Educator and craftsman in archaeology, founder of Aboriginal Technologies Autochtones

Experimenting to learn and teaching from experience

My name is Martin Lominy. I’m a trained archaeologist, a career educator, a self-taught craftsman and the founder of Aboriginal Technologies Autochtones, a Quebec based business with an educational mission aimed at providing the general public with a more practical vision of the past and a better understanding of aboriginal cultures of North America through the reproduction and experimentation of ancient technologies.

Today I am sorting through a number of projects that begun since last year’s DOA post. Contrary to most of my colleagues which are busiest during the summer working in the field and lab, as a craftsman and educator I find myself with a more flexible work schedule between the end and the beginning of the school year. Experimenting ancient technologies from piecing together fragmentary records (archaeological, archival and ethnographic) to testing replicated tools is only a fraction of my work for Aboriginal Technologies but certainly the most challenging. That’s what I mostly do during the summer having fewer contracts and more time, and of course good weather to work outdoors. So here I am today setting up a schedule for all the projects that have been on stand-by during the fall and winter. This development period to work on experimental projects is not possible the rest of the year when most of my time spent in the workshop is about crafting artifact replicas for museums and various organizations. Artifact reproduction is fascinating work that I very much enjoy but it is more routine than learning when you already know how to do it. The other half of my time is dedicated to public education through a variety of activities ranging from academic conferences to school workshops and event demonstrations to share the information acquired through experimenting. At Aboriginal Technologies, experimenting and teaching are two sides of the same coin: I experiment to learn and I teach from experience.

Given the number of projects I come up with or am given the opportunity to collaborate on in a single year, most of them often require many months and sometimes several years before being completed, especially since many projects are collaborative and must be coordinated with colleagues or depend on colleagues that have the resources to run these projects. It is not my intention to describe here the various projects keeping me busy these days but I will post a few photos to summarize the kind of experiments and learning experiences that will fuel future public activities.

Elm bark quiver. This project was inspired from the salvage of a broken tree whose bark is traditionally used among Iroquoian people for house coverings, canoes and containers. Elm bark quivers are not documented so this experiment was aimed at testing this material for such a craft and learning to use various parts of the bark.

Stone axe hafted in a live tree. This project in collaboration with Archeophone began with a proposition from a teacher who was curious about an ethnohistorical account of such a hafting technique. The axe head was inserted one year ago and the tree which has since grown around the stone is scheduled to be cut this summer for testing.

Ceramic tobacco pipes. These Iroquoian style smoking pipes were hand crafted and cooked in a fire as a preliminary test to refine a hearth construction technique in preparation for the firing of larger pieces scheduled to be produced this summer. The crafting techniques of such pipes are fairly well understood so the main objective in this project was to use this knowledge as a reference to cut down on variables.

Stone adze/gouge. This project began as many do by finding a stone with such excellent proportions that it inspired a tool. In Northeastern America, during the Archaic period (9,000-3,000 years B.P.), there is this enigmatic tool called an adze/gouge because of its apparent double function. Such tools are typical of the Archaic period yet their use is still a matter of debate. Most agree that it is a woodworking tool but it is not known how it may have been hafted. This is my interpretation of an adze/gouge hafted as a multipurpose woodworking tool. A woodworking test is scheduled for this summer.

Sinew backed bow. This Plains style sinew reinforced bow is a half-size version of the ones in museum collections. The crafting techniques of this type of bow are well understood and still being used, so the objective of this project was not actually testing such a bow but learning first hand the sinew technique and testing the efficiency of a fish glue that I produce in my workshop.

Bone tattoo needles. This project was designed by University of Montreal archaeologist Christian Gates-St-Pierre who specializes on Iroquoian bone tools and use-wear analysis. I was involved in this project for the reproduction of presumed tattoo needles which were tested on skin to record micro-wear traces and compare them to those on bone artifacts. Preliminary analysis confirms the probable use of such instruments as tattoo needles. As a bonus, I experimented making traditional tattoo ink.

Onondaga chert quarrying. This project was a tag along opportunity to learn about chert quarrying in the Onondaga formation by assisting Laval University student Pascal St-Jacques in harvesting the material for his thesis experiments. Onondaga chert has been used extensively in Northeastern America throughout prehistory to make a variety of sharp tools of great value. This experience gave me a much better understanding of this key material that I will continue to learn from as it is sorted and prepared during the summer for my reproduction work.

