leaf motifs, and their use in beads. My research has shown that specific millefiori canes can be traced throughout the region of study. Some are likely to be from the same workshop or bead maker, which gives exciting possibilities for identifying travel and trade connections. I will show photographs of ancient mosaic beads from collections in museums in Britain and Europe, and demonstrate how the trail of a single cane motif can be followed throughout the continent.
Hot-Stone Technology, Alternative Transformation and The Clonbrin Shield
Plymouth University (UK)
There are numerous ways that skin can be processed to become a useful material, after additional manipulation an object and ultimately an artefact. Sadly, from a prehistoric perspective much of this transformation does not impart a permanence and being organic it seldom survives. However, peat bog environments have the potential to preserve a range of skin. One such artefact, the Clonbrin shield, was recovered from an Irish bog in 1909.
Many may be familiar with discussion and experimentation using hot-rock technology and Fulacht fiadh. Hot rocks have been employed for cooking, to heat water for washing fleece and cleaning hides. Research with hides has included soaking skins in hot water to remove dung and soften fat to enable easier cleaning. This paper seeks to present pioneering experiments that combines ethnographic investigation and experimental practice that widens the application of hot-stone technology to establish an innovative narrative to produce this shield. The method uses radiating heat to transform a skin, that is then moulded and allowed to cure.
The process enables a shield to be produced easier, quicker, and without additional ingredients needed to make leather and Cuir-Bouilli method that is commonly used in reconstructions today. And the resulting shield has all the attributes required of a practical martial object, it is light weight, but robust, flexible, and durable. The process from preparation of skin, to the resulting capability of the shield to perform as a martial object with be presented. In addition, consideration will be given to the potential of this process to provide insight into skin-based material culture that are often missing in the prehistoric record, and provides a credible alternative to the need for everything recovered from a bog to originally be made from leather.
Will it burn? Micromammal Bone in Four Fire Experiments
Turid Hillestad Nel
SFF Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE), University of Bergen (Norway)
Can distinct combustion activities be spatially recognized at an archaeological site by analyses of burning on micromammal bones? In order to test this hypothesis, micromammal bones were incorporated in four fire experiments to assess if anthropogenic fires (hearths) potentially can be discernable from natural occurring fires by changes in colour and surface modification on micromammal bones due to higher temperatures in hearths. Micromammals are frequent in archaeological sediments from caves and shelters as predators such as owls also utilize these locations for roosting. They bring rodent prey to the site; regurgitate pellets of indigestible bone and fur, which then become incorporated in the archaeological sediments.
In the experiments micromammal bones and owl pellets were buried at set intervals in dune sand sediments and fires were lit on top. One of the fire experiments also had owl pellets covering the surface of the sediments to recreate site activities, as owl pellets may have accumulated over time at a roosting site. The pellets could potentially have been set alight to be used as fuel, either deliberate or as humans were cleaning their living space. Each experiment had different sets of variables regarding length of the fire and type of wood used and were replicated with a control fire. After each fire experiment, the material was carefully excavated and documented. In my presentation, I will give insight to the background for the experiments, planning and execution, as well as preliminary results.
Experiments, Public Engagement and Paint: Ochre Workshops at Origins Centre Museum South Africa
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)
Ochre painting workshops are offered at Origins Centre museum in Johannesburg, as part of the larger museum experience. The workshops offer an interactive and immersive activity to help make the museum content more meaningful. The Origins Centre experience begins with the origins of humanity and the earliest technologies, then looks at the origins of art and ritual, and celebrates the many peoples, cultures, and art forms in southern Africa.
Ochre is a colourful thread that flows through the museum – ochre use became habitual during the Late Pleistocene in Africa, the pigment used for most rock art paints, and still used within some southern African communities. The workshops are structured as platforms to experiment with ochre and pigment, while learning about the many past uses of ochre. The workshops allow the attendee (and the instructor) to learn about and explore various ingredients and ways of making paints along with how to apply them. Different powder producing activities are offered – grinding, crushing, scoring and scraping – and different tools for this can be chosen. A selection of ingredients are provided as bases, binders and aggregates to make paint with the ochre powder, including water, egg, coconut oil, salt and sugar. Attendees have ranged from 3-year-olds to academics to established artists, and each person brings their own interpretation, experimental ideas and experience. Although the results have not been methodically recorded, and are more observational in nature, they have offered useful insight into different ways to create paints, to apply paints, as well personal accounts of different ochre applications (from ingestion to sunscreen) and invaluable information about what information the general public knows – or does not know – about the southern African deep past.
Raincoats or Riches? The Viking Age Vararfeldr and the Value of Multi-Perspective Approaches in Investigating Societally-Embedded Technologies
University of Exeter (UK)
Dynamic networks trading textiles, furs and other goods across the North Atlantic were central to the Viking Age economy, and much research has focussed on key products, including Icelandic fleece pile cloaks (vararfeldir). However, despite broad interest in vararfeldir, previous investigations have been limited to broad economic overviews, and analyses and reconstructions focussed on their technical construction. Few studies have investigated how vararfeldir actually functioned, making it impossible to understand why they were used, produced and traded so extensively when other materials were available.
To better understand their production in this wider context, this experiment took a holistic approach, comparing the functionality, production requirements and materiality of reconstructed vararfeldir with several contemporary materials, including plain textile, sheepskin and furs. A combination of controlled experiments and public surveys provided a wide range of perspectives on the materials’ physical properties, including insulation, water resistance and drying time, alongside sensory qualities, conceptual associations, and the relative importance of these factors.
These new perspectives suggest that the demand for vararfeldir is unlikely to have been due to functional superiority alone, as previously thought, but was more likely driven by a mixture of situational practicalities, production advantages and subjective perceptions. Many of these discoveries were unexpected, emphasising the complexity, subtlety and idiosyncrasy of the factors influencing technological choice, and how easily those factors can go unacknowledged in single-perspective experiments.
The holistic approach taken in this project has therefore provided transformative insights, not just into the production of vararfeldir, but into the critical need for multi-perspective, open-minded experimental approaches if we are to even begin to understand the complexities of past technologies and the individual experiences and societal forces that shaped them.
Reconstruction as Research and Public Presentation: Recreating Unique Organic Bronze Age Finds
Linda Hurcombe & Fiona Pitt
University of Exeter (UK)
The authors have worked together to make several reconstructions of a nettle and hide work textile panel, and a cattle hair and tin stud woven band from the Bronze Age site of Whitehorse Hill, Dartmoor, UK. This collaboration has now spanned seven years and work is still ongoing. ‘Reconstruction as research’ deals with unfamiliar materials and methods. In addition, the starting resources are themselves a challenge to find in the right condition. We currently have a call out for a suitable fresh bear skin on two continents, and of course this needs to be able to be used to discuss ethical issues and sustainability. Often these unique finds require a period of experimentation with new areas before attempting a specific reconstruction. This is especially the case where the artefacts are made from composite materials. Cattle hair, tin studs, calfskin, and nettles combine several elements of ‘unfamiliar’. Each time the artefacts are reconstructed, something more is learnt and there are new aspects to look for in the archaeological find. Reconstructions can also be part of TV productions, educational outreach, and temporary or permanent exhibitions. There are different challenges and opportunities with each. These aspects form yet another part of the experiment as the crafters and curators research public comments and opinions on the display materials.
The paper draws out two neglected themes: why practical knowledge and experimentation should be valued as part of academic research, and why research on public presentation is needed just as much as on artefact technologies.
Following the Master: Ethnoarchaeology and the Building of a Ngalawa Double-Outrigger Logboat in Bagamoyo, Tanzania
Elgidius B. Ichumbaki1, John P. Cooper2, Philip C.M. Maligisu1, Sinyati R. Mark1, Thomas J. Biginagwa1, Lucy Blue3
1 Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)
2 Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, (United Kingdom)
3 Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton (United Kingdom)
The carving of logboats is at the heart of Tanzania’s contemporary artisanal fishing industry. While some people—boat builders—make plank-built vessels, it is others—logboat carvers—who create the vessels that are, because of their accessibility to low-income participants in the small-scale fishing sector, the most numerous. This paper reports on the recent building by master craftsman Mr. Alalae Mohamed of a 7m-long ngalawa, the iconic double-outrigger logboat of the region. The authors followed and documented the build from the felling of the main mango tree through to launch and test-sailing of the finished craft. They recorded the process through video, photography, interview, and close observation of the work of Mr Alalae and his assistants. In addition to following the sequence, the authors elicited explanations and reasonings behind Mr Alalae’s choices, and recorded Swahili technical terms around tools, boat parts and processes. The boat has since featured in community exhibitions, TV reports, a documentary film, and an academic article. For experimental archaeologists, the process has provided opportunities to discover how a contemporary ‘living’ heritage of logboat carving can inform not only the direct interpretation of archaeological boat remains—for example, identifying tool marks—but also the conceptual processes and pragmatic options informing Mr Alalae as he went about his build.
Experimenting with Earth Ovens in Misiones Province, Argentina
1 University of Exeter (UK)
2 Universidad de la República (Uruguay)
Excavations at the proto southern Jê PM01 mound and enclosure complex in Misiones Province, Argentina, revealed a series of aligned roughly circular stone clusters. Their function and uses are unclear. Built with local river cobblestones, the discrete circular, oval, and elongated stone clusters were found spaced 30 to 50cm apart under the site's circular bank. All stone clusters were embedded in sediments with charcoal and burnt earth. Previous archaeologists in the region have interpreted these structures as a stone pavement or sacred stone fences. On the contrary, based on their size, discreteness, and compactness and the layer of charcoal within and below them, we interpret them as the remains of earth ovens built for cooking meat similar to the ones used by, according to ethnographic data, the Kaingang indigenous groups. To test our hypothesis, we carried out a field experiment to build an earth oven. We used local river cobbles, dug a pit of 15 cm deep, and cooked beef wrapped in banana leaves. In this presentation, we describe the results of this experiment and discuss the suitability of these stone structures as earth ovens. We interpret our results in light of other similar archaeological records and experiments with earth ovens from the Americas.
Scored Basins from Late Minoan Crete: an experimental Interpretation from Construction to Functionality
Brianna Jenkins (USA)
This paper is an examination of the construction and functionality of the Late Minoan I vessel known as the Scored Basin. This ceramic vessel is typically described as having a flat base with a large open-mouthed rim with diagonal or “X”-shaped features within the interior and other features may vary from the application of handles or spouts. However, their use has continuously perplexed many ceramic specialists within the Aegean and has been identified as a utilitarian vessel with no specifications. There is speculation they may have been used as beehives, while others believe they were utilized in food production. Many of the scored basins have been found within building contexts, in particular within communal spaces and this would lead one to wonder their true use. This experiment is not the exact answer to their use, but rather an interpretation of their possible function within Minoan daily life based on one area of study and parallels amongst other archaeological sites. Through various trials and errors the author was able to examine fully the different properties that the ceramic vessel proposed. Thus, the experimentation was conducted through a series of steps including sourcing the raw materials, the construction of a Late Minoan kiln, the application of the coil-technique to create the vessel, and the functionality of the basin through examination.
The Late Antique Lusoria of the Living Danube Limes project
Anna Kaiser1 and Boris Dreyer2
1 Danube University Krems (Austria)
2 Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany)
The Interreg project “Living Danube Limes'' aims at connecting the Danube region with its Roman heritage along the Danube limes. Heritage protection measures, sustainable tourism development, and the establishment of a sound chain of interconnected museums complete the dissemination of archaeological information to the public. In the project, the Danube is pivotal, not only as Roman border region, but especially as a highway connecting the provinces of the Roman Empire as well as the modern riparian states. The tangible sign for connecting the partner countries and reflecting the Roman period is the full reconstruction of a late antique lusoria, which travels from Germany to the Black Sea at the end of the project, steered and rowed by a crew fully dressed in Roman attire.
The poster focuses on the reconstruction of the lusoria, which is undertaken following Roman shipbuilding traditions, using Roman technology and techniques as well as (replica) materials and tools. The building of the replica tools is already in full progress and takes centre stage. The focus will be on the smithy and the production of nails, hammers, saws and other iron components needed for the lusoria, all forged following Roman examples and with Roman techniques. When reconstructing the Roman tools, we are guided by the knowledge we have at hand. Two examples: The saw has angled teeth, as can be seen by a closer look on the reliefs and finds. Similarly, according to the Roman fire forging technique in axes, the harder "steel" on the blade is inserted into the softer remnant iron. As in the original finds, a seam is then visible. The axe has proved just as effective as a modern axe when felling spruce for the boat.
An Experimental Approach to Ancient Egyptian Metalworking: the Mysteries of the sSS.t
Chelsea Kaufman1 & Ben Doddy2
1 Department of Near Eastern Studies, Egyptology, Johns Hopkins University (USA)
2 Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Loyola University, MD (USA)
A great deal of attention has been paid to ancient Egyptian metal works for their beauty, elegance, and refinery. Serious discussions of metal production processes, however, have been largely overlooked, perhaps in part because the ancient Egyptians leave us with very limited direct explanations of their metal production processes beyond sparse, elusory tomb imagery and intermittent and enigmatic mythological allusions. Our research represents a case study focusing on loop sistra, or ritual rattles, to illuminate the challenges, processes, and both human and material agency behind such works, that are only accessible through experimental archaeology aided by modern technology. Our experiments mark the early stages of our ongoing investigations into the materiality of metal production in ancient Egypt.
