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Designing Experimental Research in Archaeology

Examining Technology through Production and Use

Edited by Jeffrey R. Ferguson

Publication Year: 2010

"A valuable resource, one I would recommend for use both by professional and avocational archaeologists interested in experimental archaeology. Additionally, the volume would be a suitable text for use in an advanced undergraduate of graduate course... An excellent starting point for anyone wishing to pursue experiments in these areas." —Michael P. Neely, PaleoAnthropology

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.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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p. xi

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p. xii

This volume developed as a result of a research project I began in 1999. I was interested in interpreting the microwear patterns on an assemblage of large obsidian bifaces from the Malheur Basin in eastern Oregon. Microwear studies constitute an area of archaeological inquiry almost entirely dependent on experimental archaeology. Until wear patterns are developed under known and controlled conditions and ...

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1: Introduction

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pp. 1-12

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 ...

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2: Understanding Ceramic Manufacturing Technology: The Role of Experimental Archaeology

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pp. 13-45

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...

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3: Ceramic Vessel Use and Use Alteration: Insights from Experimental Archaeology

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pp. 47-70

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...

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4: Flake Debris and Flintknapping Experimentation

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pp. 71-91

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 ...

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5: Conducting Experimental Research as a Basis for Microwear Analysis

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pp. 93-109

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 ...

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6: Experimental Heat Alteration of Lithic Raw Materials

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pp. 111-128

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 ...

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7: Understanding Grinding Technology through Experimentation

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pp. 129-151

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 ...

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8: Retrieving the Perishable Past: Experimentation in Fiber Artifact Studies

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pp. 153-193

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 ...

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9: Weapon Trials: The Atlatl and Experiments in Hunting Technology

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pp. 195-224

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 ...

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10: Replicating Bone Tools and Other Fauno Technologies

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pp. 225-240

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 ...

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11: Experimental Zooarchaeology: Research Directions and Methods

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pp. 241-257

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 ...


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pp. 259-262

E-ISBN-13: 9781607320234
E-ISBN-10: 1607320231
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607320227
Print-ISBN-10: 1607320223

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 31 b&w phtographs, 3 line drawings, 5 tables
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 697516577
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Designing Experimental Research in Archaeology

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Material culture -- History.
  • Technology -- History.
  • Archaeology -- Research
  • Archaeology -- Experiments.
  • Archaeology -- Methodology.
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