Joao Marreiros & Eduardo Paixão: Multiscale approach on traceological studies and the importance of controlled experimentation


Date(s) - 18/05/2020
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Hörsaal Geologie (310/EG/030)


by Joao Marreiros & Eduardo Paixao

TraCEr, Laboratory for Traceology and Controlled Experiments
MONREPOS. Archaeological Research Centre
and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution

Experimentation has played an important role in archeology for decades, in particular to create reference collections for use-wear studies. Common approaches within archaeological traceological studies harness life-like experimentation, which changes the sample surfaces through use, followed by comparison with wear-patterns on archaeological specimens. The coexistence of multiple variables and human variability in actualistic experiments makes quantification and interpretation of results challenging.

Recently, due to this significant complexity in actualistic experiments, several debates on experimental archaeological studies have emphasized that much effort needs to be placed on experimental design and variable control. In controlled experiments, uniformitarian processes are assessed, in which some factors are tested (i.e. vary between different states), while other factors are kept constant (i.e. controlled). Mechanized experiments might seem far from archeological applications. Yet, we argue that they, too, are critical to answer some archeological questions. For example, cause-effect relationships are required to understand the processes of use-wear formation on archaeological tools. Nevertheless, different types of experiments can answer different questions; this is why all types should be combined to obtain a holistic view.

In this talk we aim to discuss the importance of different level of experimentation to identify and interpret the different types of use-wear traces found on archaeological artifacts. While the whole experimental workflow (organization, design and mechanical apparatus) will be the focus of this talk, this will also be illustrated by a case study on the study of Ground tone tool from the Middle Paleolithic in the Levante. This ongoing study, will discuss preliminary results from mechanical experiments, designed to understand and quantify major aspects that influence use-wear formation on limestone percussive tools.


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