The Experimental Archaeology Course

Since 1982 all first-year undergraduates coming to the Institute have travelled out of London to camp for several nights during the Experimental Archaeology Course (formerly known as the Primitive Technology Course: and still affectionately referred to as ‘Prim Tech’). This was started by Peter Drewett in a field adjacent to his house and has been located at a number of other locations since then including West Farleigh Hall and Michelham Priory. Since September 2005 this has taken place at West Dean. The course gives students a better understanding of what remains they can expect to find at archaeological sites and what they can reasonably interpret about the behaviour of people in the past. The student society (SAS) and staff work together to provide an intensive but informal context for the new undergraduates to get to know each other at the very start of their degree. Experimental activities include: assessing what factors influence the survival of charred seeds; studying the choice of bone working techniques in the production of Egyptian bone ‘labels’; studying the properties of tree bark (bast) in textile production; using deer butchery to reconsider the evidence of hunting and resource use at Boxgrove; and a project developed as a result of the 2007 excavations at West Dean (see below) to investigating potential activities leading to the production of fire-cracked flint and its role in British Bronze Age pottery.

Silver refining (Cupellation) 2005
Digging grain storage pit 2006
Retrieving grain from a storage pit 2008
Plying bast fibre from birch trees 2005

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