2014 REARC Conference (REARC5)

Experimental Perspectives on Ancient Foodways

Date: Friday, October 17, 2014 - Sunday, October 19, 2014

Venue: the Schiele Museum of Natural History, Gastonia, NC

Content: 20 papers, 4 workshops


Key Note Address

Building The Great Pyramid - From The Inside Out
Jean-Pierre Houdin, Dassault Systèmes

Join us for an exciting presentation by French researcher and architect Jean-Pierre Houdin. Hear the story of his 25 year investigation of Egypt’s Great Pyramid and how such a remarkable structure could have been planned and constructed by an ancient agrarian society. Mr. Houdin will describe an internal ramp system theory that may be a key component in understanding how the pyramid of Khufu was constructed.
Evidence for Still Hidden Treasures of the Pharaoh Khufu describes the exciting evidence for Pharaoh Khufu’s treasure still being housed in the pyramid. This could be the most exciting discovery in Egyptology in decades!



Can cultural transmission be detected in archaeological assemblages? A middle range flint knapping experiment
Kathryn Ranhorn, George Washington University

Patterns of ancient stone artifacts are often construed to represent the diffusion of shared ideas, but this idea remains untested empirically. Kathryn is testing this idea using flint knapping experiments. Knapping participants are asked to create flakes in different sessions which vary in the degree of social information transferred. The resulting assemblages are then analyzed according to traditional and novel 3D lithic analysis methods to determine which variables, if any, reflect cultural transmission. 
*Kathryn is looking for participants. If you are interested please see her after her brief presentation to sign up for a slot on Saturday or Sunday. Participants should understand flaking mechanics and be able to control flake removals.


Setting the Stage: Experiencing Interpreting Through Immersion
Bill Schindler, Washington College

We are exposed to and learn about our past in a variety of ways.  The social, political, and economic factors influencing how interpretations are made, and the context within which we are exposed to them, all influence how we perceive history.   The typical antiquarian museum that has persisted for centuries is no longer the only model for the delivery of these interpretations.  There are now many virtual “time machines” such as experimental archaeology, open air museums, re-enactments, and gatherings that allow us to gain access to our past in a variety of ways.  This past summer students were immersed in the various ways the past is interpreted to the public during which time they explored individual research projects.


There is More Than What Meets the Eye When it Comes to Open Air Museums
Angie Towery-Tomasura, Washington College

Interpreters are most always judged harshly for the way that they present themselves to the public - from wearing modern-day objects to the color of their skin, or even their weight, but they should not be.  It is criticized that appearance alone makes up the experience itself, but when truly considered, it is the knowledge of each interpreter that is the most important component of a living museum. It is their honesty and accuracy that help to create a story that each visitor can relate to a time in history. Interpreters make each part of an open-air museum cohesive and when we seek perfection in their appearance, we find the opposite of what we seek.  This paper examines this crucial role that interpreters play in creating the atmosphere that each visitor experiences when visiting an open air museum based on experiences in Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia and Lejre, Denmark.


Interpreting the Illusion of the Past
Ivan Tokash, Washington College

The past is interpreted through a long series of stories and illusions. We can become informed about the past in a variety of ways, but we still rely strongly upon our imaginations create our own meaningful interpretations.   Often missing from these interpretations is the ability to actually experience the past for ourselves.  Living life in the past as experimental archaeologists, primitive technologists, interpreters, or reenactors, offers the opportunity to see through new eyes and interpret prehistoric and historic life in much more meaningful ways.


The Effects and Importance of Museum Gift Shops
Mike Whisenant, Washington College

This paper reports on a recent study conducted for the purpose of examining museum gift shops, and their impact on the visitor experience. Gift shops are an extension of the museum and not a separate entity.  Therefore, gift shops should also be held to standards equal to that of the museum they serve. Museum gift shops in both the United States and Denmark were evaluated using three criteria: a) the accuracy of the products being sold to the past, b) the educational value of the products sold, and c) where profits go from gift shops.


