From February 15–21, I attended an outdoor primitive technology encampment called Winter Count located near Phoenix. Experts in a wide variety of ancient technology skills gather twice a year to share their knowledge with students and each other. Winter Count is a great way to improve one’s skills and to meet like-minded enthusiasts. This year, more than 300 people attended. Classes explored skills such as hide-tanning, traditional pottery, useful plants and foraging, bows and arrows, atlatls and darts, flintknapping, fire by friction, food gathering, pecking and grinding, cordage and fibers, and more.
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For me, this experience was akin to taking graduate-level courses in skills that are rarely actually taught in higher education classes. A lot of hands-on practice is necessary to master these technologies. Winter Count allowed me to improve certain skills I have not fully mastered, and to learn new techniques—all to the benefit of our Hands-On Archaeology program, and to any of you who sign up for my Hands-On classes!
I took classes in pottery making and bow making. Master potter John Olsen from Boulder, Utah, was our ceramics instructor. This class took parts of four days, covering the manufacturing process from gathering clay to final firing. I made a couple of bowls out of clay from the Four Corners area. The pots were fired on the last day of Winter Count, over the course of the entire day.