My name is Ellie Rylance and I have just completed my second year of the Archaeology and Ancient Civilisations course. This summer is set to be the most eventful of my degree yet; I have just completed a training excavation at Auckland Castle, and will be on a placement in August with the Durham Museum of Archaeology. I am also beginning to conduct work for my dissertation.
I started this day with an incredibly important activity, greeting my cat Luna. She is shown below for your appreciation.
I then headed out to pick up some things I was going to need; namely some flint and some example stone tools. On the agenda was some flintknapping.
You see, for my dissertation I am planning to determine the likelihood that Neanderthals may have utilised traps to acquire small prey. To do that, I’ve been conducting analysis to determine what small prey Neanderthals exploited and what traps could be used to catch these. My next step is to conduct some experimental archaeology to attempt to create these traps using resources that would have been available to Neanderthals and then ethically test them using proxies for live prey.
To do this as authentically as possible, my aim is to create some basic stone tools with which to make the traps and snares. My plan, then, was to get some practice in and perhaps even produce something I might be able to use for my investigation.
I was supervised by my father, who is qualified in primitive technology. Though they aren’t visible in these pictures, we did have safety equipment such as gloves and goggles available. And yes, that is a replica of the Snettisham torc in the background of the first picture – a little (!) outside the period I’m looking at, but it was there anyway.
Though the flint we were using was not of ideal quality, some of it being quite brittle and having difficult inclusions, we still produced some simple tools. Neanderthals did more complex techniques (including the Levallois technique, which involved the production of a prepared core) but I wanted to keep the tools as simple as possible to make them easier to produce, and to show that these snares and traps can be produced with simple tools.
I produced some small tools like the simple scraper above. You can see the bulb of percussion just under my thumb, which provides a good gripping point when holding the tool and is useful to help archaeologists determine if a piece of flint was worked and refit pieces of flint to reconstruct the knapping process. We also produced some more irregular flakes which could still be used as scrapers, as demonstrated by my dad below – you can see just how sharp it is!
We also found some very interesting inclusions, including what appears to be a fossilised piece of twig!
I learned a lot doing flintknapping – including just how difficult it is and how much planning it takes even without pre-preparing a core. I also managed to produce some quite useful flakes and scrapers to use in my experimental investigations and will surely produce more!
Thank you for joining me in my day in the life, I hope you found it interesting! Please do check out the other days in the life if you haven’t already and stay tuned for the ones that will be following mine.