We will present our recreated ancient Egyptian copper-alloy loop sistrum through video documentation, illustrating our metalworking experiments and investigations into the metallic properties of the ancient instrument, to reveal the ways in which the materials were manipulated to achieve the desired sound when played, and where that sound falls in the spectral field. Simultaneously, since multi-component design of the instrument would have necessitated more than one production methodology to produce, we aim to demonstrate how the intended function of an object guides the choices made during the manufacturing process and uncover the hidden aspects of the materials and production technologies against a social and cultural background.
Land Transportation across the Eastern Desert of Egypt during the First Three Centuries AD. An Experimental Archaeological Study
Basma Khalil Mahmoud Ali Khalil
Alexandria University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Greek and Roman Archaeology (Egypt)
This study focuses on the first three centuries AD and the Sahara Desert east of the Nile, in Egypt. The research is a new avenue in the study of archaeology using experimental archaeology which is newly discussed in Egypt and a notable scientific addition.
In this experimental and ethnographic study, I dealt with the method of manufacturing amphorae used in road transport, starting from the type of clay used, through the rest of the formation stages on the pottery wheel and drying. This is followed by the kiln burning using the same techniques as in the Roman Era.
The experimentation phase was preceded by an ethnographic study because I was interested in studying the society and its members, customs and traditions, and the reason for the continuation of that heritage industry. I explained to the pottery makers the type of amphorae that I chose for my experimentation and other necessities preceding the implementation of the experiment. I presented 11 amphorae that needed to be replicated, and the result was as close as possible to the vessels that were used in the past.
I will present the results of the experiment regarding the manufacturing, forming and burning of the amphorae and then loading them on camels in an understandable and clear manner.
Exploring the Combative Efficacy of Neolithic Flint Beaker Daggers of the British Isles
John W. Kiernan (USA)
The flint daggers of the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age are amongst the most complex items created during this dynamic and changing period. Not only are they technically complex, but their position as objects of material culture in a changing and emerging status-based society is as equally complex. It had long been thought that flint daggers may be symbols of power or class, but is that all they were? What is really known about their purpose or functionality? They appear in the assemblages of the Beaker Culture spanning from the British Isles, across the majority of continental Europe, and Scandinavia. With the assigned nomenclature of ‘dagger’, the name implies a martially derived functionality, however, without any previous testing or evidence to the contrary, flint daggers have been dismissed as being too fragile or delicate to withstand the rigors of a use in interpersonal violence.
This actualistic experiment was designed based upon decades of experience in creating and using flint objects, as well as several decades of military and bladed martial arts-based training. Utilizing this background as a foundation, in tandem with the latest in forensic information, a series of cuts and thrusts were developed to test the limits and lethal potential of replicated flint daggers against a facsimile human torso of ballistic gelatin, fitted with a tunic created of materials available during the period – wool and linen – for portions of the testing. This allows the replicated flint daggers to be assessed against clothing conditions that may have encumbered their performance. New possibilities are presented that can no longer be ignored.
Going to Pieces: Experiments into destroying Bronze Age Metalwork
Matthew G. Knight
National Museums Scotland (UK)
This paper presents experiments into how Bronze Age metalwork might have been damaged and fragmented in antiquity. Replicas of swords, spearheads and axeheads were produced based on artefacts from Devon and Cornwall, United Kingdom, to explore different methods for producing damage comparable to that seen in the archaeological record. The results highlighted key insights into how Bronze Age practices were probably undertaken, and aspects of skill involved. The results can be compared with the archaeological record to reconsider deposits of destroyed metalwork.
Increasing the Effectiveness of the Bloomery Smelting Process by using a mobile Furnace Shaft. Archaeological Experiments on the possible Reuse of clay Shafts during the early Roman Period in Northern Central Europe
Florian Kobbe 2, Christian Helmreich 1,2,3, Jan Hinrichs 1 & Martin Sauerwein 1
1 Department of Geography, University of Hildesheim (Germany)
2 Department of Chemistry, University of Hildesheim (Germany)
3 Archaeological Open-Air Museum NAKUBI Grafhorn (Germany)
In the year 2017, 32 findings of bloomery furnaces and 10 pit houses were discovered on an archaeological site in Sehnde (Region Hanover, Lower Saxony, Germany). The findings and finds have been examined as part of an interdisciplinary research project of experimental archaeology and archaeometallurgy. The age of selected charcoal samples could be dated to the early Roman Period using the radiocarbon method. The noticeable and frequent arrangement of three furnace findings in lines, is probably the result of a method to increase effectiveness in bloomery smelting using a reusable mobile shaft. A comparison of these findings from the site of Sehnde with other sites in northern Central Europe showing similar slag pit patterns, implies social and cultural links. Archaeological experiments on a reconstructed clay shaft stabilized by incorporated branches showed that the shaft material is wearing from below during the smelting process. While the basal shaft area crumbles during its move away from the slag pit, the upper area is still intact and can be reused for a subsequent smelting process in an adjacent spot. The shaft gets lower after each smelting process and the number of its reutilizations is limited to two or three runs. However, when considering the total process time, smelting in a reusable mobile shaft means a measurable increase in effectiveness in contrast to building completely new shafts each time. The arrangement of the experimental findings is strikingly similar to the archaeological ones.
Medieval Agriculture in Experiment
Lauresham Open-Air Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology (Germany)
The Lauresham Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology has a special research interest in exploring different approaches to learn about medieval agriculture. Various long-term experiments on site are focusing on crops, subsistence strategies, field systems, and draft animals, but also on manuring and agricultural implements. All these questions are not only valuable in order to gain more knowledge about our agricultural past, but also to address some of the challenges we face in a 21st century context. This paper gives a brief overview of the project, its potential and possible future perspectives.
Let's build Something Big! A few Words about the Open-Air Museum of the Institute of Archaeology, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland
Justyna Kuriga, Grzegorz Osipowicz, Ryszard Kaźmierczak, Justyna Orłowska & Krzysztof Rybka
Institute of Archaeology, Faculty of History, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Poland)
In 2014, the Institute of Archaeology of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń acquired funds from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education for the implementation of the "Restructuring of the Cabinet of Artefacts" program. The project was in line with the tendency to intensify interdisciplinary research and the need to create and implement new ways of deepening knowledge about the human past. As part of restructuring activities, part of the backyard of the Institute has been arranged as an open-air archaeological museum from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages with reconstructions of different buildings along with infrastructure, as well as places of burial and worship. Most of the facilities were built using tools and techniques specific to the given epochs. During the work, a number of experiments were carried out, including experiments related to the use of various types of tools made of raw materials such as bone, antler or flint. The structures built so far include a Stone Age turf-covered shallow pit-house, a Mesolithic shelter, Iron Age tombs, a medieval hut, a forge with a smokehouse and a pottery kiln. The museum is used for conducting experiments, teaching activities in the field of experimental archaeology as part of the archaeology study program, museum lessons as part of the Children's University, but also as a space for many educational events such as shows, workshops and archaeological festivals.
An experimental Investigation into the ergonomic Strategies of the Human Hand during stone Tool Production
Alice La Porta1, Alaster Yoxall2, Andrew Chamberlain1, William Sellers1
1 Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester (UK)
2 Art and Design Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University (UK)
This study aims to quantify the functional and behavioural strategies used by skilled flintknappers during the reproduction of specific Palaeolithic reduction sequences. The experiments, conducted and recorded remotely and online (due to Covid-19 restrictions), focused on the recording of
(i) handgrip types and movements,
(ii) the hierarchical and cognitive repetition of tasks (i.e. Hierarchical Task Analysis) executed by each flintknapper during the reproduction of the Palaeolithic reduction sequences, and
(iii) the degree of body effort required to finalise each task (i.e. REBA and RULA ergonomic methods).
Initial results show that Lomekwian reduction sequences require the lowest number of functional and cognitive tasks with lowest ergonomics stress scores, whereas Acheuleuan reduction sequences recorded the highest number of tasks, suggesting a sharp change in cognitive abilities and manipulative skills associated with the increasing level of sophistication of Palaeolithic reduction sequences.
The results of this study will determine the different functional and cognitive tasks involved in the manufacture of Palaeolithic stone tools and the required ergonomic stress by the human hands. This will support the recognition of patterns of performance and effort of the upper limbs involved in the evolutive process of flintknapping. Ergonomics analyses are here considered an essential preliminary tool to identify biomechanical strategies of human hands in future kinematic analyses.
Making Roads with Obsidian: Experimental Approaches to understanding Obsidian chaînes opératoires in the Formative period NW Argentina
University of Exeter (UK)
This presentation summarises the results of experimental approaches implemented to further our understanding of obsidian production and circulation in the early Formative period of NW Argentina (ca 1500 AC-AD 500), a period in the regional chronology when sedentary life became increasingly common. Obsidian in NWA was used over millennia, circulating widely from sources located in the highlands or Puna, and traversing highly diverse microenvironments through various exchange practices.
With a particular focus on assemblages from sites across the southern Calchaqui valleys area, located at various distances from the sources, the research aimed at reconstructing the sequences behind the manufacture of two distinct sets of artefacts that co-occur in archaeological contexts across the region:
A. medium-sized narrow stemmed points and
B. small-to medium stemmed triangular points.
The results enabled us to hypothesize ‘missing steps’ in the archaeological record, while also providing insight into the size of the cores required to manufacture suitable blanks, and the overall bulk of debris generated in the manufacturing process. Styles of knapping and levels of technical expertise of two different knappers provided added insight into the manufacturing process, but also, on the research questions and parameters of the experiment.
How the Wind Blows: Investigating the Performance of Early Bellows through Experiments
Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany)
Few studies on ancient metallurgy have explored the furnace’s airflow, this one intangible but still crucial component of smithing and smelting activities. Around the Mediterranean, forced draft was first produced by blowpipes, which were then superseded by bellows during the Bronze Age. This project for my master’s thesis experimented with three early types of bellows and three designs of tuyeres in order to assess how they impact the airflow. The reproductions of bellows were operated by volunteers of different ages and genders, with a modus operandi inspired by ethno-archaeological accounts and archaeological depictions. While previous experiments on bellows measured the average airflow with anemometers outside the tuyeres, my experiment relied on two pitot tubes to record the back and forth of the airflow directly inside the tuyeres, and this fifty times per second. From the airflow’s instantaneous velocity, three important variables for smelting could be calculated: average flow rate, maximal airspeed and intervals without airflow. My experiment’s first aim was to inform on the efficiency of some early bellows and tuyeres in supplying air to a furnace, but a second goal was also to caution the archaeologists who use bellows for their smelting experiments. For example, the relationship between bellows’ volume and airflow produced, or between airflow in and out of the tuyere, is more complex than sometimes assumed in published smelting experiments. The performance of bellows and tuyeres alone is only one facet of a furnace’s air supply, there is still much to investigate with the furnace’s operation: shape of the blowing holes, position of the tuyere and synchronicity of the bellows, among others.
The Drop Tower and Plate Glass – a simple and effective Setup for controlled Lithic Experiments
Li Li1, Jonathan S. Reeves2, Sam C. Lin3,4, Claudio Tennie1, Shannon P. McPherron5
1 Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen (Germany)
2 Lise Meitner Group Technological Primates, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig (Germany)
3 Centre for Archaeological Science, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong (Australia)
4 Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, University of Wollongong, Wollongong (Australia)
5 Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig (Germany)
Controlled experiments play a crucial role in studying flake formation to explain the variability observed in lithic assemblages. They have the advantage of controlling the effect of various knapping parameters individually. Drop tower is a classic setup used among earlier controlled studies that simulates the knapping process by dropping hammers onto cores set at a fixed position. Despite its simplicity, the drop tower setup can effectively control both the striking force and location during flake removal. The use of a drop tower in controlled experiments was first recorded in the 1970s, but gradually became obsolete after the introduction of a more powerful knapping machine over the past decade. Here we re-introduce the drop tower setup to study the effect of several force delivery factors on flake formation. We find that this setup allows easy and efficient control over striking force by changing either the hammer drop height or mass, both of which cannot be easily manipulated in the more recent mechanical flaking setup. Our results show features of the flake’s bulb of percussion reflect changes in the angle of blow, which will help us better understand hominin knapping strategies from the archaeological record.
Early 19th Century Reconstruction of a South Sulawesi Trading Vessel
Horst Liebner1 & Chiara Zazzaro2
1 Makassar (Indonesia)
2 Università di Napoli “L’Orientale” (Italy)
This paper reviews construction and voyage of a reconstructed historic vessel commissioned by the Abu Hanifa Institute, Sydney, for use in a documentary film about the role of trepang fishermen from South Sulawesi, Indonesia, on the northern Australian coast. The ship was built in 2019 by a group of boat builders around the late Haji Muhammad Jafar, a master shipwright of Lemo-Lemo, South Sulawesi, who already in 1987 and 2017 had built comparable craft. Eventually called Nur Al-Marege (‘The Light of Marege’, the local appellation for the northern Australian coast), it was, engineless but under escort by motorised vessels, sailed from Makassar to Darwin and Yirkalla, Northern Territories, between November 2019 and February 2020.
Given the project’s title, ‘Before 1770’, the ship was intended to resemble the earliest type of Sulawesian blue-water craft on which usable information is available: a small number of models, drawings and descriptions made in the first halve of the 19th century. We will discuss the reliability of the sources and the resultant design decisions, and evaluate some of the constructional details for which the available data did not supply solutions. Application of these design choices in a ‘traditional’ boatyard as well as issues related to the documentation of the construction.
