Designing Experiments: Effective, Practical Applications for Meaningful Experimental Projects
Date: October 15 - October 16
Venue: the Schiele Museum of Natural History, Gastonia, NC
Content: 10 lectures, 1 roundtable discussion, 4 posters, 5 workshops, 50 participants
See: Conference review by Mark Butler
Key Note Address
Early Iron Age Loch Dwellers of Scotland: Excavation, Interpretation and Reconstruction
Dr. Nick Dixon
Bio: Dr Nick Dixon is an underwater archaeologist who has spent 30 years developing techniques of underwater archeology to examine the mass of well-preserved finds from Scottish lochs. Starting in the late 70s working on wrecks of Dutch East Indiamen and Spanish Armada ships, he moved on to concentrate on the submerged settlement sites of Scotland and elsewhere. He taught and carried out research at the University of St. Andrews for ten years followed by twenty years at the University of Edinburgh. He now concentrates his time continuing his research in Loch Tay and presenting the results of his work around the world. He has developed his skills as an Underwater Archaeologist into Experimental Archaeology and the presentation of archaeology to the public as Cultural Tourism.
Crannogs are artificial islands found in the lochs of Scotland. They were inhabited by people from the Early Iron Age (c. 500 BC) until the 17th century AD.
Since 1980, archaeologists with the Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology have conducted underwater investigations at the Early Iron Age site of Oakbank Crannog, located in Loch Tay, near Kenmore. The cold, dark, peaty loch waters are responsible for unprecedented preservation of organic remains at the site. They include, plants, seeds, nuts, animal bones and droppings and insects that provide valuable information about the way of life of the crannog dwellers and the paleoenvironment of Loch Tay. The timber floor of the house and the uprights that supported it above the loch; domestic utensils such as wooden spoons, plates and even a butter dish with remnants of the butter still sticking to the inside; canoe paddles and a unique cultivation implement have all been discovered.
The well preserved remains have allowed a full-sized reconstruction of a loch dwelling in Loch Tay at the Scottish Crannog Centre, attracting 25,000 visitors a year. Aspects of the ancient technology practiced by the crannog people, such as spinning, weaving, drilling, wood turning, grain grinding and fire-making are presented to the public who may try out these skills. They can experience the loch from the perspective of the crannog dwellers in reconstructed logboats based on examples discovered in the loch and the nearby River Tay. The underwater excavations in Loch Tay offer a vivid picture of the past that could not be recovered from dry land sites.
Experiments on the Use of Blue Vivianite as Prehistoric Pigment
Carolyn Dillian, Coastal Carolina University, Charles Bello, FEMA
A variety of pigments were used by prehistoric peoples in the eastern United States, with white, red, and black the most common. However, blue colors were much more difficult to achieve and frequently required the use of mineral or organic dyes. The mineral vivianite may have served as one source for blue pigment in the prehistoric Mid-Atlantic region. This paper outlines an interdisciplinary approach combining geology, ethnohistory, and experimental archaeology used to determine vivianite’s potential as the source of blue mineral pigments. Replicative experiments revealed techniques for maximizing the vivid blue color of this material that could have been employed by prehistoric Native American inhabitants of the eastern United States.
The Bannerstone: A game-specific adaptation in the Eastern Woodlands
Although many theories abound, the use of the bannerstone, has yet to be understood. Ideas from increasing the velocity of the launched dart, to a silencer, to a mesh spacer, and almost everything in between, have been offered. In the following paper, another explanation will be presented.
The bannerstone has been thought of as being a counterbalance, but we have not understood the desire for a counterbalance, in the first place. By viewing the bannerstone as a game-specific atlatl accessory, we can track its natural progression to a more effective deer-stalking, innovation.
Investigation of the Effects of Timber Harvest on Artifact Locations
Sean G. Taylor
Archaeology is rife with assumptions. We make assumptions about how people behaved in the distant past and assumptions about how our modern development or land management practices will affect archaeological resources that have the potential to tell us about past behavior. If archaeology is to be taken seriously by outsiders we need to be sure our recommendations for archaeological investigations are empirically justified. Section 106 of the National Register of Historic Places requires that the effect of federal undertakings upon cultural resources be considered and mitigated if necessary. Timber harvests on federal lands have always been considered a potential adverse effect to archaeological sites. However there is no empirical data to support the assumption. This paper presents the findings from one investigation of the effects timber harvesting equipment had on planted artifacts. The purpose of the experiment was to empirically ascertain how much artifact movement would be caused by a timber harvest and if the induced movement was significant enough to be considered and adverse effect to artifact locations.
