by Kale Dalton, 2023 SCDNR Archaeology Intern
During my internship here with SCDNR, I got to learn about many different types of archaeology. From getting the behind-the-scenes tours from museum curators to going out in the field, my knowledge of the archaeological field expanded. One of the most influential two days that I had was focusing on experimental archaeology.
Experimental archaeology helps us see further into the past by recreating the artifacts that we see in the ground. This can be anything from flake making to bead making. It was never a form of archaeology that I had ever considered before.
During these two days, we created quite a few things. The focus of the first day was learning how to make cordage, hand-held drills, and different types of beads or pendants. We started with making cordage.
After the cordage making, we set our sights on making drill bits. We started by breaking up other rocks to make our bits. We all put on protection (because safety is important) and started smashing away. Many of us got little cuts from the flakes flying out (my knees included), but the joy of breaking things triumphed over it. Once we finally picked some drill bits that were perfect for our drills, we started making our handles and the glue. Our handles were made out of rivercane, and the glue was pitch made from pine tar. Some of us had to hold ours over the fire to straighten them out (I did it with my first one, but I broke it and had to make another one). The pitch was heated up in an oyster shell over the fire, and we began to assemble our drills. Once they were together, we started drilling our beads. There were many different materials to choose from. Most of us chose to stick with soapstone rocks because the material was softer and easier to work with. Others took it steps further and made beads out of different shells and other materials. It was at this point that the hard work really began. We got an arm workout filing down, shaping, and drilling into the materials. It really gave us all a new appreciation for the amount of beads that people made, and all the work that is put into it.
The focus of day two was making gourd containers. All of us had picked out a gourd and decided the kind of container we wanted to make. Some people chose to make bowls, others chose to make carrying containers. A few people even made their gourds into purses. We started by carving out pieces of our gourd. For me, I made a triangular hole in the side, turning it into a carrying container. This is where the real arm workout started. After cleaning the outside of our gourds with water and sand, we made outlines of where we wanted to carve our holes in charcoal and began to poke around the outline with tools. After we emptied out the seeds and dried insides of our new containers, we started giving our gourds designs. In order to get the designs, we used bone tools to poke shallow holes in a pattern. We, then, filled those holes with charcoal and ran water over them to seal the patterns in.
These two days overall were some of my favorite experiences from my time here. No matter how hot and tired we were, all of us had so much fun. It gave us a new perspective about the work put into the artifacts that we find.
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