As the documentary film was to include historic re-enactment scenes, efforts were made to outfit the vessel with gear that as much as possible resembles historic models and materials. This included, e.g., sails, cordage or galley equipment, and thus demanded a certain acquaintance and attitude to suitably deal with such resources on part of the crew – a test of feasibility and acceptance of such tackle under the real-world conditions of an extended blue-water voyage.
The use of a 3D Milling Machine in controlled Flaking Experiments: A Case Study of Levallois Flake Formation
Sam C. Lin1, Chris Clarkson2, Alex Mackay1
1 University of Wollongong (Australia)
2 Queensland University (Australia)
Controlled experiments in percussive flaking allows objective analysis of the causal relationships between independent knapping variables and their corresponding flaking outcomes. However, one of the common critiques levelled against a controlled experimental approach is that the flaking products do not always resemble real-world specimens. Indeed, earlier controlled experiments used materials such as plate glass and prisms that only allowed for limited variations in core morphology, often in forms that are far removed from archaeological cores. Over the past decade, studies began to use glass cores moulded into specific shapes that mimic archaeological specimens. This experimental design has proven to be effective in producing flaking products that are similar to those produced via flintknapping. However, beyond glass, incorporating other lithic raw materials into controlled flaking experiments remains a major challenge due to the general difficulty of shaping stone into identical three-dimensional shapes with complex geometries. In this paper, we introduce the use of an automated milling machine that can produce cores of three-dimensional morphologies from different stone raw materials. Using an experimental Levallois core design as example, we demonstrate the usage of this machine to make cores of a complex shape from two raw material types (glass and chert). These cores are then knapped with a mechanical flaking apparatus to investigate the effect of different knapping variables in Levallois flake formation.
Why Recycle Glass? The Answer is Clear? Experimental Glass Recycling using a Wood-fired Glassworking Furnace
Newcastle University (UK)
The life histories of glass artefacts are complex, as the inherent transmutable nature of glass lends itself to recycling and to distinct objects returning to a common ‘pool’ of glass numerous times to be reformed. The chemical composition of glass reflects this, containing not just the life history of the object itself but allowing access to a tapestry of past glassworkers’ technological and decision-making practices that form part of a deeper biography. Therefore, greater understanding of the effects of repeated recycling on glass is vital.
Reliance on anecdotal information from modern glassworkers – working with electric and gas fired furnaces with highly oxidising atmospheres and stable, high temperatures – has led to the widespread assumption that glass can only be recycled a very limited number of times before it becomes unworkable due to loss of flux. However, an accurate picture of recycling in antiquity cannot be obtained without taking into account the impact of the use of a wood fire on the furnace environment and temperature regulation, and their effects upon the chemical composition and working properties of glass. This paper will present the first experimental work to test assumptions about how we can recognize past glass recycling, and the effects of repeated recycling on glass, using period-appropriate fuel and furnace structure. The work adopts an approach combining experimental archaeology, chemical analysis, and expert craftsperson knowledge to produce a picture of recycling that will deepen understanding of the links between craftsperson experience, chemical composition, technological practice, and object biography.
Scapula, σκάπτω, scavare… Bone Shovels of Neolithic Britain: Feasibility as a Hafted Tool
University of Exeter (UK)
Prehistoric societies impacted their landscapes permanently in the form of bank and ditch monuments, burial mounds and even the pitted remnants of vast ancient flint-mining operations. Whilst conducting investigations into these types of sites, the less explored, and often overlooked dynamic is the minutiae surrounding the construction methods employed by these ancient cultures.
One artefact type which is consistently present on these site types within Britain is the scapula shovel. Though not as abundantly evidenced as the better known and acknowledged antler picks within artefact assemblages, the use of animal scapulae as digging implements has been recognised ethnographically and linguistically. The unmodified morphology and physical dynamics of the scapulae naturally lend themselves to adequately displace loose material, which the modern steel shovel seems to mimic.
Through close analysis of the archaeological record, an exhaustive literary review, as well as a thorough review of all previous experiments, a range of scapula shovels were recreated and tested to establish the efficacy of these tools. The set of replica shovels utilised a diverse range of hafting techniques, which directly paralleled artefactual evidence found upon items recovered within Britain.
Hooked – Fashioning Fishhooks in Mesolithic and Neolithic Scandinavia (8000-2400 BCE)
Anja Mansrud1, Morten Kutschera2
1 Archaeological Museum/University of Stavanger (Norway)
2 Freelance replica specialist, Norway
Throughout the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods in Western Scandinavia, fishhooks were fashioned with osseous materials like bone and antler. HOOKED is a collaborative project aiming to gain new knowledge of these technologies, by using actualistic experiments. In this paper we present our experimental work on bone fishhooks from Mesolithic and Neolithic coastal sites in Western Norway, Eastern Norway and Western Sweden. Experiments with different osseous materials (elk, red deer and roe deer metapodials and red deer ribs) combined with analysis of artefacts and bone debris, reveals regional and chronological variations in raw-material use, CO and the time and skills required to make fishhooks. This indicate that fishhook manufacture is embedded in persisting traditions that are chronologically, culturally and geographically defined. The presentation further discusses the use of experimental approaches to gain novel understandings of temporality and the social organization of everyday craft. The collective and communal aspects of tool production are often disregarded in experimental archaeology. The vital role played by social transmission in traditional crafts and the large number of interrelated tasks involved in fishhook manufacture and use, such as assessing osseous and lithic raw material, disarticulating bones and making blanks, extract sinews or gather plant materials for making lines etc., enable us to portray prehistoric life as a community of individuals crafting together.
Ancient Beverage in the Iron Age: Experiments, Prospect of Results and Future Challenges
Centro de Investigação Transdisciplinar «Cultura, Espaço e Memória» Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto (Portugal)
APS Popolo di Brig (Italy)
Gruppo di Ricerche Archeo-storiche del Lambro (Italy)
The “Beer Brig project”, promoted by the APS Popolo di Brig (Vimercate, Italy), has since 2008 gathered archaeologists, historians, homebrewers, and simply beer lovers. Besides ancient beer, for over 10 years since we started, we have focused on the study and the production of mead, grog, and spiced wine too.
The aim of this paper is:
1) to briefly present the research, the experiments, and the (first) results of our work;
2) to show how we integrated them in our educational activities at living history events, together with our proposal on ancient food.
In particular, in this presentation, we will focus on our experiments to produce the so-called “Pombia Beer”, a fermented beverage that dates back to the 6th century B.C. Starting from the pollen analysis of the residue encountered in a ceramic beaker – information provided with the results of the 1995 excavation of the Iron Age necropolis of Pombia (Piemonte, Italy) – we developed the brewing process from germination up to tasting the results. This specific project represented our main goal for almost three years.
Finally, we will present what we are planning for the future, with the hope of finding new partners among EXARC members.
'Now with 70% less Clay!' Experiments with Viking Age Icelandic Turf walled Iron Smelting Furnaces
Darrell Markewitz1, Kevin Smith2, Neil Peterson3
1 Independent Researcher, Ontario (Canada)
2 Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Rhode Island (USA)
3 Independent Researcher, Ontario (Canada)
Iceland's Viking Age settlers came from regions with long traditions of bloomery iron smelting. They faced a significant problem, however, as the clay typically used in Iron Age furnace construction was either unsuitable, or extremely limited, in Iceland. Excavation of a major 9th-10th century iron production site at Háls by Kevin Smith illustrated an alternative – walls made of conical stacked grass turf, with or without a thin clay lining.
From 2007 to 2016, a group of independent researchers in Ontario, Canada, executed a series of eight experimental bloomery iron smelts to investigate possible furnace designs and working methods based on this archaeological evidence. This series related to a second concurrent project investigating iron smelting at Vínland (L’Anse aux Meadows NHSC), and more recent furnace builds suggested by excavations at Skógar, Iceland.
This paper will describe how the archaeology at Háls was interpreted into a possible working system, provide an overview of how individual elements were tested and combined for successful iron production, and suggest directions for future investigations. Further, this report helps to illustrate how valuable insights can be provided through direct experience, even with limited resources for experimentation.
Reflections into the Potted Past. An archaeological Experiment in reproducing the lustrous Surfaces of dark-burnished Wares from ancient Roman Britain
University of Exeter (UK)
An experiment was conducted to explore the high gloss sheens characteristic of Romano-British black- and dark-burnished wares, and the probable processes in producing those surfaces. The aims of this research were to determine the best, most ideal, finishing technique(s) most likely used by potters of Roman Britain, by replicating glossy surfaces on reproduction vessels through the experimentation of burnishing and polishing applications. The qualitative and quantitative results reveal that using terra sigillata burnish material, Tool A – burnishing stone, and beeswax post-fire polish produced the highest pottery surface glosses. The materials and techniques from this experiment fall within the experimental archaeological parameters in studying pottery production of Romano-British wares. Burnishing terra sigillata with a burnishing stone, followed by an application of beeswax as a post-fire polish, was an achievable pottery treatment by the ancient Romano-British potters in producing glossy surfaces. Although such surface treatments may have varied, these findings suggest that this technique was probably used in producing the high gloss surfaces iconic to Romano-British black- and dark-burnished wares.
Experimental Archaeology and Traceological Analysis of Lapidary Objects from the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, Ancient Mexico
Emiliano Ricardo Melgar Tísoc & Reyna Beatriz Solís Ciriaco
Museo del Templo Mayor-INAH (Mexico)
Given the scarcity of information on the production of lapidary objects in Ancient Mexico, in conjunction with the lack of data on materials and work tools found in lapidary workshops, experimental archaeology offers rich possibilities for researchers to resolve the problem of how to study this material. With this in mind, in 2004 the Experimental Archaeology Workshop on Lapidary Objects was created in the Great Temple Museum in Mexico City as part of the research project “Great Temple of Tenochtitlan lapidary work: technological styles and traditions”. Since that year, more than 700 experiments were done to identify the ancient craft techniques employed on lapidary items by pre-Columbian artisans from Ancient Mexico. The tools and techniques employed in the experiments to reproduce the different types of modifications presented by objects were chosen based on historical sources, archaeological contexts, proposals of other researchers, and ethnoarchaeological reports. The objectives of that workshop were the traceological analysis of the lapidary items from different sites, regions and chronologies in order to create a database for comparison purposes and to identify the specific technological patterns and chaîne opératoires of each style. To achieve this, the characterization of the experimental and archaeological manufacturing traces/marks was performed with optical and scanning electron microscopy. In this way it has been possible to identify with considerable precision the materials and tools employed in lapidary production and allowed us to know how different Mesoamerican groups and their neighbors transformed raw materials into objects and what working instruments they used in these ancient production processes. Also, it is possible to identify local or foreign manufactures among the sites and collections.
Butser Ancient Farm and Exeter University Collaborative Experiment for Alternative Roofing Materials
Fergus Milton (UK)
Butser Ancient Farm has constructed many roundhouses since 1972 but with modern thatching materials on most roofs. This collaboration between Butser and Exeter will investigate alternative materials to improve roof authenticity.
Exeter University runs an MSc course in Experimental Archaeology for whose students this project will be an opportunity to construct and evaluate an experiment. Butser has historical constructions from prehistoric to Saxon periods and staff experienced in historic building and maintenance. Our complimentary skills and resources will enable collaboration that may lead to major change in how historic constructed rooves are built.
Significant project elements we will discuss include:
Designing an experiment to test roof effectiveness using different materials contemporary to prehistoric southern Britain. The presentation will discuss design considerations for a building test rig with roof pitch adjustment, and the monitoring parameters and criteria to evaluate roof effectiveness.
For comparison and a consistent approach, the experiment should be established by the same team at Butser and Exeter. Seasonal limitations for the chosen materials must be considered, and for comparisons, panels of currently used roofing material and straw from ancient wheat varieties must be included.
A project timescale of 2 years will allow robust data gathering on material effectiveness and lifespan. Failure is a vital component of learning and the presentation will discuss the identification and handling of material or methodology failures.
The earliest Butser experiments were with primitive wheats, but seeing these crops growing highlights their variability in height and habit, making it hard to believe they would make good thatching material. This experiment allows a thorough evaluation of the alternative materials and will help Butser enter its second half-century with more accurate and proven rooves, tested and evaluated in public experiments.
The Uses of Experimental Archaeology to track cultural Changes and Persistence in Hunter-Gatherer Groups from Southern Brazil during the Holocene
João Carlos Moreno de Sousa1, Gabriela S. Mingatos1,2 and Mercedes Okumura1
1 Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies (LEEH), Institute of Biosciences, University of São Paulo (IB-USP)(Brazil)
2 PPGArq, National Museum, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (MN-UFRJ)(Brazil)
Studies using experimental archaeology in order to further understand the cultural evolution of prehistoric human societies in Brazil have been scarce, especially on lithic and bone tools. Our laboratory has been interested in investigating the changes through time in archaeological cultures from Southern Brazil during the Holocene, with a focus on early hunter-gatherer populations. We are aiming to understand the role of cultural transmission, population parameters, environmental changes in the evolution of artifacts, as well as landscape occupation of these hunter-gatherer groups. In order to do that, we have combined two complementary theoretical approaches, Evolutionary Archaeology and Cultural Transmission Theory with Experimental Archaeology in order to unravel patterns and rates of change in Paleoamerican sites or groups of sites. Our experimental studies focus on the raw material sources of lithic and bone artifacts, as well as on the chaîne opératoire related to the manufacture, use, and discard of such tools. The experimental data can be analyzed in combination with the results obtained from morphometric and technological analysis of the archaeological materials, showing that a greater knowledge can be obtained when actualist studies are incorporated in the analysis of lithic and bone artifact making and use in the past. As a case study we will present the analysis carried out in two archaeological sites in southern Brazil: the Garivaldino site, dated between 12.000 and 4500 BP; and the Tunas site dated between 11.000 and 7700 BP. The sites present distinct lithic and bone industries.