Promoting Provocation: A Brief Examination into the Importance of Living History
Dane Stephenson, Monmouth University

As a high school history teacher often limited to the boundaries of a traditional classroom, the world of living history was unveiled to me during an intensive 3-week course, Interpreting the Past. Through sensory experience and a seemingly inherent ability to make history “come to life,” this author believes that provocation lies at the heart of living history. This paper reports on a variety of experiences in which provocation was leveraged to make learning about the past a much deeper and richer experience.


Abandoned Pastoralist Homesites as Experimental Archaeological Models in Northern Kenya
Carolyn Dillian, Emmanuel Ndiema, Rahab Kinyanjui and Purity Kiura, Coastal Carolina, National Museum of Kenya

Dassanech homesites in Kenya offer a unique field laboratory for observing how pastoralist sites are selected, occupied, abandoned, and decay. For the past four years, our project team has been monitoring, mapping, and recording modern pastoralist sites near Lake Turkana. The Dassanech are pastoralists who maintain a relatively traditional lifeway, herding cattle, goats, and sheep, in an arid environment that requires frequent residential moves to provide adequate forage for their animals. Our purpose is to examine site selection and decomposition after weeks, months, and years of abandonment. We are examining house and animal enclosure construction and placement, inventorying material culture that is abandoned when residences are moved, monitoring reoccupation, and documenting plant and animal species’ colonization of abandoned sites. These data inform our archaeological survey, excavation, and interpretation of prehistoric pastoralist sites dating to the Middle Holocene (4,000-6,000 years ago) and provide a richer understanding of the past.


A study of Early Holocene bone harpoons in Northern Kenya leads to experimental studies on how hunter/fisher gathers made bone harpoons
Ashley Hovis, Carolyn Dillian, Emmanuel Ndiema, Rahab Kinyanjui, Russell Cutts, University of Georgia

The environment around Lake Turkana, northern Kenya provides a research setting to further our knowledge in the archaeological record on bone harpoon use and manufacture in the Early Holocene (10,000-6,000 years ago). During the George Washington University and National Museums of Kenya’s 2014 Koobi Fora Field School, my team and I studied standardization and specialization of bone harpoons found during surface survey. In this cultural context, bone harpoons were probably used for fishing. To determine standardization or variability for the two sites found near Ileret, Kenya, Robyn Humphreys and I made a typology for the bone harpoons, took measurements, and examined fauna and lithic assemblages from test 
pits. Russell Cutts and I did an experimental component to investigate what kinds of stone tools and animals would be the best materials to make a bone harpoon. We hope this research will contribute to the understanding of prehistoric craft specialization.


The Collecting and Processing of a Native American Food: Acorns
Fred Cook

Considering the ubiquitous nature of oak trees in Coastal Georgia, their importance as sources of acorn food for prehistoric people cannot be overemphasized. Acorns are still a popular food to native people in California. The knowledge of Yosemite Indian Julia Parker was used to create an understanding of how a tiny specialized resource procurement site was used for 3,000 years. Her techniques of collecting, drying, sorting, cracking, shelling, winnowing, pounding, sifting, leaching and cooking were adapted to local acorns through experimentation. Although the preparation of acorn food is a laborious process, their nutritional value is outstanding.


New Results on Old Glue at Ferry Farm: Utilizing Experimental Archaeology and Chemistry to Analyze Archaeological Glue Residues Recovered from Mary Washington’s Ceramics
Mara Kaktins, Ferry Farm

An analysis of ceramics excavated from Ferry Farm, George Washington’s Boyhood Home, revealed that at least five vessels exhibited historic glue residue. These table and teawares are associated with Mary Washington, George’s mother, and have raised a number of questions. What is the composition of the glues? How were the adhesives prepared and would their production leave a signature on the landscape? What compelled Mary to mend these wares? What do these sociotechnic artifacts say about a woman of Mary’s standing and economic position? To begin examining these questions we turned to experimental archaeology and chemistry. While researchers working with Direct Analysis in Real Time mass spectrometry analyze the residues, archaeologists at Ferry Farm are busy reproducing 18thc glue utilizing period recipes and conducted tests with them. This talk will present the latest results of these experiments in addition to chemical analysis of the glues.