Identifying and Quantifying Grog with Petrographic Point Count Analysis
Joseph M. Herbert and Michael S. Smith
Many regional taxonomic sequences for Woodland period pottery from the Southeastern U.S. include grog-tempered ware. Often the detection of grog is sufficient grounds to classify pottery to a particular type. The methods used by archaeological ceramicists for identifying grog are typically assumed to be effective, although the methods and level of documentation vary among ceramicists. In consequence, there is growing interest in petrographic analysis as a more accurate method for identifying and quantifying ceramic inclusions such as grog. This paper describes the results of an experiment that compares archaeological grog-tempered pottery and grog-tempered ceramic briquettes made with measured proportions of grog and clay. Replica briquettes with known volume ratios of clay and grog are subjected to petrographic point-count analysis to ascertain the precision of the point-count method for quantifying and estimating grog inclusions in prehistoric pottery. Sampling bias, introduced when ceramics are thin sectioned and again when thin sections are point counted, tend to under represent actual amounts of inclusions. Results of this study suggest the magnitude of the difference between point-counted and measured values, and provide data necessary to bring the two into alignment.
From Flint to Fish: A Stone Age Challenge
Steve Watts, Schiele Museum of Natural History
Starting out with only one flint nodule and one hammer stone, and using only stone age technologies, the challenge was to produce fishing gear (hooks, lines, float, lures, sinkers, harpoons, etc.) utilizing tools made from that one nodule and raw material gathered from the local landscape. Two tool kits emerged during the project—a manufacturing kit (the tools produced from the flint nodule) and the fishing kit (the implements produced using the manufacturing kit). Records were kept of all manufacturing efforts and the resulting tools. An inventory of all raw materials utilized during the project was maintained. Fish were successfully taken using three out of four different types of Stone Age hooks and one out of three different types of Stone Age harpoons. Unsuccessful attempts were also noted along with tool damage and repair.
Research questions addressed during the project centred around the archaeologically “invisible” technologies involved in stone age fishing—diagnostic characteristics of the manufacturing tool kit, lack of recognition of composite hook and harpoon components in the archaeological record, and an understanding of the fish-taking techniques beyond the tools.
Eliciting Data from Debitage, an Experimental Approach to Identifying Percussion Tool Signatures
Michael J. Miller, M.A.
Interpretation of debitage relies on the knowledge and know-how of the lithic analyst. Individual flake types have long been the markers of certain activities on-site. An experimental approach to debitage analysis provides opportunity to expand on traditional approaches and add to our understanding of flake formation and typology. The identification of specific percussion tools used by the flintknapper, according to a defined set of signatures, affords the collection of more insightful data. The union of these data can demonstrate valuable technological characterizations aiding in the identification of lithic reduction trajectories.
A Case for Prehistoric Fog: A New Wrinkle on North American Lithic Technologies
North American flaked lithic technology is, for the most part, underpinned by simple, straight forward percussion and pressure techniques. Except for key phases in the Paleo-Indian and Broadspear Periods, (wherein the use of grinding in the production of flaked lithic items was principally confined to specialized techniques applied to small areas, e.g. platform preparation and dorsal ridge abrasion); the practice and use of more complete grinding of surfaces and edges as a viable mechanism to improve and enhance the flaking process had no precedent. Until now! Grinding as a preparatory technique to finished flaking in the mode and parlance of the modern lapidary influenced flintknapper (neoknapper) is known as “flake over grind” technique or FOG.
This paper unravels the use of grinding as observed in the Groswater Phase of the Paleo-Eskimo Tradition from the Maritime Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador. Grinding surfaces and edges in biface production is an unknown practice in this hemisphere but has been recorded in several instances in Old World contexts, (1) within the Scandinavian Neolithic and (2) the Predynastic Egyptian Chalcolithic Periods. Its punctuated occurrence in North America, within a prehistoric period roughly analogus to the Early/Middle Woodland Period of the Eastern Region is indeed enigmatic with no known antecedents.