Experimental Investigations into Late Iron Age Pellet Mould Technology and the Deposition of Metallic Residues
University of Liverpool (UK)
This paper presents the first stages of a series of experiments investigating Late Iron Age pellet mould technology; a technology commonly attributed with the manufacture of coin blanks. This project forms part of a PhD Thesis investigating pellet mould artefacts and the methods employed to analyse them. Current research into these artefacts uses scanning electron microscopy to analyse microscopic metallurgical residues deposited during use. These residues exhibit a variety of structural and compositional differences, some of which are attributable to the technological choices made by the craftsmen and metalworkers. This experimental program seeks to provide contextual and experiential data regarding the effects of clay composition and firing environment on the formation and deposition of residues on moulds of this style.
The preliminary stages of this investigation centre on developing a methodology within a controlled lab environment, using locally-sourced clays from areas close to the find-sites of assemblages investigated in the larger thesis (St. Albans and Braughing, Hertfordshire). Assessed factors include: mould size, mould durability, necessary temperature requirements, and flux requirements. The next stages of this investigation seek to transfer this developed methodology to a more appropriate setting, using firing techniques contemporary to the late Iron Age period. This presentation will illustrate the various stages of this preliminary investigation, and explore the considerations one must make when dealing with experimental and experiential archaeology.
Many Rocks, many Functions? An experimental Study on different Rock Types from Southern Jê history, South Brazil
Felipe Do Nascimento Rodrigues
Centre for Archaeology of the Americas, University of Exeter (UK)
The study of late Holocene ceramist groups in Brazil has gained interest over recent years thanks to new archaeological frameworks and their interaction with indigenous history. Despite positive developments in material culture studies, stone tools have remained largely undiscussed, usually mentioned only as illustrative typologies, secondary to research questions.
This paper brings lithic studies to the forefront using a multi scale scope to better understand the raw material diversity of stone and its suitabilities during Southern Jê pre-colonial history. For this purpose, a series of task-oriented experiments focusing on the behaviour of these raw materials were conducted. In doing so, several flakes were produced in quartz, cherts and volcanic rocks identified during the assemblage analysis of three sites and utilised with local contact materials. These experiments were then built into a use wear analysis reference collection for a quali-quantitative assessment on how different raw material types were affected by their uses.
Designed to enhance our understanding of lithic artefacts, this research mapped outcrops through fieldwalking surveys confirming that diverse raw materials were locally available, compared the ongoing use wear analysis with the wearing of raw materials during distinct tasks, and created a database containing historical descriptions of stone tool uses to inform experiment design, thereby creating the first reference collection of task-oriented experiments in Southern Jê research.
Although the results presented are preliminary, they provide an invaluable insight into Southern Jê lithics and lay the foundations for the development of future studies with larger sample groups. This paper also addresses the challenges surrounding experimental archaeology in Brazil, hoping to help pave the way for continued research.
New Insights into Palaeolithic portable Art using digital and experimental Approaches
Andy Needham1, Izzy Wisher2, Andy Langley1, Matt Amy3, and Aimée Little1
1 Department of Archaeology, University of York (UK)
2 Department of Archaeology, Durham University (UK)
3 Independent Researcher (UK)
Engraved stone plaquettes are a complex type of Palaeolithic artistic expression. These objects often reflect extensive use lives, with dense concentrations of engraved lines showing evidence of surface refreshing and re-engraving, the addition of colourants, and evidence of heating and burning. Despite the complexity of these objects, attention has been focused on the engraved forms alone, often at the expense of deeper considerations of the plaquettes’ biographies. This research refocuses attention on the use of plaquettes in the Magdalenian, through exploring their use in heating activities.
An experimental archaeological programme was designed to test heating and burning in limestone plaquettes, focusing on the collection of plaquettes recovered from the Magdalenian site of Montastruc (France). Based on the diagnostic heating signatures recorded for the experimental limestone plaquettes, we argue that plaquettes from Montastruc were purposefully positioned in close proximity to hearth structures. Utilising DStretch, 3D modelling and Virtual Reality modelling methods, informed by the experimental data, we further suggest this arrangement created a performative experience, with the roving firelight bringing to life the engraved depictions.
The novel combination of experimental archaeology and digital techniques has potential in allowing us to develop new insights into a complex type of Palaeolithic artistic expression. Further, the experimental data generated may have application in related fields of study, such as fire cracked/modified rock, a common feature of Magdalenian sites.
Pre-Roman Iron Age Wall-Paintings in Gaul and Britain. Starter Experiments for a novel archaeological Field and their Development into Visitor Engagement and Education Tools
Pario Gallico - Living History & Ancient Crafts Displays (UK)
In France, the last 10-15 years have seen the development of research on Iron Age (800BC-52BC) / Pre-Roman wall paintings after the publication of a few key archaeological discoveries. These demonstrated a meticulous, complex and colorful treatment of earthen walls, far from the (still) common idea of ‘’mud huts’’ made of roughly smeared daub on wattle structures.
In order to present this new, very visual, aspect of Iron Age life and building techniques to the public we decided to recreate a portion of such walls, and started by experimenting with paint bases, mineral pigments and painting tools.
This paper will present the issues encountered, from the scarcity of data to work from, to the reliance on other specialist work to create an accurate base for these experiments, through the question of the spatial requirements of such a project.
We will also introduce our so called ‘’starter experiments’’ about Iron Age paint binders, pigments manufacture and paintbrushes production, and the way these led to different kinds of interactive and educational exchanges with the general public, university students and school groups on various sites.
The future of this now multidisciplinary project is to be mentioned, alongside potential partnerships and research developments.
The Importance of Experimental Archaeology in Traceological Studies of Prehistoric Osseous Artefacts. Recent Work from the Institute of Archaeology NCU in Toruń, Poland
Grzegorz Osipowicz & Justyna Orłowska
Institute of Archaeology, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (Poland)
Traceological studies of osseous artefacts have a long tradition and can be divided into two main streams, i.e. research related to technological issues and typical functional analyses. An important part of both types of research is experimental archaeology. In our presentation, we will demonstrate the most interesting and important recent examples of our works connected with different kinds of osseous artefacts.
The presentation will be divided into two main parts. In the first one, we will present experiments connected with varied technological aspects of bone processing, among others with different kinds of grinding techniques applied to worked bone materials.
In the second one, we will focus on the interpretation of the functional aspects of osseous artefacts. As an example will serve our works associated with Bronze Age bone “knives” from Bruszczewo (Poland), seal bone scrapers, animal tooth pendants and seal craniums frontlets from the Subneolithic sites in Šventoji (Lithuania).
Experimental Archaeology and Investigating the Life, Death and Afterlife of Wooden Anthropomorphic Figures in Prehistoric Europe and Beyond
Aidan O’Sullivan1, Brendan O’Neill1, Ben Gearey2, Caitríona Moore3, Mark Griffiths4, Michael Stanley5, Orla Peach-Power3, Brian Mac Domhnaill6 and Billy Mag Fhloinn7, 8
1 CEAMC, University College Dublin (Ireland)
2 University College Cork (Ireland)
3 Independent Archaeologist (Ireland)
4 University of Brighton (UK)
5 Transport Infrastructure Ireland (Ireland)
6 Cork (Ireland)
7 University of Limerick (Ireland)
8 Umha Aois (Ireland)
Wooden anthropomorphic figures have been recovered from the peatlands of northern Europe since the beginnings of archaeology as a discipline. They were probably highly symbolic and their deposition in peatlands often seems to mirror the treatment of real human bodies, i.e. bog bodies. There are now at least 12 such wooden figures from Ireland. An experimental archaeological, artistic and performative project has led to archaeologists, artists and other scholars based at University College Cork’s Pallasboy Project exploring these figures. This has included collaboration with University College Dublin’s archaeologists through the carving of wooden figures of alder-wood, using hafted bronze axes, and their erection at University College Dublin’s Centre for Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture (CEAMC), and others placed in a woodlands of west Cork, where they all have stood for the last 3.5 years. These tests have investigated aspects of the life, death and afterlife of such wooden figures, in particular addressing these questions: Were these figures deliberately made to be put into a bog straight away? Did they stand inside a Bronze Age house, as "household gods” before their burial? Did they stand for a time in the Bronze Age landscape, before upon their “death” being buried in a bog? This continuing experimental archaeology project explores a specific and tricky aspect of past material culture: what was the impact of short periods of time, on things?
Approaching Technological Properties of Tempering Materials of Early Neolithic Ceramics
Department of Prehistory, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain)
This study investigates the role of organic temper to make ceramic vessels in early Neolithic LBK (ca. 5500-4500 cal. BC). According to the archaeological record, a socioeconomic change occurred throughout this period. While organic materials (e.g. bone, plant chaff, dung) were the primary materials in the earliest phase, they were eventually supplanted by ceramic additives and quartz inclusions in later periods. To explore the potential reasons for this change, the present study investigates the technological properties of ceramic vessels from an experimental approach combined with relevant engineering tests (e.g. the Vickers hardness test, three-point bending test). Significant results were obtained concerning the mechanical and physical behaviour of different tempering recipes of early Neolithic potsherds and new insights into their production process. Whereas bone, quartz and grog showed a similar technological performance characterised by low porosity and high fracture strength, dung and chaff were more brittle. These performance traits suggest that potters increasingly produced more resistant and more suitable vessels for cooking purposes throughout the LBK culture. Regarding the methodology, results from this study evidence that both firing methods, the kiln and the electric furnace, are equally suitable for conducting experimental tests. Finally, this study answers some questions regarding the technological properties of tempering options in the LBK but also exposes many others relevant for future research.
Understanding Ancient Greek Textile Production and the Domestic Economy through Experimental Archaeology
Richard Joseph Palmer
UNC Asheville (USA)
This paper outlines the experimental weaving project of an ancient Greek chlamys to investigate the weaving production capacity of a typical household and reconstruct women’s contribution to household GDP in ancient Greece. While some scholars have researched finer textiles and techniques based on visual evidence, very little is known about the skills and time needed for the production of the most basic clothing form (the chlamys) produced in an ancient Greek domestic setting. The experiment, which involved the creation of a single heddle warp weighted loom based on archaeological and iconographic evidence, found that a team of three weavers could spin and weave this common use textile in roughly three to four weeks. Cutting extra long warp threads made this process easier, as multiple garments can be made with one warp and then separated once they have been taken off the loom. Based on these results, it is possible to calculate the amount of money that an average household could earn in a calendar year. The author estimated that a family could sell enough textiles to make about 60-140 drachmae a year, while still keeping some textiles for their own use. As an experimental archaeology project, this research sheds light on aspects of Greek household economics, the contribution of women’s household labor, and craft production skills within the domestic context.
Experimental Archaeology as Pottery Learning
Lilian Panachuk1, Alissa Rezende2, Giuliano Toniolo3, Laila Kierulff4
1 G.E.S.T.O., Museu de História Natural e Jardim Botânico – UFMG (Brazil)
2 G.E.S.T.O., Ateliê Chão do Cerrado (Brazil)
3 Mestre do Mato (Brazil)
4 Ceramic Master (Brazil)
Archaeological experimentation has been used since the beginning of the formation of our discipline, but it has seldom had reflections from the body producing the artifact. This is the focus of our work, to demonstrate and debate the pottery learning process so that we can think about the archaeological pieces in relation to technical gestures.
The experimental exercise included the constant practice in the production of ceramic pieces according to the traditional procedures described by ethnography and archeology. To have a material orientation, we used as a focus of our replicas the ceramic containers of an archaeological site in the Doce River basin (municipality of Ituêta, state of Minas Gerais), excavated and studied by the team of the Museum of Natural History and Botanical Garden of the Federal University of Minas Gerais. These replicas are now part of the Museum's permanent exhibition.
This experimental exercise also included the experience in groups of potters and in the practice of pottery in ceramic workshops, especially those guided by the master potters Laila Kierulff and Adriana Martinez. Each has over 30 years of work with ceramics, producing and teaching the technique in Brazil and Argentina, respectively. They are women who have dedicated their lives to pottery, thought of as an object that transforms reality. They treat pottery like a trade and dedicate themselves to it with vitality and rigor. Through this combination of experimental archeology and plastic arts, we intend to approach traditional ceramic production by outlining a thorough and informed description of these artifacts.
Bast, Ferns, and Mud: Experimental Recreation of a Kapa Kaha (Barkcloth)
Independent researcher (USA)
Prior to European arrival, kapa (bark cloth) fabric was used for everything from clothing to bedding in Hawaiʻi. Rapidly replaced by imported textiles, this craft was virtually extinct by the end of the 19th century. In the mid-20th century, several pioneering women revived this ancient practice through years of experimentation and dedicated research. Their legacy lives on as present-day practitioners and students continue to keep this tradition alive. In this experiment, I chose to recreate a kapa referred to as “kaha,” as detailed in Samuel Kamakau's seminal book, “Na Hana a ka Poʻe Kahiko.” The historic literature surrounding kapa is fragmentary at best, with methods of kapa production often described in only minor detail. Kamakau's explanation of the making of kapa kaha stands out as descriptive enough to allow for reproduction. In this paper, I detail my attempt at making kapa kaha through several experiments, drawing on literature, oral tradition, and personal innovation in this quest.