Fresh from the Fire: Thermal-Curve Fractures are Diagnostic for Knapping and Anthropogenic Temperatures
Russell Cutts, UGA

Recent experiments have shown that a peculiar type of lithic angular fragment is actually evidence for both knapping and fire. Termed thermal-curve fractures (TCF), these fragments appear to occur due to differential expansion along the remnant compression waves – “ripples” – in flakes, when heated to above 500°C. Additionally, statistical analysis of experimental materials demonstrates that TCF are a distinct artifact class from (un-fired, knapped) angular fragments (i.e., from debitage). The import of TCF has broad ramifications for archaeology: it can inform and guide surveys, and could clarify ongoing debates as to the horizon of early Pleistocene hominin fire control.


The Destruction of the Sacred: An Examination of the Ritual Killing of Steatite Bowls
Sarah M. Regensburger, West Chester University

During the Late and Transitional Archaic periods, steatite production and trade was widespread and very popular among the peoples of the Eastern Woodlands. Vessels were fashioned out of these rock formations, leading to increased consumption of nuts that could now be made palatable. However, during this time, there were bowls manufactured that appear to have large holes in them. While it has been speculated that these were the results of manufacturing defects, it is also possible that they are evidence of a tradition of ceremonial killing that took place during the Transitional Archaic. With academic investigation and experimentation, I hope to provide further evidence to help prove that these steatite bowls were not manufacturing defects, but rather the continuation of a rich ritual tradition.


Exploring Mortuary Practices in an Outdoor Human Decomposition Laboratory
Cheryl Johnston, PhD, Lucas Rolleri, Department of Department of Anthropology & Sociology

Western Carolina University is home to one of six outdoor human decomposition laboratories in the nation. A “body farm” has the potential to benefit experimental archaeology because it provides an environment in which questions about prehistoric mortuary behaviors and their signatures on human remains, archaeological features, and landscapes may be experimentally addressed. In November of 2013 we began actualistic studies of prehistoric cremation practices using a non-human model. The remains of four donated black bears (Ursus americanus) were burned in prepared crematory basins. Included were a skeletonized adult and cub and a fleshed adult and cub.  The goals of the project were to explore the logistics of carrying out experimental cremation studies, to inform our understanding of the archaeological signatures of cremation, and to investigate the effects of burning on the remains by examining color variations. This presentation will be focused on interpretation of color variation in burned remains.


Re-Creating Pictish Late Iron Age Ironwork - 'Turf to Tools' at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, 2014
Darrell Markowitz, the Wareham Forge

The archaeology at Culduthel supplies limited hard information about the details of the furnaces used, especially the (missing) upper structures, and almost no information at all about the complex process that was undertaken to effectively smelt iron. Can long experience in operating successful bloomery iron furnaces be applied back into a specific archaeological prototype to provide any valuable insights as to what might have been the historical process?


A Sugar Loaf Sweeter Than Wine - Avoiding Temporal Biases When Interpreting Ethnographic Accounts
Mark Butler

A “sugarloaf” is the traditional form in which refined sugar was produced and sold. In use until modern granulated and cube sugars were introduced, they appeared as a tall cone with a rounded top.  This end-product of processing raw sugar imported from sugar cane growing regions was produced until the late 19th century. Cones were further refined into usable sugar using various cutters, shears and/or rasps.  The term sugar loaf has been used to describe rooftop profiles of various native structures. The standard interpretation, as ascribed to structures, is that of a tall conical structure.  It is this papers contention that the term more accurately describes a shorter and rounded roof peak with steeply pitched sides. This description is particularly applicable when a sugar loaf is partially processed. Numerous seemingly unrecognized cultural references to sugar loafs still persist. Cultural biases discounting early Spanish ethnographic descriptions as being exaggerated and unsound seem prevalent.  These accounts may provide the most valid description of prehistoric Southeastern native material culture. Mistaken analysis due to temporal bias may also play a significant role in misinterpreting ethnographic accounts.