Well, I guess that’s enough to keep me busy all summer. Thanks for reading. To learn more about our work and follow the progress of these projects, visit our website or Facebook page.
www.abotec.ca
https://www.facebook.com/technologiesautochtones

Experimental Archaeology Rocks

My name is Martin Lominy. I’m a trained archaeologist, a career educator, a self-taught craftsman and the founder of Aboriginal Technologies Autochtones, a Quebec based business with an educational mission aimed at providing the general public with a more practical vision of the past and a better understanding of aboriginal cultures of North America through the reproduction and experimentation of ancient technologies.

Today, I’m doing an inventory of lithic material so for this year’s Day of Archaeology post I’ve decided to focus on lithic technology which basically refers to the art of bashing, cracking, knapping, pecking, grinding or polishing stones of various kinds to manufacture tools, ornaments and other objects whose significance becomes even more obvious through the study of how they were used, broken, repaired, recycled and discarded.

Stone is of all materials the most dealt with in archaeology and stone tools are of paramount importance not only because they are very well preserved in the archaeological record and common to all cultures but also because they are the basic tools with which most other tools were made in prehistory. They not only help us understand the technical skills of ancient people but also inform us on chronological periods, cultural groups, food production, population movements, social organization and trade networks.

Stone tools are in fact a complex technology that benefits greatly from experimental archaeology which is a research method specialized in the reproduction of past objects and behaviours to understand the processes involved in making and using artefacts found in archaeological sites. For decades archaeologists have recognized the value of experimentation and reproduction for the benefit of research but also as an educational approach to share that knowledge with the public in a comprehensive and dynamic way.

I will briefly present here a photo essay of our latest projects aimed at improving our understanding of stone technology and reproducing various artefacts either for scientific objectives or educational purposes.

Fieldwork

Collecting cobble stones for the reproduction of axes, net sinkers and grinding stones. It can take many hours of searching a shoreline or a river bed to find appropriate stones.

Collecting chert for knapping. Finding accessible chert can be a tricky operation these days since alot of the ancient stone quarries are now protected sites.

Preparing quartz preforms in the field to bring back to the workshop for tool making. As in ancient times, it’s a lot easier to carry preforms than boulders back to camp.

Testing a stone axe reproduction in the field during a house building project. Using a tool is the only way to learn the about the details of its construction.

Inserting a stone axe head in a live tree to test a hypothesis. According to historical sources, some stone axes were hafted by allowing a living tree to grow around a prepared stone blade.

Stone knapping

Knapping chert preforms for the reproduction of various tools. Similar piles of preforms are sometimes found in archaeological context and are known as caches.

Knapping experiments with quartz and dolomite. Unusual materials for that purpose that were nevertheless used in prehistory because of their availability.

Exercise in knapping very small tools from equally small flakes. In prehistory, people made the most of what they had available and chert was rarely wasted.

Typology of stone points of Northeastern America showing the evolution of projectile points. This display was designed as an educational tool for our public activities.

Polished stone

Reproductions of polished stone tools (celt, grooved axe, adze, gouge) that were used for woodwork in North America between 8,000 and 500 years B.P.

Reproductions of Northwest Coast style fish knives. Such knives made by grinding slate slabs were delicate but very sharp for the preparation of fish.

Drilling stone with stone. Various soft stones like soapstone, slate and limestone were polished and drilled in prehistory to make ornamental or ceremonial objects.

Common polished slate tools (semicircular knife, spear head) used in North America during the Archaic period (8,000-3,000 years B.P.).

Unworked stones as tools

Many stones found in archaeological context were modified by use but not by design. Sandstone for instance was commonly used as a grinding surface to work bone while chert flakes served as disposable blades.

Working a native copper nugget with a stone anvil, a hammer stone and a grinding stone to manufacture a prehistoric knife for a traceology project with the University of Montreal.

Making beaver incisor gouges with various grit stones for a traceology project with the University of Montreal.

Using various types of stones for cutting, hammering and polishing bone for the manufacture of prehistoric tattoo needles as part of a traceology project with the University of Montreal.

Sharing the knowledge

Reproductions of Dorset tools incorporating chert and slate blades commissioned by the Avataq Cultural Institute for education programs in Arctic communities.

Craft workshop on polished stone projectile points with students of the University of Montreal during Archaeology Week.

To see more, visit our website or follow us on Facebook.

Cheers!

Experimental Archaeology towards Experiencing Archaeology

My name is Martin Lominy. I’m a trained archaeologist, a career educator, a self-taught craftsman and the founder of Aboriginal Technologies Autochtones, a Quebec based business with an educational mission aimed at providing the general public with a more practical vision of the past and a better understanding of aboriginal cultures of North America through the reproduction and experimentation of ancient technologies. In the past couple of years, my Day of Archaeology posts have focused mainly on artefact reproduction because this is what I do most of the time. So this year I would like to talk a bit more about my work in education as I am spending the day preparing educational material for upcoming activities that take place in August during Archaeology Month in my home province of Quebec.

