Experimental archaeology is a subfield in which archaeologists attempt to replicate various tasks of past cultures. By reconstructing ancient structures and technologies using only the tools available to past societies, archaeologists are able to test both standing hypotheses about ancient life as well as generate new theories based on experimental findings. Experimental archaeology offers a unique approach to research, in that it allows speculations based on context, artifacts, and historical sources to be tested in a systematic manner. Feats such as the construction of the pyramids at Giza, for instance, have long been the source of academic speculation. Though many hypotheses have resulted from years of excavation and research, experimental archaeology has allowed archaeologists to evaluate the feasibility of these methods on a realistic level thus disproving some and adding credibility to others.
The Archaeology Society is thus exposing its members to both the field of experimental archaeology as whole as well as specific experiments with real world and academic applications. This year our projects include flint-knapping (the making of stone tools), mosaic, and basket weaving. We will also be constructing prehistoric shoes based on those found with Otzi the Iceman, a naturally preserved mummy dating to about 3,300 BC. Not only will these projects expose us to the technologies of past cultures, but they will also give us insight into the daily life and societal structure of those whose tools and artifacts we seek to replicate. Activities such as flint-knapping and basket weaving allow researchers to experience first hand both the technical struggles of the crafts as well as the community structures they create. Reconstructions, such as those of ancient attire, give archaeologists an intimate view of everyday life. Experimental archaeology seeks to understand not only the final product or reconstruction, but also the process that leads to the product and thus the most valuable knowledge gleaned from these experiments is often the process itself.
Flintknapping will take place at 7:00 PM in the Gabel Museum on the following dates: 10/23, 11/6, 11/20, 12/4.
Other project dates to be announced!