Archaeology has been described as the discipline that borrows from all the others. It combines history, technology, and philosophy. My own area of archaeology combines science, art, and craft. For years I have studied the tools and materials of ancient metalsmiths, replicating bronze hammers, chisels, anvils, and other tools to understand how to use them and how well they worked. After earning an MSc and PhD in archaeometallurgy from the University of Sheffield in the UK, I continued to do research and experimental work replicating ancient casting technology and writing articles about the results. It’s exciting work and I often join other artists and archaeologists at conferences and workshops, where we demonstrate bronze casting and other ancient metalworking techniques, and exchange ideas about our research. I want to be able to share this exciting research with a larger audience and your support will help supply the materials needed to introduce others to the craft and science of archaeology.
Experimental archaeology isn’t re-enactment or living history, although there can be some overlap. Instead, experimental archaeology is based on a question that needs to be explored and answered. I often work at a charcoal furnace, casting metal in much the same way people did thousands of years ago. Other times I am in a laboratory analysing the metals I cast, or replicating experiments with modern equipment. It’s important that very step be documented. Materials must be weighed and measured before and after the experiment, and detailed photographs are taken. However, all of this would be for nothing if the results aren’t published. Every paper I publish gives others information that they can use for their own research.
I also take these opportunities to teach others. I have helped to run workshops around the UK, and have participated in symposia and conferences there, in the US, and Europe. In addition I’ve worked with at-risk and disadvantaged youth, and groups with disabilities, introducing them to archaeology and ancient craft techniques.
- Supporting experimental archaeology on Patreon will allow me to continue my work and writing. Unfortunately academic journals do not pay authors or reviewers. And if authors want to make their work available through open access so the public can read their articles, they have to pay a rather hefty fee. I don’t think it’s fair, but this is the current state of affairs. Your contributions will go towards making my research available to everyone, either as an individual Patreon reward, or by enabling me to pay Open Access fees.
- Experiments often need to be analysed using equipment that provide information about chemical composition or examination of the microstructure. All of this requires advanced preparation of samples and fees for either using the equipment, or paying for others to do the analyses. The support you give will enable me to have these analyses done, and enable for me to publish more comprehensive reports.
- I often speak at conferences and seminars about the work I do. Last year I was at the Archaeometallurgy in Europe conference presenting my research on the different ways in which technology can answer questions about how metal tools were used in the Bronze Age. I also spoke at conferences about interpreting the damage on bronze tools to tell how they had been used, and how metal alloys are affected by recycling. Sometimes conferences provide bursaries, but usually it is up to the presenter to pay for the fees and travel expenses. Your contributions will make it possible for me to present my research at conferences and to see what work other researchers in the field are doing.
- Experimental archaeology isn’t just for the academic. I’ve worked with both kids and adults, introducing them to the world of the past and firing up their imaginations. We work as teams, building furnaces and pumping hand-made bellows to heat charcoal to the point where it will melt metal, all the while discussing life and work in prehistory. However, many groups or schools lack the funds to run a workshop. Your support will help to introduce others to the world of experimental archaeology.
- I also have a website and blog, Ancient Tools and Craft: Exploring Ancient Technology through Experimental Archaeology (http://ancienttools.net/), where I share news and articles about archaeology, provide tutorials explaining how to build equipment, and have links to other websites and publications.
- In the future I hope to expand the projects to include others who do experimental archaeology in other areas, such as textiles or glass. I hope that eventually your contributions will go to support a network of artisans who have the skills and knowledge to do research into a wide range of early craft technology.
LEVELS & REWARDSThe reward levels allow you to choose how to support these projects. Some are set up to be fun, but other rewards could be useful if you are interested in resources for your own groups or classes.
- Are you a teacher or lecturer interested in experimental archaeology? One of the lower level rewards not only gives you copies of the articles I’ve published, but also provides copies of PowerPoint presentations that I have given at conferences. These can be used as resources for classes and groups interested in learning more about experimental archaeology and ancient metallurgy.
- Are you interested in having me speak or conduct a workshop at your event? I would be glad to make arrangements. I regularly travel and welcome the opportunity to teach hands-on workshops with groups of adults or young people.
- Want to fund a special project? Is there some aspect of experimental archaeology or metalworking that you’ve wanted to explore, but don’t have the ability or resources to do it yourself? We can discuss the possibilities of constructing an experiment, including research into work that was previously done. I welcome collaborative projects and introducing more people to the craft and science of archaeology.
it’s important that you know that your support makes it possible for me to continue my work, but it also enables me to teach and to share my research as well. For that, I want to thank you, whether you contribute a dollar a month, or a couple more to download articles, or even up the ante to one of the higher reward levels, you’ll know that you’re part of the team that helps make this possible. You're a fellow explorer in the world of the past.