Archaeological data from sites in Labrador and Newfoundland along with experimental research findings will be advanced to make a unique case for a New World, Old World Neolithic production system. In addition, startling new discoveries from the Near East will be presented. These examples from Catal Huyuk in Turkey have now pushed the technological development and use of pre-ground flaked bifaces deep into the Neolithic past. These new findings give rise to lithic specialization; a specialized guild or cult-like class of craftsman dedicated to the production of objects of ritual and symbolistic purpose much earlier than previously known. These new findings now point to near Asian origins and offer potential cultural links east and west, to explain the other examples noted in this research.
A Ceramic Reproduction Experiment to investigate the chaîne opératoire of a technological style of forming thin walled cooking pots excavated at a Nabataean settlement in the Wadi ath-Thamad, Mudayna Regional Survey Project, Jordan.
Maria-Louise Sidoroff, Laurie Cowell, Noor Mulder-Hymans
The Mudayna Regional Survey Project Director, P.M.Michèle Daviau, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada, organized several seasons of excavations at a Nabataean settlement in the Wadi ath-Thamad area within the Mudayna Project. The structures consist of a Villa, a reservoir, and a rectangular building, and there are several hydraulic systems in the sector. Among the enormous quantities of pottery sherds were eggshell thin painted bowls similar to those excavated at Petra, a collection of small Petra style unpainted bowls, examples of Eastern Terra Sigillata A, and cooking pots. The unit of analysis chosen for this experiment was the forming technology of Nabataean cooking pots from the Mudayna site. The unusual technological style of thin walled cooking pots made with fine levigated clay with a variety of exterior ribbing prompted this experiment to open a new line of investigation. The exquisite Nabataean fine ware has been the object of scholarly fascination for decades but there is a dearth of studies regarding the domestic ware.
Results of our forming experiment, conducted by an experienced potter, confirmed that this style of cooking pots was created by highly skilled potters whose chaîne opératoire involved complex cognitive processes. They produced a domestic ware that, quite possibly, was highly functional within a desert environment using a technological style to manufacture pottery that required less fuel to fire the vessels and to heat food. We concluded that the fine walled cooking pots may represent an extension of Nabataean fine ware, brought into the kitchen to enhance the status of their owners, in the same manner as the quantities of fine painted bowls that were uncovered at our site. This experimental project, one of very few to focus on Nabataean domestic ware, contributed new information regarding the potters, identified elements of a technological style in the manufacture of Nabataean domestic ware from our site, and opened a discussion about what the technological style might mean socially to the people of our settlement and to the potters themselves.
The Cahokia House Reconstruction
This slide presentation documents the history and design of the Cahokia House Reconstruction Project. This will be the last opportunity to see and hear this talk by Dr Errett Callahan, originator and designer of this important reconstruction.
Experimental Archaeology and Local Development
José Miguel Gallego Cañamero, Spain
Experimental Archaeology can benefit the economic development of impoverished zones through the establishment of programs encouraging both individual participation and tourism development. In this example, we describe our experiences in the initial Research and Development for the Vall Ferrera valley (an area traditionally linked with iron production from 3rd cent. A. D. to 18th cent. A. D.). The initial program was celebrated last October in two separate villages located in the mountainous region of the Catalonian Pyrenees, Alins and Ainet de Besan.
Conferences, workshops, exhibitions and excursions were the vehicles used to inform the local residents and visiting tourists of the importance of conserving regional heritage and supporting its diffusion. An Experimental Archaeology activity based on the reconstruction of traditional Iron production systems within the valley was an important part of the activities offered and served, combined with other activities, to make the inhabitants of the valley proud of their traditions while enhancing their knowledge about the archaeological elements documented in their region. The program was also designed to make them aware of the future possibilities and the development of the area as a new center of tourism attraction.