Flintknapping demonstration in a reconstructed native village. (Photo: Les Primitifs)

Flintknapping demonstration in a reconstructed native village. (Photo: Les Primitifs)

Third grade student learning to fletch an arrow.

Third grade student learning to fletch an arrow.

Learning about ancient technologies through experimentation is central to my work but sharing this knowledge is the ultimate goal of my career. In fact, most of my artefact reproductions are purchased by museums and interpretation centres to complement their activities and exhibitions. I have worked as a museum educator for over a decade from delivering to developing public programmes and always enjoyed giving the general public a better understanding of what life would have been like in the past. I have dealt with all sorts of groups ranging from children to elders and from amateurs to scientists as well as survivalists looking towards ancient technologies to expand their wilderness skills. It’s always been a challenge to adapt the complexities of archaeology to a variety of audiences but one that has kept me passionate about public education.

Families learning to make prehistoric fish hooks. (Photo: Maison Nivard De Saint-Dizier)

Families learning to make prehistoric fish hooks. (Photo: Maison Nivard De Saint-Dizier)

Survivalist group learning about ancient fishing technologies. (Photo: Les Primitifs)

Survivalist group learning about ancient fishing technologies. (Photo: Les Primitifs)

As a craftsman, my educational approach is about communicating through objects that can be touched, used or created so my activities range from interactive conferences for adult audiences to craft workshops for school groups and demonstrations for public events where people can experience the subject directly. For this purpose, my work in artefact reproduction is not about imitating artefacts with synthetic materials but rather going through the entire process or creating them from raw materials to finished tools and testing them so that I can explain how they were made and what this meant for people using them in the past. This level of experimentation is mostly a way for me to learn beyond theory but it also allows me to share my knowledge and skills with specialized groups such as college and university students interested in experimental archaeology.

Anthropology students from the University of Montreal learning about the uses of plant fibres. (Photo: RÉAUM)

Anthropology students from the University of Montreal learning about the uses of plant fibres. (Photo: RÉAUM)

As a part time anthropology teacher, I have also used my classroom experience to develop specific activities that can be integrated into anthropology classes to give students a better understanding of anthropological concepts, archaeological techniques and past lifeways. The school curriculum in Quebec includes several chapters on aboriginal culture and history which were integrated only a decade ago, so most of the groups that I meet are primary and secondary level classes looking to complement their programme with activities giving them access to specialized knowledge and material while discovering archaeology as a profession. Primary school children are my favourite age group whose limitless curiosity and enthusiasm inspire me the most to educate the public about the importance of learning from the past through archaeology.

Primary school students learning about prehistoric lifeways through a modelling project.

Primary school students learning about prehistoric lifeways through a modelling project.

So these are the things on my mind and on my table today. To learn more about Aboriginal Technologie’s educational programmes, please visit my website.

Cheers!

Artefact Reproduction as a Trade

My name is Martin Lominy. I’m a trained archaeologist, a career educator, a self-taught craftsman and the founder of Aboriginal Technologies Autochtones, a Quebec based business with an educational mission aimed at providing the general public with a more practical vision of the past and a better understanding of aboriginal cultures of North America through the experimentation of ancient technologies.  Since 2005 we have provided artefact replicas, educational workshops, interactive conferences, craft demonstrations and consultation services for a variety of institutions such as schools, colleges, universities, interpretation centers and museums across Canada and beyond. We also enjoy collaborating on various projects ranging from experimental archaeology to movie sets. Rather than summarize too much information or present one of many projects, I’m offering here a photo essay of various subjects and activities we have worked on since last year’s post.

Collaboration with a PhD student from the University of Montreal to make and test Aurignacian arrows. Photo credit: Luc Doyon

Photo credit: Luc Doyon

Collaboration with PhD student Luc Doyon from the University of Montreal to make and test Aurignacian arrows on an animal target.

Educational kit designed for Quebec schools to supplement the teaching program on Iroquoian society through activities based on experimental archaeology.

Educational kit designed for Quebec schools to supplement the teaching program on Iroquoian society through activities based on experimental archaeology.

Part of large order of Northwest coast fishing tools for a Hollywood movie set.

Part of a large order of Northwest coast fishing tool replicas for the movie set of Night at the Museum 3.

Stone axe from our collection used by local archaeology cooperative Gaïa for a dwelling reconstruction experiment. Photo credit: Francine Gélinas

Photo credit: Francine Gélinas

Stone axe replica from our collection used by archaeology consultants Gaïa for a dwelling reconstruction experiment.

Set of stone tools made for a public dig simulation at a local interpretation enter.