Using ultraviolet light to identify burned or cooked bone in the archaeological record
Sarah Hlubik and Emily Wahler, Rutgers University

Bone is a ubiquitous presence on archaeological sites, but it is often difficult to identify methods of processing. Bones that have been burned can be positively identified as human food, regardless of whether carnivores have also had access to those bones. To identify whether a bone has been cooked, materials often need to be destroyed for chemical testing. Preliminary experiments have suggested that burned bone may fluoresce when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, but the results have been variable. Here we will describe the methods and results of a series of experiments burning bone in fires of various temperatures and in various states of being defleshed for various periods of time. If UV light can be used to identify burned bone, it will be a non-invasive technique that can be used in field settings to identify the presence of burned or cooked bones in the archaeological record.


Soapstone Use in the Late Archaic
Savanah Hopper, Western Carolina University

This paper will present the results of an experimental archaeology project to explore some soapstone artifacts recovered from the Cullowhee Mound site (31JK2) in Cullowhee, NC. The Late Archaic period Savannah River Phase component includes fragments of soapstone vessels, atlatl weights, soapstone pipes, and other unfinished objects, as well as some manufacturing debris. Soapstone was considered a limited resource during this period, therefore determining what type of soapstone objects were being manufactured at the Cullowhee Mound site is significant. In understanding the use of soapstone in the Late Archaic period, we can gather conclusions about the transition of resources. The goal of the project entails understanding the manufacturing debris left behind using river cane. The relationship between the inside diameter of a river cane and length of the plug produced acknowledges trade and a transition of resources in Western North Carolina.


Exploring the Use of Middle Woodland Crematory Basins: Results of Preliminary Experimentation
Jane Eastman, Western Carolina University

During the fall of 2014, faculty and students from two anthropology courses at Western Carolina University collaborated to design and conduct a field-based experiment to explore Middle Woodland mortuary practices. Cremation was one focus of Hopewell-influenced mortuary practices in the southern Appalachian region. In an effort to better understand variation in cremation methods represented in archaeological sites in the region, a series of pits or basins was prepared and black bears donated to Western Carolina University’s Human Decomposition Laboratory were cremated. This presentation will focus on the prepared facilities and how they were altered during the experimental cremations


An Unusual Paleoamerican Cache Find in Eastern Pennsylvania: Experiments and Insights into fluted point manufacture
Jack Cresson, Primitive Industries

In the Spring of 2013 a chance find of twelve fluted biface preforms and two unfluted bifacial knives were found in a tightly defined cache deposit on a hilltop in Eastern Pa. This cache included as suite of multiply fluted but unfinished bifaces, with remnant attributes of unusual production modes along with two bifacial knives; one comprised of nine conjoining pieces that suggested ritual destruction. The lithic technology of these specimens will be presented, which revealed multiple fluting, remnant distal grinding, unfinished edges and incipient side notches, to provide a rare glimpse into Eastern Fluted point manufacture. Experimental approaches to replicate the process using the archaeological analogues will be used to support the inferred modes and means of production- from biface core to flake blank to preforms made with direct, indirect and bipolar percussion.


Breakout Session

Hands on session that involves experimentation around the rules for Hnefatafl by Neil Peterson

Symposium: Interpreting the Past
Schindler (chair), Towery-Tomasura, Tokash, Whisenant, Stephenson

rontier Fishing
Discover the world of the frontier fisherman, a time of quiet streams and free-flowing rivers where fishing was for sustenance as well as sport. Displays of handcrafted fishing gear, nets & traps, and artful angling by the pond highlight the event. Watch as experienced interpreters “plank a fish” and prepare other interesting 18th Century fish dishes.