Caught Red-Handed: a Methodology for Exploring the Taphonomic Process of Ochre Staining on Bone
University of Cambridge (UK)
The presence of red ochre in burials, both processed and unprocessed, is seen globally dating back to the Upper Palaeolithic. In archaeological contexts where the ochre has been powdered there are different types of pigment staining. It can be found completely encasing the individual, or highly concentrated, staining specific bones, such as the skull. Alternatively, it might only stain the surrounding sediment, often creating a shadow of colour outlining the skeleton. The process of ochre transfer onto bones as a taphonomic change has largely been neglected, despite it being evidence for unified funerary behaviours of past societies. Discussions of specific incidents of ochre use in burials have led to assertions about the ochre application process, often supposing the inclusion of shrouds or other inorganic material. Following methods developed in Forensic Anthropology, which have identified the separate processes and stages in decomposition, this research is an experimental study of ochre-to-bone transfer. The experiment compares ochre staining on bone, skin, hair, and animal fur. Ochre was applied to each of these materials in association with pig legs and buried for two years. These were then excavated and block-lifted to enable thin sectioning which demonstrated that ochre’s propensity to stain bone is closely related to the material to which it was applied. This has determined that the patterns of ochre staining can indicate on which of these materials ochre was applied during mortuary practices, allowing us a far deeper insight than we previously had. In comparing these experimental results to ochre stained human remains from archaeological contexts, it has been possible to contribute further understanding of burial processes involving ochre.
Warping the Diamonds – a Viking Age Way of Warping broken lozenge Twill on a Warp-Weighted Loom
Caroline Persson (Sweden)
There are several ways of warping a warp-weighted loom, but due to the scarcity of textile finds, it is difficult to know how the set-up of the warp was made in the Viking Age.
One published photograph of a diamond or broken lozenge twill find from Birka (Viking Age, Sweden) had a preserved warp set-up edge, which didn’t look like the edges we got with our usual warping methods for the warp-weighted loom. Since we had the photo to go by, our aim was to 1) recreate the set-up edge 2) see if it was possible to weave a broken lozenge twill with our set-up.
The technique we found to resemble the find from Birka the most is a looped edge with a “double tabby” set-up. This worked well together with a technique for 2/2-twills (called the Icelandic technique at the Bäckedal course). It also worked for the broken lozenge twill, which makes this a plausible way for at least one Iron Age weaver (the one who wove the find) to have set up their weave.
This experiment was performed as a project at a course on Bäckedal Folkhögskola, but not initiated by the school. However, it would not have been possible without the support of Ellinor Sydberg and Sofie Durling.
A lot of Hot Air: Exploring Air Production in Viking Era Bellows
Independent Scholar (Canada)
Little is known about the bellows of the Viking Era as only two images remain at Hylestad, Norway and Ramsund, Sweden. Forced air systems, such as bellows, increase fire temperatures allowing for activities such as bead making, casting, black smithing, and iron smelting. The volume and pressure of the air flow generated are critical variables in the use and control of these enhanced fires. Three reconstructed bellows based on this limited evidence were tested with varied settings for throw height, downward pressure, and with different air resistance elements in place to stand for their use environments (such as a smelter). This paper presents the historical evidence for the bellows, the test harness and instruments used, as well as the experimental data on air pressure, velocity, and blast patterns from those test runs. The goal is to explore the relationship between the size of the bellows, theoretical and actual air production in addition to understanding how output pressure and volume are impacted by rhythm, force, and back-pressure with the intention to extend beyond this specific cultural pattern into other styles of bellows and cultures.
Lighting The Art – An investigation into European Upper Palaeolithic Lamp Technology through Experimental Archaeology and 3D modelling
University of Liverpool (UK)
This project focused on lamps from the Upper Palaeolithic and their use for illuminating deep cave spaces, as an indispensable mobile lighting tool. The specifics of lamp materials and their varying characteristics has often been overlooked when considering the context of creation, and when previous models of cave illumination have been produced.
There is some question as to the varied function of lamp wicks and their constituent makeup. By evaluating the use of plants and animals in Upper Palaeolithic Europe, a feasible experimental project has been conducted to identify and examine the viability of different wicks and fat fuels, and their properties of illumination and beyond. Analysis of the data was used to suggest likely materials for lamps where this evidence does not survive in the record and in what context materials may have been specifically chosen, for different working conditions.
By 3D modelling the results in the modelling software Blender, the potential illumination capabilities of Upper Palaeolithic lamps can be visualised and used to discredit assumptions about ‘feeble’ and ‘low’ light levels of lamp light. The association between lamps and art may suggest a use beyond illumination or navigation, as highlighted by the individual characteristics of the different wick materials. Exploring theories of sensory and spiritual aspects of cave art and its spatial context, the data can be applied to further our understanding of the imagery itself.
A House Biography: Building and Burning an Experimental Reconstruction of a Neolithic House
Diederik Pomstra, Annelou van Gijn, Annemieke Verbaas & Leo Wolterbeek
Universiteit Leiden (the Netherlands)
In the summer of 2012 we built a reconstruction of a Late Neolithic house plan in collaboration with the Dutch National Forestry Service in Horsterwold. The aim was to fully document and quantify the house building process, quantifying labor time, materials used and the amount of time each tool was handled, from a chaîne opératoire perspective. Only stone age tools were used and their biographies were carefully documented for microwear analysis. Over the years, repairs were carried out as the house was used by visitors and students alike. After a 3D scan and careful documentation of the inside contents, the house was intentionally burned down March 2019. The fire was monitored and the remains were excavated only a few months later.
Here, we present the results of the analysis of the building process, some of the results of the microwear analysis of the experimental tools, the fire and, finally, the results of the excavation as the last stage of the structure’s biography. Our experience with the construction, repair and use of the Horsterwold structure has taught us many lessons about the life expectancy of such houses, their repair and use. Meanwhile the Horsterwold house has a successor at Masamuda, the open-air centre near Rotterdam, where we built the same structure again. This house will be the centre for a new project 'Putting life into Late Neolithic houses: investigating domestic craft and subsistence activities through experiments and material analysis'. This collaborative research, which will heavily involve the local Masamuda volunteers, will focus on researching the activities that went on in and around the house and the way people moved around in the surrounding wetland landscape.
Quantifying Fuel Consumption in a functional Hearth over a 24hr Period
Alexander J.E. Pryor
University of Exeter (UK)
Since the Lower Palaeolithic, fire has been fundamental to a diverse range of activities and capabilities relevant for life. It therefore follows that curating and collecting fuel to burn, mostly dead wood, has been an equally fundamental part of the human experience – particularly hunter-gatherers – yet, fuel collection has received relatively little attention compared to other aspects of fire technology.
Fuelling a fire can be considered from two angles – fuel availability and fuel requirements. Ethnographic accounts of hunter-gatherer communities make clear that fuel availability places enormous demands on groups. Fuel collection generally follows a principle of least effort model, with wood closest to the campsite gathered first. As wood is consumed, travelling distances become incrementally greater the longer a group stays in one place. Eventually, travelling distances become unsustainable and groups abandon a site, rendering it effectively uninhabitable until the dead wood fuel is replenished naturally. Thinking through the deadwood fuel supply therefore provides a novel route into modelling hunter-gatherer settlement and mobility across a landscape according to fuel availability, rather than food.
This paper focuses on the fuel demand aspect of these models. It reports an experiment to quantify fuel consumption when burning a functional open air campfire for 24hrs used for cooking, heat, light and various technological activities, modelled loosely on the types of hearth found widely at Upper Palaeolithic sites across central and eastern Europe. The paper reports the data collected and comments on the problems and challenges of undertaking such a test.
From the Body to the Mind: Experimental Archaeology and Human Health
Anita Radini1,2, Jessica Bates1, Andy Needham1 and Aimée Little1
1 YEAR Centre, Department of Archaeology, University of York (UK)
2 York JEOL Nanocentre, University of York (UK)
There is a growing interest in the potential that Experimental Archaeology holds for our understanding of the impact on health of ancient and traditional crafts, both to better understand past technologies and labour division as well as in response to the growing need of giving a healthier future to Heritage Crafts. An increasing body of evidence exists that ‘crafts, arts and outdoor living’ can play a very important role in people's wellbeing in our modern world, with positive effects on both physical and mental health. Experimental Archaeology encompasses all of the above aspects and more, with a balance between contrasting negative and positive effects of ancient and traditional crafts on health. Despite the potential to improve our understanding of the history of disease, inequality and labour division as well as the health benefits today, a comprehensive dialogue on the role of Experimental Archaeology in Human Health is still lacking. This paper aims to explore how cross-disciplinary approaches in Experimental Archaeology and ‘reliving the past’ can help to improve our understanding of health in modern and future societies, promoting creativity and contact with nature whilst also providing important data on Heritage Crafts today. It will achieve its aims by providing examples/case studies from experimental work to show the hardship of living conditions generated by some ancient crafts as well as presenting new applications of Experimental Archaeology for improving community mental health and well-being.
Bears, Boar, People and Points: An experimental Investigation into the Production of Irish Late Mesolithic Bone Points and its Implications for wider Research
UCD, CEMAC (Ireland)
This paper details the results of experiments conducted at University College Dublin, which included the testing of varying stages of Mesolithic bone production and their implication on tool quality and wider research. Experimental research on the production of osseous tools has largely been conducted using resources from deer, elk, or other large ungulates such as horse or cattle. However, how do these tried and tested production practices work when applied to areas where mammalian fauna was limited, and the common fauna we know associate with the European prehistoric landscape were missing? This is the case in the Irish Mesolithic where the variety of larger mammals were limited.
One of only six bone tool collections dating to the Irish Mesolithic is the Cutts assemblage from the lower Bann river, Northern Ireland. It is both the largest assemblage and the only one to have been previously studied. It is the ideal candidate to test common production methods with the aim of utilizing chaîne opératoire techniques to tailor the production sequence to these tools, their animal source and inclusive of the active parties involved.
By employing both chaîne opératoire principles and actualist experimentation to the study of the production of The Cutts assemblage, this project has worked to consolidate the previous work conducted on the collection. It assesses the current state of knowledge and tests a proposed but untested production sequence. This was achieved using proxies of Irish fauna in the hope of tailoring the production sequence whilst further highlighting the challenges of dealing with resources proxies, largely collections not researched and organic material culture.
Textile Culture in Pompeii: Experimental Reproduction of Ceramic Loom Weights
Sapienza University of Rome (Italy)
This paper presents the preliminary results of research concerning the ceramic loom weights found in the archaeological site of Pompeii (Naples-Italy). This research is part of a PhD project which takes place within the "Textile culture in Pompeii" study directed by Prof. M. Galli, in collaboration with the Pompeii Archaeological Park. The analysis of these artifacts seeks to provide a further key to understanding and reconstructing the textile production in the Vesuvian city. An experimental protocol has been established to determine the role of loom weights within the chaîne opératoire. First of all, a reference archaeological sample was selected - 34 ceramic loom weights from the domus of Giulio Polibio - with specific morphometric characteristics. During the first phase of the trial 24 experimental copies were realized: 12 made out of refractory clay and 12 with a mixture of refractory clay and sand. The objects were prepared using the following variables: handmade, beaten with wooden tablet and beaten on a support surface. The suspension hole was made using a pointed stick, when the clay was still fresh, and/or with a drill, when the clay was already dry. The last step of the experimental methodology involved the baking of the weights in the kiln at a temperature of around 700°.
The second phase of the trial consisted of the analysis of the technological traces found on the experimental objects with the use of a low magnification stereomicroscope. This step, of paramount importance within the methodological process, has led to the creation of a significant set of comparisons, crucial to the study of the archaeological materials. The results obtained with the experimentation have allowed us to understand the manufacturing techniques for the loom weights.
Experiments to Recreate Hand Prints with Designs Found on Early Rock Art Panels in Colombia, S. America
Mark Robinson, Linda Hurcombe, Jose Iriarte and students
University of Exeter (UK)
One of the most significant finds of rock art have been found on specially-prepared rock walls in Serranía de la Lindosa, Colombia. This is one of the largest collections of rock art found in South America. The recorded drawings, likely first made around 12,600 and 11,800 years ago, are in rock shelters on hills in the Colombian Amazon. The paintings, identified during landscape surveys, depict geometric shapes, human figures, and handprints, as well as hunting scenes and people interacting with plants, trees, and savannah animals. The vibrant red pictures were produced over a period of hundreds, or possibly thousands, of years. There are many different motifs and the rock art panels are extensive. Some of the hand prints have a novel feature as they include patterns within the handprint itself. These include wavy lines and a spiral-like design. These extra motifs are negative spaces within the hand print and so could be made by masking out the design before the transfer of pigment. The group undertook experiments to recreate the designs using a variety of materials as the masking material and varied where these were placed, i.e. on the hand itself or on the surface to which the hand was applied. The experiments are preliminary but explore how the designs could be achieved and consider qualities not often discussed such as ‘stickiness’, consistency and persistence.