Buckskin - Older than Dirt: Exploring the Potential Utilization of an Organically Sourced Hide Manufacturing Tool Kit
The perishable nature of animal skins renders the recovery of direct evidence of tanned hides difficult on prehistoric sites. Archaeologists are forced to turn to unifacially worked stone tools, interpreted as hide scrapers, as proxy evidence for interpreting hide working on prehistoric sites. This practice, however, does not account for the possibility that hides can be worked entirely with organic tools impacting not only our appreciation of the number of possible hide working sites, but its antiquity as well. Bone, antler, and wooden hide working tools are also prone to decay and may leave no easily identifiable archaeological evidence. This possibility is further compounded given that stone tools suitable for hide working are very difficult to produce and maintain compared to ones made of bone and wood. The functionality and potential use of organically sourced hide working tools was illustrated by attempting to complete the brain tanning process solely with organic tools.
A Prehistoric Method for Constructing a River Cane Blow Gun
The blowgun is a simple hunting weapon used throughout the Southeastern United States during the early historic period. Primarily suited for small game animals such as squirrels and rabbits, the blowgun could also be used to take birds as large as the turkey. To date, no archaeological evidence for the prehistoric existence of blowguns in the U.S. has been identified. Early ethnographers, such as Frank Speck, speculated that the blowgun did not exist in the Southeast prior to European contact and natives’ access to metal tools. Further, the complete lack of early ethnographic references to blowgun use also suggests the absence of the prehistoric Southeastern blowgun.
Utilizing only tools, materials and techniques available during the prehistoric, a conjectural method for stone-age blowgun production is demonstrated. Through these methods, prehistoric Native Americans would have been able to produce effective blowguns and darts using only native sourced materials.
Illustrating the Wadi ath-Thamad Project and Nabataean Settlement
Dr. Maria Louise Sidoroff
This year we presented several hands on activities as "mini introductory workshops". They last 45 min. to 1 hour and are designed to expose participants to basic techniques in a variety of technologies. Take advantage of this opportunity to work with the experts! Space is limited so reserve your spot.
The Basics of Flintknapping
Try striking a flake with a wood billet or pressure flake with an antler tine. The next time you pick up a projectile you’ll marvel at the skills required. Your appreciation for the technology can only grow!
Tying Blow Gun Darts
Learn how to twist a thistle or cotton fiber fletched dart. Learn of the combination of knowledge and manual dexterity that is required!
Mineral Pigment Paints and Primitive Brushes
Painting your world on stone and bark… Grind your own pigments from red ochre, yellow ochre, soot and more, then practice painting with natural brushes, sticks, even your finger! So simple even a monkey could do it. Right? NOT!
Tanning Hides the Old Fashioned Way
We’ve all seen ancient stone flake scrapers but was this, the only way to do it? Expand your mind and try hand at hide tanning another way.Adventures with a Drop
Thread, string, cordage – are basic elements in the world of textiles for weaving, wearing, binding, lashing, lacing, sewing and simple tying “things”. Before the textile mills of the Industrial Revolution, before the flax wheel and the Great Walking wheel, the need for thread was commonplace. Visit the Backcountry Farm for a closer look into 18th century textiles. See fibers common in the 1700’s. Learn the basics of cordage/thread making by hand and by spinning on a drop spindle.
Location: Backcountry Farm
Teaching Experimental Archaeology in an Academic Setting
Coordinator: Bill Schindler, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Washington College
Increasingly, many archaeologists acknowledge the value of experimental archaeology and incorporate an experimental component into their research designs. Simultaneously, numerous anthropology departments throughout the world are expose their students to the field by adding experimental archaeology courses to their departmental offerings or at least by including experimental components to more traditional archaeology classes. The professors offering these courses come from various backgrounds and approach the material in very different ways. Accordingly, we all have a great deal to offer one another.
In an effort to encourage dialogue between the instructors of these courses, a roundtable discussion focused on teaching experimental archaeology in an academic setting has been organized and is to take place during this year's Reconstructive and Experimental Archaeology Conference (REARC). If you: 1) currently teach or are planning on teaching an experimental archaeology course, 2) currently teach or are planning on teaching a course that includes an experimental archaeology component, or 3) are interested in how experimental archaeology is taught in an academic setting, please consider participating in this roundtable. In addition to a lively discussion, I would like to also assemble a packet of hard copy and digital materials such as syllabi, reading lists, class activities, etc. that can be shared amongst the participants and interested conference attendees. Please consider sharing these materials whether or not you plan on attending the conference. If you are planning on participating in any capacity please respond to Dr. Schindler by September 15, 2011.