By David Loome, field school student from Northern Arizona University/Coconino Community College
As students at the Preservation Archaeology Field School at Mule Creek, we are exposed almost every day to the tools and technology used by people in the past. By analyzing and studying artifacts like stone tools and pottery, we can gain important insights into the means by which these people lived their lives and interacted with the land and other people. Even so, many aspects of these ancient technologies remain esoteric to people today. How might we deepen our understanding of the past via the artifacts of people living in those times?
One way is through experimental archaeology, in which students and researchers replicate tools and technologies of times past. At Mule Creek, students have ample opportunity to pursue experimental archaeology through guest speakers, demonstrations, and independent study. The 2013 field season is no exception. During our time at Mule Creek, students and staff have ground corn with a traditional stone mano and metate, flintknapped projectile points using local sources of obsidian, made cord out of plant fiber, coiled pots from local clay, and made ancient weapons like the atlatl using stone tools.
Experiences like these not only allow students and researchers to better understand some of the challenges that faced precontact peoples, but are an important way of challenging ideas and gaining information that cannot be known directly through excavation or other archaeological tools. Besides being an important research tool, experimental archaeology is also a great source of in-camp entertainment and recreation.