Experiments in Quartz: answering Research Questions
Lorenza Lourenço1, Maria Jacqueline Rodet1, Déborah Duarte-Talim2, Adriana Martinez3
1 The Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) (Brazil)
2 The Natural History Museum and Botanical Garden of UFMG (Brazil)
3 Independent ceramist (Brazil)
The practice of archaeological experiments is carried out in order to answer questions that arise during the analysis of materials and studies of archaeological sites. Among the raw materials used in experiments by archaeologists around the world, the various types of quartz have been often neglected since this raw material has been considered as a second choice by past groups. However, these minerals were widely used throughout Brazilian prehistory, as pointed out by the various publications resulting from studies of archaeological collections. During the analysis of materials found in archaeological sites in the Central Brazil and the Amazon, questions emerged regarding the stigmas left by certain knapping techniques and important doubts about the thermal transformation of amethyst to citrine crystals. In an attempt to resolve such doubts, experiments with quartz crystals and pebbles were carried out to observe, mainly, two aspects: stigmas of percussion on an anvil (bipolar percussion) and thermal contact. The experiments were executed in a controlled manner and with constant monitoring by capable professionals in the area; the data were recorded systematically and subsequently analyzed. Based on the results, it was possible to expand the knowledge about the behavior of amethyst crystals when subjected to a certain amount of heat, as well as specific stigmas of the percussion on an anvil in crystals and quartz pebbles, as well as in hammers and anvils. The research contributed to the expansion of knowledge about this raw material and its use in prehistory.
Re-constructions, 3D Models and Soundscapes at Jarrow Hall
Marco Romeo-Pitone1, Gianluca Foschi2 and Rebecca Romeo-Pitone3
1 Jarrow Hall Anglo-Saxon Farm, Village and Bede Museum, EXARN (Experimental Archaeology Newcastle University) (UK)
2 McCord Centre for Landscape, Newcastle University (UK)
3 Apex Acoustics Ltd (UK)
At Jarrow Hall Anglo-Saxon Farm, Village and Bede Museum we have been carrying out structural assessments, recording the current conditions of the timber buildings built back in the 1990s, and planning minor and major conservation interventions. The task has been complicated by the lack of any previous dedicated documentation. It was decided to produce a 3D scan of two re-constructed buildings: “Building A” and the “Grandstand” from the early medieval sites of Thirlings and Yeavering (Northumberland – UK). This allowed us to obtain accurate plans and orthogonal projections of each internal and external wall, and facilitated the creation of appropriate forms for data collection in future assessment and planning activities. The 3D scan offered the opportunity to carry out a new experiment aimed to retrieve not only the visual, but also the oral experience of Anglo-Saxon domestic and public spaces. The re-constructions have been surveyed with a Laser Scanner and the obtained digital models have been compared to the original archaeological data. Digital acoustic simulations have been performed on the models using the ODEON Room Acoustics software and calibrating their sound parameters according to binaural recordings made on-site at Jarrow Hall. The project explored different aspects relating to these buildings such as the behaviour of light in “Building A”, and its sound properties taking into consideration different wall-materials, or the acoustics of the “Grandstand”, examining the digital model built on the excavator’s drawings. The outcomes of this project provide new data to the study of Anglo-Saxon timber buildings, opening new interpretation pathways, implementing digital modelling with soundscape studies in experimental archaeology.
A-mace-ing know-how: Reconstructing Southern Levantine Metallurgy in the Chalcolithic
Thomas Rose1,2, Yarden Pagelson1 and Yuval Goren1
1 Department of Bible, Archaeology and Ancient Near East, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (Israel)
2 Department of Antiquity, Sapienza University of Rome (Italy)
The metallurgical technology of the Chalcolithic Southern Levant is scarcely represented in the archaeological record. While some (s)melting installations are known, the preserved remains are by no means sufficient to allow a detailed reconstruction of the metallurgical process chain from the archaeological record alone. Additionally, especially remains from the lost-wax casting process – used to make e.g. most of the metal objects found in the Nahal Mishmar hoard – were not found yet, except for mould remains left on the objects. The whole process, i.e. melting a copper alloy and using it for lost-wax casting, was aimed to be reconstructed in an archaeological experiment to answer two main questions: Does the experimental reconstruction of the melting process produce features comparable to those found in the archaeological record? Can the remains from the lost-wax casting process be identified in the archaeological record? The archaeological experiment consisted of three parts: Recreating the mould and crucibles, melting and casting, and testing the identifiability of the mould remains. A mace head was chosen as template and three different local clays were used for the crucibles to gain inferences about their behaviour in metallurgical processes. Due to the scarcity of the archaeological record, large parts of the wax modelling and mould preparation process were considerably inspired by ethnographical records from Nepal and India. The experiments did not succeed in melting the metal. However, they were successful in producing many of the features observed in the archaeological record and giving valuable indications about the (in)visibility of the lost-wax casting technology.
Toxic Taters: how Ethnography, Experimental Archaeology and the modern Kitchen can improve the safety Potatoes
Washington College (USA)
Although focused on the past, the experimental archaeological approach can provide tangible lessons hat have the ability to make significant improvements to our modern lives. This is especially true when ancestral and traditional foodways provide the foundation for experiment research. Part formal presentation and part cooking demonstration, this presentation provides that an example of how a combination of ethnographic fieldwork in Bolivia and Peru and experimental archaeology can be fused with modern culinary techniques to improve the safety and nutrient bioavailability in our modern consumption of potatoes. Potatoes were first domesticated in the area of study approximately 10,000 years ago. The wild ancestor as well as many early varieties are incredibly toxic and require processing to render them safe prior to human consumption. Despite genetic changes through time, modern domesticated potatoes available worldwide remain toxic, albeit less so than many ancestral varieties. This research was undertaken to see if traditional detoxification strategies can be modified to improve the safety and nutrient bioavailability in a modern global context.
Studies to find out how Loom Weights of varying Shapes and varying Holes are combined with the Warp
Natural History Museum in Vienna (Austria)
The use and attachment of differently shaped loom weights shall be tested on a small warp weighted loom. The loom was made for use exclusively in experiments and tests. It is small, easy to dismantle and transportable. The construction is not based on a singular archaeological finding, but represents the principles of how warp weighted looms are constructed now.
The experiments are based on the types of loom weights that are stored in the archives of the Natural History Museum in Vienna. These loom weights are, for example, discoid, pyramidal or conical; some have a relatively large asymmetrical hole while others have such a small hole that not all of the threads in the bundle of the warp threads can be pulled through. So – if one sticks to the assumption that they are also loom weights – another way of knotting them to the warp must have been used.
My research does not focus on the wooden construction. The research is focussed exclusively on everything that concerns loom weights and suspension.
I chose wool as material and twill binding.
Results will be presented in the following order:
- the method of knotting the loom weights to the warp threads
- the outcome of the fabric
- additional comments and observations
Through the work done, some suggestions can be made in regard to the question which other tools are needed, but have not been handed down to us.
An interdisciplinary Approach to understanding natural Mummification and superficial Desiccation of Human Remains: Experiments at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research
Eline M.J. Schotsmans1, 2, Blake M. Dawson1, Shari L. Forbes3, Christopher J. Knüsel2, Susan Luong1, Justyna J. Miszkiewicz4, Linda C. Prinsloo1, Richard G. Roberts1, Tahlia J. Stewart4, Barbara H. Stuart5, Paul Thomas5, Maiken Ueland5, James F. Wallman1, 5, Christopher J. Watson3
1 University of Wollongong (Australia)
2 Université de Bordeaux (France)
3 Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (Canada)
4 The Australian National University (Australia)
5 University of Technology Sydney (Australia)
Under appropriate conditions decomposition processes can be slowed and the body preserved. In archaeo-anthropology, observations of diagenetic alterations in bone microstructure are increasingly used to reconstruct post-mortem processes, such as intentional mummification prior to interment. This approach is, however, the subject of ongoing discussions within the disciplines of taphonomy and funerary archaeology, with limited experimental data published to date. This study discusses the design and outcomes of actualistic experiments with human remains conducted at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER). The aim is to increase our understanding of the processes that lead to mummification and superficial desiccation, and their diagenetic signatures in bone. Results confirm that a specific combination of weather conditions and body placement is essential to promote complete natural mummification. In this presentation, the experimental design and preliminary results, including those relating to differential preservation, entomology, botany, disarticulation sequences, bone histological markers, bone crystalline structure, and volatile organic compounds will be discussed from an interdisciplinary perspective. The ultimate goal of this study is to develop and validate methods for the identification of mummification practices in the past.
An Experimental Study in Replicating Oneonta Pottery: A Study of the Transformative Properties of the Paddle and Anvil Method of Pottery Production
Sarah E. Schultz (USA)
Pottery production throughout the Prehistoric Midwestern United States illustrates a wide range of techniques and skill levels. While earlier Woodland pots demonstrate simple coil techniques, the later Oneota period exhibit a massive shift in technology. The pots from the Oneota period are considerably larger than their earlier Woodland counterparts. This drastic change in size is coupled by a decreasing in wall thickness. The temper used for these massive pots shift from grit temper to shell tempering, and this shell tempering laminates within the clay body.
This experiment was designed to examine Oneota sherds to determine possible construction techniques and replicate them. Previous experiments have shown that coil building these pots have not been successful as the pots repeatedly collapsed while being constructed or while drying, and the temper lamination was not replicated. Markings were identified on archeological sherds, including depressions on the insides of the pots and paddle markings on the outsides, indicating that these pots were likely a result of the paddle and anvil method of construction. Furthermore, this method has been shown to produce the lamination effect seen within the cross sections of the pottery. This experiment measured the transformation in size, thickness and temper lamination that take place during the paddle and anvil process and compared these results to what was found within Oneota sherds.
Stone Soup: Experiments in Soapstone Cookware in a Norse Context
Richard Schweitzer & Sarah Scroggie
Dark Ages Recreation Company (Canada)
In a culture where pottery was relatively rare and metal was expensive, soapstone was a common material for Norse cookware. Soapstone was readily accessible, relatively easy to work with, cheap, durable, and it retained the heat well. Even today, you can still purchase stoves with soapstone cooking surfaces. This was an important item of manufacture and was traded widely.
Norse soapstone pots varied greatly in size and shape. Do the different shapes reflect regional variations in manufacture, differences in purpose or usage, or are they an indication of different cooking styles?
To examine this, a number of pots, representing a range of finds, were constructed and then handed over to the cooks to experiment with. The soot patterns were then examined for comparison. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the various styles of soapstone pots, contextual insights can be made into the technological choices made by the Norse and possibly lead to better understanding of Norse cooking techniques.
This session will document the results of use and suggest experiments that can be pursued to generate additional insights.
An Archaeological Experiment to Reconstruct a Compound Bow of the Sintashta Culture Stepnoe Burial Ground
Ivan Semyan1 and Spyros Bakas2, 3
1 South Ural State University / Archaeos: experimental archaeology association (Russia)
2 University of Warsaw (Poland)
3 Koryvantes: association of historical studies (Greece)
In 2019 an international experimental study began on the reconstruction of the “compound” bow of the Sintashta culture of the Bronze Age (South Ural, Russia). The project is carried out by a collective of researchers from Greece and Russia as part of the grant program of the world association of experimental archaeology EXARC - “Twinning program”.The high role of long-range weapons in the life of the Sintashta society has been repeatedly noted by researchers, but the weapon production process, as well as the problems of the evolution of warfare, are poorly known for the Ural Bronze Age. A complex of horn parts from barrow 4, pit 13 of the Stepnoe burial ground (Chelyabinsk region) was chosen as the object for the reconstruction of a Sintashta bow as the most interesting examples from a construction point of view. For a reliable interpretation of this category of artifacts, the authors reviewed the global context of the design features of finds of the Bronze Age bows. Analysis of the materials revealed evolutionary trends in the development of long-range weapons, as well as localizing various traditions. Using authentic technologies and materials, the authors of the article managed to make 4 versions of the bow reconstruction prior to obtaining a successful version.
Overcoming Hurdles: An experimental Approach to Hurdles in Scaffolding
Throughout history humans have found ways to reach places not physically possible for them to reach, as demonstrated by the paintings in the caves at Lascaux, the construction of medieval cathedrals across Europe and pyramids around the world.
Today ladders and scaffolding are common methods, however, ease of access and safety have always been important. In Gunther Binding’s book Medieval Building Techniques, there are some intriguing clues to be found. In this paper we will look at the use of wicker hurdles as scaffold board.
Firstly, we consider the availability of the raw materials, the affordance of the creation of a wicker hurdle against a split plank, from harvesting to creating the final produce. Then an assessment of the qualities which affect their performance is made.
The author has found no information on the strength and performance of wicker hurdles, including the strength of hot-air balloon baskets that fall under aircraft regulations, so conducted experiments to ascertain their physical qualities.
The physical performance, in terms of weight, strength, fixing in place, longevity and failure mode was tested by experiment, comparing a modern scaffold board with a wicker hurdle and a piece of riven timber. There were limitations on the size of the sample that was possible to test.
The most striking finding was that boards fail suddenly and catastrophically, whereas hurdles ‘fail with redundance’ i.e. another part of the structure takes the load. Hurdles are lighter, easy to tie in place and provide better grip in the wet/mud.
This project leads on to the use of wicker for structural support in the ancient world, including trackways, wall and roof structures, temporary works, boats, ladders as well as scaffolding.