Set of stone tool replicas made for a public dig simulation at Pointe-du-Buisson museum.

Collaboration with survival school Les Primitifs to teach a group the production techniques of aboriginal fishing technologies.

Photo credit: Mathieu Hébert

Collaboration with survival school Les Primitifs to teach the production techniques of aboriginal fishing technologies.

Set of prehistoric bone tool replicas for educational activities interpretation in a museum.

Set of prehistoric bone tool replicas for interpretation activities in a museum.

Experimenting the production of a prehistoric pitch recipe based on recent discoveries.

Experimenting the production of a prehistoric pitch recipe based on recent discoveries.

Young apprentice collecting raw materials for cordage production. Most of our replicas are made with materials that we harvest ourselves.

Young apprentice collecting raw materials for cordage production. Most of our replicas are made with materials that we harvest ourselves.

Some pottery tools from our collection used in an experimental workshop with university students.

Some pottery tools from our collection used in an experimental workshop with university students.

Assisting a class of grade school students in a model project on aboriginal people.

Assisting a class of grade school students in a model project on aboriginal lifestyles.

Most archaeologists get covered in dirt. We mostly get covered in dust.

Most archaeologists get covered in dirt. We mostly get covered in dust.

It seems most of our projects begin like this.

It seems most of our projects begin like this.

One of our most popular items: cooked knives. Just as we use it for artifact replication, our customers used it to rediscover old woodworking techniques.

One of our most popular items: crooked knife. Just as we use it in our reproduction process, our customers used it to rediscover old woodworking techniques.

A variety of Northwest Coast artifact replicas for a school program on aboriginal culture in British Columbia.

A variety of artefact replicas for a school program on aboriginal culture.

A custom replica for a European collector. Many of our clients order pieces that they could otherwise have in their collection.

A custom replica of a warclub for a private collector. Many of our clients order pieces that they could not otherwise have in their collection.

Some Kind of Archaeologist

Hi everyone! My name is Martin Lominy and I live in Montreal, Quebec (Canada). I’m an archaeologist, educator and craftsman. So here’s a slice of my day for DOA 2013.

First grade student learning to prepare milkweed fibres.

First grade student learning to prepare milkweed fibres.

I work full-time in a craft museum as supervisor of educational services and part-time as an educator and craftsman in archaeology providing independent services through my business Aboriginal Technologies. On the one hand, my tasks at the museum are to plan, implement and manage the education department’s activities and projects, recruit, train and supervise the education staff and develop educational programmes, workshops and products for a variety of audiences. On the other hand, my work for Aboriginal Technologies consists in offering artefact reproductions, craft demonstrations and school workshops on the subject of archaeology.

Reproductions of artefact fragments for archaeological dig simulation.

Reproductions of artefact fragments for archaeological dig simulation.

My job at the museum is pretty much 9 am to 5 pm but that’s only the first part of my day. As soon as I get home, another job begins. After spending most of the day running around the museum trying to get too many things done, I gladly trade my computer and phone for an axe and crooked knife in the tranquility of my home workshop. Most of my workshop time is spent making artefact reproductions for museums, interpretation centres, universities, colleges and collectors. Thus my objective is to provide the public with a more pragmatic vision of the past and a better understanding of aboriginal cultures of North America through the experimentation of ancient technologies.

Splitting a hickory log to make prehistoric bows.

Splitting a hickory log to make prehistoric bows.

Since my reproductions are made with raw materials such as wood, bark, bone, antler, leather and stone, this evening will be spent preparing some of these materials for future projects which usually involves hacking, scraping, skinning, boiling and knapping. For instance, I harvested a large hickory log earlier this week after getting a call from a museum who had several trees on their land broken by a storm. I had already made a bow for them earlier this year so I picked up my tools along with a friend and headed out to collect one of their trees to make more bows. It seems most of my projects begin in the woods. Several hours and aches later, I had a tree in the car headed to my workshop. This wood will take several months to dry so it will be going in storage for future projects.

When I need to learn something of scientific value I use proper period tools and techniques. The rest of the time I use what works best to meet client deadlines. I work beyond academic boundaries so I don’t consider myself an experimental archaeologist but rather an archaeologist experimenting to know first hand what he’s talking about when it comes to education.

Drying salmon skins for fish glue experiments.

Drying salmon skins for fish glue experiments.

This weekend is dedicated to completing a cattail mat for an aboriginal museum and a crooked knife for a survival instructor. So many projects and so little time. It doesn’t sound like much rest compared to my job at the museum but it’s a good kind of tired. I’m always looking forward to learning something new. That’s what I mean by archaeologist, educator and craftsman!

To learn more about my work or contact me visit Aboriginal Technologies