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Designing Experimental Research in Archaeology

Designing Experimental Research in Archaeology: Examining Technology through Production and Use

EDITED BY Jeffrey R. Ferguson
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Designing Experimental Research in Archaeology
    Book Description:

    Designing Experimental Research in Archaeology is a guide for the design of archaeological experiments for both students and scholars. Experimental archaeology provides a unique opportunity to corroborate conclusions with multiple trials of repeatable experiments and can provide data otherwise unavailable to archaeologists without damaging sites, remains, or artifacts.   Each chapter addresses a particular classification of material culture-ceramics, stone tools, perishable materials, composite hunting technology, butchering practices and bone tools, and experimental zooarchaeology-detailing issues that must be considered in the development of experimental archaeology projects and discussing potential pitfalls. The experiments follow coherent and consistent research designs and procedures and are placed in a theoretical context, and contributors outline methods that will serve as a guide in future experiments. This degree of standardization is uncommon in traditional archaeological research but is essential to experimental archaeology.   The field has long been in need of a guide that focuses on methodology and design. This book fills that need not only for undergraduate and graduate students but for any archaeologist looking to begin an experimental research project.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-023-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  7. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Erik J. Marsh and Jeffrey R. Ferguson

    Much of what archaeologists understand about variation in material culture and its behavioral correlates is derived from studies that create analogies with past behavior using modern material procurement, manufacture, use, reuse, and discard (Mathieu 2002; Stone and Planel 1999). These analogies generally describe two divergent methodologies that share a theoretical base: ethnoarchaeology and experimental archaeology. This volume focuses on experimental archaeology, “the fabrication of materials, behaviors, or both in order to observe one or more processes involved in the production, use, discard, deterioration, or recovery of material culture” (Skibo 1992a:18). This methodology offers a high degree of control of variables...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Understanding Ceramic Manufacturing Technology: The Role of Experimental Archaeology
    (pp. 13-46)
    Karen G. Harry

    Since around 1980, archaeological interest in ceramic technology has intensified. Accompanying this increased attention has been a corresponding growth in the use of experimental methods to understand why prehistoric potters made the technological choices they did. In this chapter I review how experimental archaeology can improve our understanding of ceramic technology.

    Experimental archaeology has been defined as “the fabrication of materials, behaviors, or both in order to observe one or more processes involved in the production, use, discard, deterioration, or recovery of material culture” (Skibo 1992:18). Prior to the advent of the New Archaeology, most archaeological ceramic experiments were attempts...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Ceramic Vessel Use and Use Alteration: Insights from Experimental Archaeology
    (pp. 47-70)
    Margaret E. Beck

    What happened here? Archaeologists answer this question in increasingly sophisticated ways, squeezing more and more information about human behavior from used and discarded tools. Because different activities physically and chemically alter tools in different ways, these alterations suggest how the tools were used. This chapter addresses the use alteration of ceramic vessels. Alteration patterns may reveal if a vessel was used for cooking, storage, or transport; whether it was directly or indirectly heated; how it was handled and how heavily; and something about the nature of its contents. Vessel form is another important line of evidence for intended use (Henrickson...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Flake Debris and Flintknapping Experimentation
    (pp. 71-92)
    Philip J. Carr and Andrew P. Bradbury

    Arguably, flintknapping experimentation is part of the core of modern lithic analysis. In addition to providing possible means for the manufacture of particular stone implements, exploring the effects of heat treatment on specific raw materials, and provisioning other experimenters with suitable tools for use in modern contexts such as studying use-wear, flintknapping experimentation has proved extremely valuable for the analysis of flake debris. Here, we briefly examine the variety of flintknapping experiments conducted in the past several decades aimed at understanding chipped-stone tool technologies. This is followed by a lengthier discussion of the qualities of a “good” flintknapping experiment designed...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Conducting Experimental Research as a Basis for Microwear Analysis
    (pp. 93-110)
    Douglas B. Bamforth

    This chapter focuses on how to design and execute programs of experimentation intended to help archaeologists interpret traces of use in the edges of ancient flaked stone tools. Archaeologists who specialize in such interpretation are referred to as “microwear analysts,” and well-designed and executed experimentation is central to their training and research. Relatively few archaeologists self-identify as microwear analysts and pass through this training, but virtually all archaeologists who work on pre-metal periods of human history act as if they implicitly view themselves as at least basic microwear analysts, as evidenced by the near universality of distinctions between “used” and...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Experimental Heat Alteration of Lithic Raw Materials
    (pp. 111-128)
    Robert J. Jeske, Daniel M. Winkler and Dustin Blodgett