Archaeological Open-Air Museums as Agents of Social Change: A Virtual Shared Authority Experiment
University of Exeter (UK)
As our societies become more diverse and the demographics of heritage visitors change, many open-air museums have concerns about how to attract new visitors and remain relevant. Making a shift to an activist approach is one way museums can evolve to better serve their visitors and community.
In light of recent cultural movements and trends, institutions are being challenged to look critically at their own biases. Although many traditional museums are doing this, very few open-air museums have. This is an ideal opportunity for open-air museums, as their immersive experience is uniquely suited to techniques intended to diversify involvement museums.
This experiment tested the empowerment potential of a shared authority project in an open-air museum. Participants provided input on how to furnish a virtual roundhouse ‘authentically’. Participants were surveyed before and after the activity about their definitions of authenticity, opinions of their own ability to participate meaningfully in such work, and the goals of museums.
The experiment produced two data sets. The results of the roundhouse activity itself provide insights into how much evidence participants require in order to consider artefacts authentic, showing a high level of consistency between participants. The surveys reveal trends in participants’ opinions about museums’ purposes and the potential for museums to be agents of change. The majority of participants feel that museums can be a tool for empowerment, and reported feeling more able to engage with this work after completing the activity. More felt the public could play a role in determining authenticity after completing the exercise than before. The data show that these projects can be effective at engaging visitors and deepening their thinking about the museum.
Playing with Fire at the Southern Tip of Africa
School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)
The role of fire in our evolution is undisputed and it is not surprising that much experimental archaeology involves the use of fire to provide analogues for possible processes and interpretations of human behaviour in the past. Here I describe experiments with fire to address taphonomic issues at Sibudu Cave and Border Cave, two long sequence sites inland from the east coast of South Africa. Both sites have extraordinarily well preserved botanical remains from the Middle Stone Age. These include bedding up to about 77,000 years old at Sibudu and about 200,000 years old at Border Cave. Bedding consists of layers of grasses and sedges laid down to provide a clean surface for sitting, working and sleeping. The experiments detailed here illustrate the use of experimental archaeology to identify the bedding, the plants in the bedding and the strategies used by our species to organise, sanitize and maintain their living space. Also described are experiments with modern material to identify starchy underground foods and their processing at Border Cave about 170,000 years ago.
Leave your Stamp: Reconstruction of Scarabs Production Chain
Natasha Solodenko-Vernovsky1, Noa Ranzer1, Alex Kuklin1, Inbar Meyerson1, Evgeny Gasin2, Ortal Harosh1 & Ido Koch1
1 The Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University (Israel)
2 Jerusalem Traditional Archery Club (Israel)
Scarabs (beetle-shaped seals) were the most common form of stamp-seals in the southern Levant during the second millennium BCE. Originating in Egypt, they were first imported to the southern Levant during the end of Middle Bronze Age I (20th century BCE), leading to a flourishing local production by the Middle Bronze Age II and III (ca. 19th–16th centuries BCE). Scarabs were once again largely imported from Egypt during the Late Bronze Age (16th–12th centuries BCE) when local manufacture halted.
Most scarabs were made from steatite—a soft talc-schist that enables the easily shaping and forming of the seal. Noteworthy, the softness of this stone requires special skills and techniques to avoid breakage while creating such tiny items (about 2–3-cm long), especially during the drilling process. Eventually, steatite objects were glazed and fired, methods that turned them harder and colorful.
We examined the production chain of such seals by experiment. The reconstruction of the process was based on several sources such as archaeological evidence from Egypt and the southern Levant, Egyptian pictorial and textual descriptions, and the results of previous experiments on stone beads. The process started with creating a roughout, followed by drilling, polishing, and engraving. During the experiment we used various tools that were made from different materials, such as flint, bronze, copper, wood and bone, in order to recognize the working materials which were applicable for seal production.
In addition, our experiment was aimed at practical experience and teaching the basics of experimental archaeology to students who participated in this experiment.
Replicate Plant Processing REVEALs Ground Stones complex Biography
Giusi Sorrentino1, Alessandro Lo Giudice1, Alessandro Re1, Alessandro Borghi1, Laura Longo2
1 University of Turin (Italy)
2 Ca’ Foscari University of Venice (Italy)
Investigating plants processing in archaeological records is not an easy task, since they are perishable and unlikely to be preserved. We focused on the tools used to grind and pound different parts of the plants, such as roots, tubers, bulbs, seeds and kernels, which need tenderization prior to consumption. My PhD project -Retrieve a novel: new multi-scale surface texture analysis of ground stone tools (REVEAL)- is developing an integrated multi-scale methodological approach to investigate the wear traces left on stone surfaces by the different parts of plant processing.
The case-study is the cave site of Brînzeni I (Moldova), where 114 putative ground stones were retrieved in the Aurignacian cultural layer III. Such a high number of macrolithic tools was never recorded in any acknowledged Early Upper Palaeolithic site of the Pontic steppe.
The methodological approach is tested on ongoing replication experiments, according to a standardized protocol:
- selection of plants to be tenderized, compatibles with the biome of Moldova during the Upper Palaeolithic and/or attested as used plants for nutrition by ethnography;
- selection of cobbles and pebbles for tools with similar characteristics to the archaeological samples (by means of petrographic analysis);
- detailed protocol to document the wear formation process and the stone geometry modification during the use, of the different plants, at given time (T0, T1, T2, etc.);
- application of techniques with increasing magnification power, from macro to micro and nano scale.
The creation of a reference collection of use-wear traces will be used to compare the feature occurring on Brînzeni’s ground stones and to make inference on their biography.
Different Types of Needles for specific Uses? Experimental Reproductions of some Finds from Aradetis Orgora, Georgia
Sara Maria Stellacci
LTFAPA Laboratory of Technological and Functional Analyses of Prehistoric Artefacts, “La Sapienza” University of Rome (Italy)
Georgian-Italian Shida Kartli Archaeological, “Ca’ Foscari” University of Venice (Italy)
Five needles with different morphological features were found in the Bronze Age layers of the Aradetis Orgora site. Whereas in two of these the eye and the hole are more or less in accordance with the common idea of a needle, in the remaining ones the eye has a quadrangular shape and a much larger size. The analysis of techno-functional traces showed that these tools probably had a specific role in the processing of plants and in particular in basketry-related activities. An experimental reconstruction of these tools is crucial for a precise characterization of their function. The first step of the experimental protocol has been the construction of objects for which techniques and tools were used that are supposed to be similar to the ancient ones. As a second step, different sewing techniques have been reproduced on different materials (various types of plants and leather) with the help of expert craftsmen. Experimental reproduction together with the comparison between the experimental traces and the archaeological ones not only served to understand how these specific needles were used (the gestures used with the needle on a specific material), but also to highlight the craft activities carried out within the site during the Bronze Age.
Roman Cheese Making
Scott D Stull
SUNY Cortland (USA)
Columella, in his text on agriculture De re rustica Book VII, provides instruction on the production techniques for Roman cheese making and says to use either a basket or a mold to consolidate the cheese curds. Using a ceramic mold modelled on museum examples and baskets made following images from Pompeii, the process described by Columella is used and the results compared for different cheesemaking approaches. Different temperatures and heating methods are tested to examine curd production. Columella does not specify the addition of cheese culture or acid, as is practiced in modern cheese making, but rennet-only dairy such as the Spanish cuajada does exist but is not typically pressed. Both acidic and rennet-only cheeses are part of this test, along with pressed and unpressed as described by Columella. The addition of other ingredients described by Columella, such as thyme and pine nuts, will also be tested.
Bronze Arrowheads versus the Iron Gate - Testing Early Scythian Archery Gear used in an Ancient Siege
Gábor V. Szabó1 and the Hungarian Historical Archery Society2
1 Eötvös Lóránd University, Department Archaeology of Prehistoric and Early Times (Hungary)
2 http://magyartortenelmiijasz.com/ (Hungary)
One of north-eastern Hungary’s most extensive prehistoric archaeological sites, a fortified settlement on the hilltop of Dédestapolcsány-Verebce-bérc in the Bükk Mountains enchanted several generations of archaeologists. As the most surprising result of the past researches, 234 characteristic early Scythian period (9th–8th century B.C.) bronze arrowheads were found at the so-called "Iron Gate" fortification that protects the settlement from the south. The concentration of the arrowheads clearly indicates that the settlement was attacked. A tower or bastion may have stood on the rampart here and the task of the archers was to capture this or keep the defenders occupied. A significant portion of the arrowheads were damaged or broken, indicating that they struck a hard surface - constructed of wood or from a combined wood/stone technique - with great force. They may have bounced off this or stuck into it, and as the structure fell into ruin, erosion brought them down to the slope below the ramparts and into the ditch. In our experiment we tested replicas of the excavated arrowheads shot with composite Scythian bows on targets representing the possible wooden/stone fortification structure. We compared the damaged replicas with the archaeological finds and examined them using archaeometrical methods to shed light on the circumstances of the early Iron Age siege.
Understanding technological Innovations through Experiment. Construction and testing of Chalcolithic Pottery Kilns
Felix-Adrian Tencariu1, Radu Brunchi1, Stanislav Țerna2, Cristina-Maria Ciobanu1, Andreea Vornicu-Țerna3, Casandra Brașoveanu1, Ana Drob1, Denisa Adumitroaiei1, Knut Rassmann4, Johannes Müller2
1 Arheoinvest Center, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iași (Romania)
2 Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (Germany)
3 Botoșani County Museum (Romania)
4 RGK DAI, Frankfurt (Germany)
Besides its contribution to understanding the process of large settlement formation and complex organization, the Late Chalcolithic (Cucuteni B/Trypillia C1) site of Stolniceni (Republic of Moldova) provided new data on pottery kilns, in terms of technology and significance of their distribution within the settlement. The extensive magnetic surveys revealed a large site, with more than 350 burnt dwellings, hundreds of pits, ditches, paths, and 19 kilns. Of the latter, four were excavated during the 2016-2018 campaigns. Three kilns were more or less similar (in terms of sizes and construction details), belonging to the “simple”, dual chambered, updraught type. The best-preserved of them already served as model for a published experiment conducted in 2017 near the Stolniceni archaeological base. The fourth provided a few surprises, by the identification of six additional holes, arranged around the fire channels and communicating with them, and two small clay arches above the channels’ ends. A plausible hypothesis of the researchers is that these elements were meant to improve the draught, by increasing and uniformizing the circulation of hot air throughout the upper chamber. Thus, we conducted a new experiment (August-September 2020, Băiceni-Romania), to test the hypotheses related to technological innovations and how they act on the firing effectiveness. The firing process and temperatures reached in this type of kiln proved the concern of prehistoric potters for continuous improvement of their craft through innovation, raising questions about the emergence and spread of such ideas.
How did Ancient Egyptians manufacture Mirrors? A new Method of examining their Composition & Microstructure
University of Liverpool (UK)
Ancient Egyptian mirrors have received little analytical attention but when investigated the methods used have been inconsistent and do not always provide representative data. Traditional metal sampling methods such as the use of taper sections are deemed too destructive as they heavily alter the appearance of the disk and surface analysis does not provide accurate compositional information for the bulk metal underneath the corrosion. In order to combat the issue of gathering representative data while subjecting the disk to as little damage as possible, as part of my Master’s thesis, a new minimally destructive sampling and analytical methodology was developed. This experimental approach used flat edge abrasion to expose the bulk metal underneath the corrosion on the edge of the disk, and then the whole artefact was placed inside a large SEM chamber for analysis. This procedure provided the data necessary, just like a taper section, to recreate how the mirrors were manufactured while barely changing the appearance of the mirror. As part of ongoing research the information gathered from archaeological specimens using this method will be used to experimentally produce mirrors in order to examine their original functionality.
How does an ancient Greek Pottery Kiln work? An experimental Investigation into Kiln Technology
Francesca Tomei1 & Juan Ignacio Jimenez Rivero2
1 University of Liverpool (UK)
2 Independent potter specialising in ancient pottery (UK)
This experimental project, funded by the AHRC NWCDTP Fieldwork Fund, aims to reconstruct the building and use of a Classical Greek pottery kiln on the basis of the archaeological evidence of kilns excavated in Greece and Southern Italy. We will first describe the preliminary stages of the experiment that began with the study and development of the plan of the updraft kiln, the preparation of the mudbricks and the floor of the firing chamber, the construction of the combustion chamber and stoking channel of the kiln. In addition, alongside the kiln construction, we have also tried to replicate the chaîne opératoire of the ancient Greek pottery production from clay collection to wheel-throwing and produced fine wares (black gloss Ionic B2 cups, skyphoi and bowls), plain wares (basins, jugs, jars), cooking ware (pans), terracotta figurine and loomweights. The domestic wares and figurines reproduced are mirroring those from a rural workshop (Sant’Angelo Vecchio) in the territory of Metaponto in Southern Italy.
The final stage is to investigate the modes of operation of the kiln during the firing, such as the maximum firing temperature and the time to reach it, as well as the quantity and type of fuel needed for one firing. This latest stage is still to be completed as we were unable to conclude this stage in spring or summer 2020 due to the restrictions imposed by covid-19. We are hoping to finish this last stage in spring/summer 2021.
