Aboriginal

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!

Another year and still no dinsoaurs, gold, etc…

Archaeological Services Inc. (ASI) is a Canadian-owned company that was founded in 1980 in response to increasing public awareness of the importance of Ontario’s heritage. With offices in Toronto and Burlington, we are the largest archaeological consulting firm in Ontario. Archaeological Services Inc. provides a variety of services including both archaeological and built heritage resource/cultural landscape pre-development assessments, large-scale heritage planning studies for municipalities, as well as Stage 4 salvage excavation of archaeological sites.

Below you’ll find a photo essay showing what we are up to on this Day of Archaeology 2014. Enjoy, and from all of us at ASI, happy digging!

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It’s a beautiful FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2014 at Archaeological Services Inc. in Toronto and Burlington, Ontario, Canada.

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One of the ASI Partners, Robert Pihl, examining some incredible pipes from the famous Charles Garrad collection (from sites near Collingwood, Ontario).

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Great work on that unit, Sarah! It’s a beauty!

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It’s hard for Dr. Katie Hull (Manager of Historical Archaeology) to keep her adorable Irish Wolfhound puppy – appropriately named “Indy” –  out of the artifact box.

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Here is a photo taken by one of the crane operators of part of the New Fort site at Exhibition Place, which an ASI crew is currently working on. The foundations are of the northern half of the East Enlisted Men’s Barracks – a mid-nineteenth-century barracks built by the British to compliment the garrison at Old Fort York Garrison Common. What you are seeing in this photo will eventually be covered in a glass floor leading up to the front entrance of a brand new hotel: guests of the hotel will be able to see the original foundations of the barracks!

The crane was about 80-100 feet high when the photo was taken, and the foundations shown are approximately 110 feet (30 metres) by 40 feet (12 metres). For a scale you can see the ASI crew in the lower right corner!

The foundations of the northern half of the building (far right of the photo) are quite intact: the brick walled room (left of centre) is a coal cellar and the brick structures just above and below the foundations are what is left of two brick-lined box drains. There is also a remnant brick pipe drain (immediate right of the stone foundations), however, it is currently underneath a nice thick layer of mud.

If you want to read more information on the New Fort site, which has been actively excavated by ASI for the last 6 years, visit the Featured Project section of our website: http://ow.ly/z0szT

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Wes’ downtown Toronto crew hard at work excavating the New Fort site!

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Nobody puts Wes’ crew in a corner… unless of course they are profiling the barracks’ walls.

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Manager of Stage 1 and 2 Planning Division Projects, Bev Garner, on the phone with one of her many clients…

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Senior Archaeologist and Manager of Western Environmental Assessment Projects, Dr. Andrew Riddle, answering emails on his phone. He is also the Manager of IT, so we suppose it’s quite fitting for him to be surrounded by two computers and a smartphone.

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Here is our British star, Greg Pugh, working on a report when he is not out in the field on one of the richest properties we have ever worked on.

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ASI’s Built Heritage and Cultural Heritage Landscape Planning Division (phew!) work so well as a team that they find it hard to do anything without one another. They all wear glasses and read historical architecture books. It’s their thing.

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The perfect juxtaposition of old & new on analyst Miranda’s desk. What a tea-riffic combination!

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We are pleased to announce we have hired a new faunal analyst! Jackson also takes a lot of pride when selecting his office wear.

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The lab was busy today sorting through a new historical site — looks like they’ve “nailed” it.

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Here are Huron-Wendat representatives Melanie Vincent and Louis Lesage examining their material culture heritage at our offices in Toronto today.

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Senior Archaeologist, Dr. Bruce Welsh, can’t get enough of history. He spends his lunch hour buried in a book.

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ASI often has the privilege of working on a single site for multiple decades, such as the one pictured here. A quick glance through our records of this site produced this gem of a photo of Martin Cooper test-pitting the site in 1989. Years later, following in his footsteps, are Andrea Carnevale and Zeeshan Abedin, directing the salvage excavation of the site along with David Robertson and Robert Pihl. Stefan Jovanovich and Andreas Vatistas, pictured here, rounded off the rest of their team. Artifact analysis and the final report for the recent work are now in the process of being completed.

This is a great, albeit humorous, example of the roles and opportunities women have in the world of archaeology– not only to learn from but to also work alongside their mentors.

Ladies, keep digging!

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Cleo LOVES maps just as much as her owner, Jonas; an ASI Geomatics Specialist.

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Staff archaeologist Jenna hit the 3 pm wall. Thank goodness for her comically large Toblerone. Must. Have. Chocolate. Now!

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Assistant Manager of Urban Archaeology, Thanos Webb, often spends his day on the bike surveying sites downtown. He’s gotten so good at it that he can bike, review maps, make notes and drink coffee all at the same time!

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It’s a home office day for Staff Archaeologist Caitlin! Great slippers.

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Our crews have a good time together. It’s pretty obvious.

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A pretty great panoramic view of Amy and Erika’s historic site excavation.

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Lithic Specialist Doug Todd’s sorting table. He’s got a primitive process.

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Middle Archaic points that Doug has recently photographed. A lot of the material he has been looking at as of late comes from sites in Southwestern Ontario.

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Check out that detail!

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Chief Archaeologist and Managing Partner, Dr. Ron Williamson, examining an amputation from our excavations of the early nineteenth-century site of the first Toronto General Hospital.

Well, that was a busy day! Thanks for dropping by to see what we’ve been up to!

 

Permission to disturb

Today has been a day of tidying up on a number of jobs. My first task of the day was to pick up a total station and other surveying equipment that my company is hiring for a job next week. Then I headed out of town (Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia) to do a site recording and collection job. The day finished up in the office writing up reports (and this blog post), and packing up for next week’s travels.

The site that I needed to locate had been recorded years previously, and registered in the Northern Territory Heritage branch’s archaeological sites database. It was a background scatter of stone artefacts, located in a road reserve adjacent to a river where the government is building a bridge. The artefact scatter had been assessed as having low Aboriginal and archaeological significance, and a permit to disturb had been approved by the Heritage branch, under delegation from the Minister.

In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal places and objects are protected under the terms of the Heritage Conservation Act (1991), and any disturbance requires consent from the Minister under section 39(a) of the Act. The application process requires archaeologists to determine the Aboriginal and archaeological significance of the site, outline consultation with Traditional Owners that has occurred, and identify future curation of salvaged artefacts.

When I arrived at the site, I discovered that it had already been disturbed by heavy machinery, most likely in the course of road works to maintain the gravel road and river crossing where the bridge will be built. I was unable to locate any of the artefacts originally recorded. I recorded the condition of the site, and conducted a survey transect of the wider area to assess whether there was further background scatter in the vicinity. I didn’t find anything, so I came back to the office to write up the report.

Work in the tropical north of the Northern Territory is highly seasonal. Unlike most of Australia, we don’t have the standard seasons – we have a wet season (October to April) and a dry season (May to September). Most archaeological work happens between July and November. The work is mainly archaeological survey related to development, but can include salvage and research excavations. Highlights of the last two months include working in remote areas of Arnhemland, commuting to work by helicopter each day, and working with some of the most spectacular rock art in the world. We also found a stone quarry where we made a conservative estimate of 1 million + artefacts. It was huge!

I am currently balancing the busy work season with post-graduate study at Flinders University (Adelaide, South Australia). I find the archaeology department (and the screen & media department, where I also study) are very flexible and helpful when it comes to supporting students with other commitments. Before I finish up tonight, I should check the university’s online learning system so I can download this semester’s unit guides. No rest for the wicked…

Yours in the Top End,
Karen.

http://www.msdig.blogspot.com/