    Some of the earliest research on the use of raw material for prehistoric tool production was Charles Willoughby’s pioneering work at the famous Hopewell site in Ohio’s Scioto River Valley (Greber and Ruhl 1989). Willoughby attempted to recreate the techniques of the artisans who left the elaborate grave goods associated with Hopewell elites. A number of other nineteenth- and early–twentieth-century scholars (e.g., Atwater 1820; Holmes 1971 [1919]) also discussed raw material in their research. Some of these scholars mentioned reports of the use of heat and water to flake lithic raw material into tools—describing unlikely scenarios such as...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Understanding Grinding Technology through Experimentation
    (pp. 129-152)
    Jenny L. Adams

    Replication studies are enlightening, not only for recognizing the best solution to a technological problem but also for understanding that sometimes the prehistoric agent made unexpected choices or choices that created satisfactory rather than optimal solutions. Experimentation with replicated tools has been a learning technique for over seventy years and is now commonly used for understanding how things worked, especially with tools manufactured through flaking techniques (Amick, Mauldin, and Binford 1989:5–6; Haury 1931; Mathieu 2002; Morris 1939; Semenov 1964; Vaughan 1985:3–6).

    Flaked lithic technologists started earlier and have been much more aggressive with experimental research on use-wear, wear...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT Retrieving the Perishable Past: Experimentation in Fiber Artifact Studies
    (pp. 153-194)
    Edward A. Jolie and Maxine E. McBrinn

    Throughout most of humanity’s history, perishable objects such as cordage, netting, textiles, and basketry have constituted a large percentage of peoples’ material culture. Despite this fact, until recently perishables have been largely ignored in archaeological research because of preservation’s bias toward durable objects (e.g., ceramics, bone, stone, antler, and ivory), the historical association of perishable technologies with women’s work (Adovasio, Soffer, and Page 2007; Barber 1994; Mason 1899), and a failure to sufficiently account for variation in the archaeological record (Wobst 2001). Yet since the beginning of perishables studies, experimentation has been key to understanding the interrelatedness of material, technique,...

  15. CHAPTER NINE Weapon Trials: The Atlatl and Experiments in Hunting Technology
    (pp. 195-224)
    John Whittaker

    One of my favorite bits of archaeological jargon is the description of stone projectile points as a part of “complex projectile delivery systems” (Christenson 1986:109). While I am amused at the formality of the words and the image of a little man in blue ringing one’s doorbell with an arrowhead, the point behind the verbiage is important. Most archaeological analyses of hunting technology work with orts and morts, remainders and dead bits of complicated composite tools and living systems. The most common survivors are imperishable stone components. Meanwhile, many anthropologists have had a consistent fascination with hunting as a dramatic...

  16. CHAPTER TEN Replicating Bone Tools and Other Fauno Technologies
    (pp. 225-240)
    Leland C. Bement

    Replicative bone tool studies have coexisted with their stone counterparts for decades (Semenov 1964), although they have not received the attention given lithic studies (see Bamforth, this volume). Animal remains provide a wealth of raw material that can be manipulated into tools or other objects. The technology to make these tools can be reconstructed through the analysis of manufacture debris, residue or use-wear on stone tools, and the scars left by the manufacturing technique on the tool itself. Although this chapter is principally concerned with the manufacture and use of bone tools, similar technologies are associated with the manufacture and...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN Experimental Zooarchaeology: Research Directions and Methods
    (pp. 241-258)
    Patrick M. Lubinski and Brian S. Shaffer

    Zooarchaeology, put simply, is the study of animal remains from archaeological sites (Reitz and Wing 1999:1). In the United States the term is used interchangeably with terms such as faunal analysis, archaeozoology, and osteoarchaeology (Baker, Shaffer, and Steele 1997:298). The research goals of zooarchaeologists can be divided into three broad camps: those primarily biological in nature (e.g., paleoenvironmental studies, paleozoogeography), those primarily anthropological in nature (e.g., studies of human mobility, diet, butchery, hunting patterns, exchange systems), and those focused on methods (e.g., quantification, identification, field methods for recovery).

    Experimental zooarchaeology can be thought of as the derivation and use of...

  18. Index
    (pp. 259-262)