Reconstruction of the Eneolithic Sanctuary Savin-I in Western Siberia
Archaeos: experimental archaeology association (Russia)
The Savin sanctuary is located in Western Siberia. The site functioned during the Eneolithic. This is a structure of two rings-ditches, forming an eight (тут не понятно что такое eight). The entrance corridors are oriented towards the west and the east. There are no residential buildings, but there is a trampled area in the center, where a number of individuals was buried. Numerous pillars’ pit-holes are registered, locating to mark points of the Sun and Moon’s rise and set. There are various bones of sacrificed animals, specifically those of wild (?) horse and roe deer. The largest accumulations of bones were at the pillars marking the autumn and spring equinox point and the summer solstice point.
The Archaeos Association team carried out work on the analysis of the remains of the sanctuary buildings, namely the post-holes and ditches. We reconstructed the pillars' maximum height (which is from 2.5 m to 3 m), their diameters, and locations. Diagrams showing the location and appearance were drawn and the amount of necessary building materials was calculated. During the construction of the museum complex, experiments were carried out on the processing of logs with stone axes. A wooden idol was constructed. In the fall of 2020, the first open-air museum in the Kurgan region was opened on the ancient sanctuary Savin-1. The museum plans to conduct excursions and master classes dedicated to the history and technology of the Stone Age. In the winter of 2020, the first excursions began operating at the museum.
Investigating the Ancient Heritage of Indian Iron Smelting Technology through Experimental Approach
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) (India)
The main aim of this paper is to understand the iron smelting process of the early historic period in India. Using an experimental approach, as a part of the process of iron smelting, furnaces are broken, and the tuyere is removed to recover the bloom. New furnaces may be then constructed either on the same spot as the previous one or adjacent to it. In the context of archaeological sites, several overlapping sequences of furnace may be interpreted in diverse ways, e.g. successive cultural and heritage phases, different phases of occupation, etc. In this paper I examine this question by looking at the process of furnace construction and destruction in ethnographic, archaeological and experimental studies. For archaeological studies I conduct a survey of previously explored archaeological iron production sites belonging to the Early Historic period (between the 2nd century AD and the 4th century AD) of Iswal and Nathara-Ki-Pal, Rajasthan, India. I include here ethnographic studies which I conducted in and around Udaipur, Rajasthan. I also include experimental studies which I conducted, whereby I carried out three phases of the iron smelting process with the iron ores from the sites of Iswal and Nathara-Ki-Pal, Rajasthan, to understand the process. Through this I am correlating the spatial positioning of the furnace and the number of times it was used in the smelting process in my experimental process and the ethnography to archaeological data. In this study I am also addressing the question of how tuyeres were used in the smelting process, again correlating the ethnographic experimental and archaeological sources in order to understand use and reuse.
4-Dimensional Recording of Fire related Experiments
Ole Fredrik Unhammer & S.J. Armitage
Centre for early sapiens behaviour (SapienCE), Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion, University of Bergen (Norway)
Accurate analysis of data from archaeological experiments requires a good record of the spatial relationships between items. This is particularly true of experimental fires, where many different elements are at play, both above and below ground. As part of a series of fire related experiments carried out by SapienCE researchers in February 2020, the potential for creating 4-Dimensional (4D) spatial and visual records using digital photogrammetry was examined (the fourth dimension being time).
A number of experimental fires were constructed within standardised containers. In order to obtain spatial control over the different components of each fire, we produced 3D recordings at pre-defined stages of each experiment from construction to burning and excavation. This strategy allowed for the reconstruction of spatial relationships between, and the visible changes in, elements within a particular experiment over time. Furthermore, the use of standardised containers and fire construction techniques allowed spatial and visual changes occurring in repeated/related experiments to be compared.
In this presentation, we discuss the accuracy of our 4D reconstructions and problems encountered during the recording process. We also look at how this strategy can provide a more robust dataset for analysing experimental results, and can provide better transparency regarding the practical execution of experiments which in turn increases the ability for successful replication.
Reconstruction of the Ancient Egypt stone Vase
Kemerovo, Antropogenez.ru / Archaeos: experimental archaeology association (Russia)
With a huge variety of experiments on the reconstruction of ancient technologies, the method of making stone vases of the pre-dynastic period of Ancient Egypt has not yet been reproduced. Of particular interest are details of the process of making vessels of complex shapes under the conditions of the Copper Stone Age.
In a 2019 experiment in Kemerovo, Russia, a successful attempt was made to create a bird-shaped stone vase without the use of metal tools. A well-known vessel made of limestone breccia from the Nakada culture, 3100 BC, was chosen as a sample (British Museum, BM35306). The total operating time was 7 and a half months. Working hours: 5 days a week for 6-8 hours (with breaks). Manufacturing and sharpening of tools, soaking / drying of leather and other preparatory work took about 50% of the time. The main stages of work are recorded on video.
Making a vase from solid stone (diorite) using tools.
Product material: Marble breccia, 20 x 20 x 20 cm.
Production region - Krasnoyarsk.
• River sand: 10 l
• Gravel fraction 5-7 mm: 10 handfuls.
• Cow thigh and tibia = 2 saws + drill + 20 needles.
• Sandstone: 7 pieces of different sizes (from 15x9x7 cm to 5x3x0.5 cm).
• Quartzite + flint: 70 stones of different sizes.
• Leather: 1 cow hide.
• Wood: 2 Maplewood.
The MAMOR Database: Measuring Anthropogenic Markings on 3D Ochre Surface Renderings
Elizabeth Velliky1, Tammy Hodgskiss2 & Magnus Haaland1,3
1 Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour (SapienCE), University of Bergen, Bergen (Norway)
2 School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)
3 Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen, Tübingen (Germany)
The use of mineral pigments, such as ochre, is often cited as a key aspect in identifying symbolic behaviours in ancient populations. These uses include creating pigment powder from larger ochre pieces to be used for different practices, both symbolic and functional. The primary method for establishing whether ochre pieces were anthropogenically modified is by studying visible use-traces on their surfaces, which are used to infer the type of behaviour that created them. These practices include grinding, scoring, pecking and knapping. Though previous studies on ochre assemblages have been highly informative, these use-traces are in most cases classified by the behaviours that are thought to have created them, and not by the morphology of their features, which can provide nuanced information about the creation of the use-traces. Here, we present the preliminary results of an experimental study aimed at quantifying and classifying ochre use-traces. We focus primarily on score marks, or incisions, as these traces can provide detailed information about the physical dynamics surrounding their creation. Using focus-stacking micro-photogrammetry, we created high-resolution, geospatially referenced 3D surface models of modified ochre surfaces. The 3D surface models allow for detailed measurements on the modifications, and their geospatial reference allows for geometric morphometric observations on the profile shapes of the incisions. While our primary aim is to apply these methods to archaeological specimens, our ultimate goal is to build an open access database where researchers can actively use and contribute their own 3D surface measurements on ochre modifications.
Reconstructing Medieval Gruit Beer: Looking Beyond the Botanicals
Independent Scholar (USA)
In this video-paper, I will demonstrate a plausible connection between malt and the substance gruit. Gruit was a government-regulated substance used in the brewing of medieval gruit beer, a type of beer found in the European Low Countries. It is also a favorite with living history brewing demonstrations, as well as with craft brewers interested in alternative botanicals. But many gruit-beer experiments only concern themselves with flavor and herbal components. They do not consider how or why the gruit substance may contribute to a longer shelf life, nor the reason its reputation as an essential element in brewing persisted for centuries even after hops came into common use. We know from surviving tax records in the medieval Low Countries that the grain aspect of the malt was at least as important as the botanical inclusions. I will present one experiment that examines how the gruit substance affects fermentation and alcohol content, and therefore shelf life, which leads to greater economic possibilities. A second experiment examines the use of chaff as a source of spontaneous fermentation, which supports gruit’s historical reputation as a desirable malt base rather than simply flavoring.
The Ships of Punt
1 Department of Maritime Archaeology, Western Australia Museum (Australia)
2 Social Studies (Archaeology), University of Western Australia (Australia)
One of the more challenging experimental archaeology projects is the creation and sailing of an ancient boat. Vessels that are built and tested are the ultimate expression, the supreme test in experimental boat archaeology. But it is the process itself—concept, design, construction and sailing—that yields enormous amounts of information and insights.
Because archaeological information is often limited, a multidisciplinary approach—iconography, ethnography, textual records, principles of naval architecture—are often employed. Armed with that information, one can ponder the solutions to the structure of ancient boats, the properties and processing of their materials, the thought processes of the shipwrights, and the sailing capabilities of the vessels. But as McGrail remarked, “. . .the construction and operation of a full-scale replica of a boat may often be the only way that the archaeologist can become aware of the full array of factors involved, and of possible solutions to the problems encountered.” It is often after actual construction begins that one is presented with unanticipated dilemmas. Every step during the construction process has ramifications for the developmental path of the construction, with the danger that any decision will often affect subsequent decisions and hence, the resulting vessel.
This presentation illustrates the reconstruction and sailing of a hypothetical 15th-century BCE Egyptian vessel based on the bas-relief carvings on the Temple of Hatshepsut at Luxor, as well as some archaeological information and input from naval architecture. I will discuss the sources of information, the development of the design, the production of preliminary construction-accurate models, interaction of archaeologists and shipwrights, the construction of the vessel and problems encountered, and what was learned from sailing the vessel.
Experimental Research and the Archaeological Open-Air Museum: perfect Storm or a perfect Partnership?
Butser Ancient Farm (UK)
Since December 2019, a team of staff and volunteers at Butser Ancient Farm in the UK have been constructing a Neolithic house.
This project has two key aims. The main driver was the requirement for a building that could accommodate a large number of people for educational purposes and public events at the site of what is a large AOAM in the South-East of England. The second goal is to demonstrate through experimental construction, that the unusual archaeology upon which the building is based could represent a roofed structure, which had the potential to be a house.
This paper aims to document the processes involved in such a project from conception to completion, from selecting the right archaeological case study to approaches to interpreting the evidence for the purposes of a full-scale construct.
In the 21st century, a number of key factors must be taken into account in the planning and execution of such a project, including modern health and safety regulations, planning restrictions, funding issues and financial constraints, access to the appropriate materials, the degree of ‘risk’ inherent in constructing the selected interpretation and finally public expectation. These will be discussed in the context of the project, exploring how influential they have been in the decision making process and whether this is to the detriment of the experimental component of the project.
The paper will consider whether there is a conflict of interest between experimental research goals and the needs of visitors in an AOAM. Where the needs of the visiting public dictate certain aspects of the project, do these requirements ultimately force us to compromise, or do they encourage us to be more creative and turn constraints to our advantage?
The Comparative Chaîne Opératoire of the Reconstruction of the Hembury Bowl
Potter and independent Researcher (UK)
The Hembury bowl is on exhibition at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. It was found at Hembury Neolithic causewayed enclosure, East Devon. It is carbon dated to 3690-3655 cal BC (Whittle et al., 2011). The bowl is made out of gabbro clay (Peacock, 1969,1988) which comes from the Lizard, Cornwall. There is little experimental archaeology of the gabbro clay and this reconstruction has opened up a whole new area of research into this strange material.
Using a comparative Chaîne Opératoire, with Gosselain’s (2018) categories of mandatory and optional elements for reconstruction of the Hembury bowl, our audience can visualise the whole process of Southwest British, Neolithic ceramic technology. Jeffra (2015) argues for an ‘increased interpretive power’ with the combination of experimental archaeology and the chaîne opératoire. The reconstruction can be treated as an ethnographic observation where the actions of the potter are recorded systematically within the different categories of the ceramic chaîne opératoire. The potter is at the heart of the ceramic chaîne opératoire. Not only are the potter’s ceramic techno-gestures recorded but also her thoughts, questions, decisions, design ideas, planning, her skill and confidence at each stage of building the bowl.
This reconstruction has resulted in several projects, the technical properties of the gabbro clay, the reconstruction of the potter as a participant in a socio-technical landscape of Neolithic Britain, the reconstruction of the Hembury bowl potter as a woman (Arnold, 1988, Gibson 2002, Jones, 2005, Kooijmans, 2010). Further experiments to determine exactly how the potter achieved fine surfaces and large thin walled vessels in gabbro clay and the materials research experiments on shrinkage whilst firing and the plasticity of gabbro clay are to be commenced next year.
Formulating Clay Bodies for Rapid Open-Firings
Independent Researcher and Educator (UK)
It is a well-established proposition that the earliest ceramics were open fired - that is, fired without the aid of any heat-retaining structure. Archaeological evidence of pre-historic open-firing is rare, as the practice was by its very nature, transitory and left very little, lasting trace. However, open-firing traditions - which continue to the present day - provide clear evidence that these firings were often extremely rapid and carried out with little, or no, pre-heating of the vessels. To the experimental archaeologist, these techniques raise the fascinating but often problematic question of how air-dried pots can survive the characteristic and sometimes explosive temperature rise without spalling and dunting? Through several experimental firings and using a range of clay-body formulations, it is demonstrated that the established convention of adding tempering materials to a locally-sourced clay is only part of the solution. Far more important, is to consider the minerology, particle size and particle distribution of the body as a whole: an approach which considers the analysis of the clay and the temper as an integrated system, and one which can be designed to ameliorate the phase-change pressures of mechanically combined water. The results demonstrate that, historically, very workable bodies could be formulated that consistently survive rapid temperature rises to satisfactory ceramic temperatures. It has shown that firings can be achieved in well under thirty minutes and without the need for pre-heating. These outcomes have practical and theoretical implications for experimental firing generally, but more specifically, for firings that characteristically, have temperature/time gradients which are rapid, sporadic, or difficult to control.