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18 September 2014
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Getting Involved: Archaeology Now

By Barrie Andrian
Tools and weapons

Image of reconstructed Iron Age tools and artefacts
Reconstructed Iron Age tools and artefacts ©
In the 19th and early 20th centuries it was still possible to observe how indigenous peoples lived and worked in many parts of the world, such as in Africa and Australia. Experiments focused on the production of bone and stone tools and weapons, and hunting techniques, because there were skilled natives who could demonstrate the art to those who wished to record it, and because most objects discovered through excavation were inorganic.

'Finds of partly-perforated stone adzes and axes encouraged experimentation with drilling techniques.'

The art of flint- knapping and other stone working was, and still is, of particular interest, as archaeologists and anthropologists could study objects currently in use, such as arrowheads and axes produced by the natives, and compare them with finds from archaeological sites.

Today demonstrations of shaping flints are practised and recorded in the United States by organisations such as the Society for Primitive Technology, and at many ancient technology centres in Britain and Europe, such as at Cranbourne in Dorset and at Lerje in Denmark. Flint-working and performance testing also continues as the focus of individual research projects, such as the recent study of an assemblage of Swiss Neolithic arrowheads from Hunenberg-Chamleten.

Methods for working other types of stone were also inspired by 19th-century discoveries, particularly from the Neolithic and Bronze Age Swiss lake dwellings. Finds of partly perforated stone adzes and axes encouraged experimentation with drilling techniques.

Several antiquarians determined that holes could be made in hard stones by using a bow drill, with the addition of coarse sand and sometimes water at the point of turning. This method was recreated at Phaubaland in Zurich and it is one of the techniques that we have adapted at the Scottish Crannog Centre using local materials.

Published: 2005-06-21

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