It was approaching the 2006 Easter break and me and my fellow undergraduate friend, Katie Marley were about to set off on an epic adventure into the Scottish wilderness. Well to an archaeological prehistoric park at Oyne, Archaeolink! Our mission, to build a replica Neolithic boat to find out what it would have taken to make a boat that could have brought Neolithic farmers into Scotland.
Meet the team! Ellen, David, Peter Faulkner (master Coracle maker), Katie and me
The idea behind the project was to make a willow and hide boat that would have been big enough to carry cargo over to Scotland during the Neolithic. Although there is no direct evidence that Neolithic people would have used this type of boat, as it would only have survived in areas where there is exceptional organic preservation, we wanted to see if it could have been a possibility. Now apart from the wonderful Peter, the rest of us had no experience in making coracles! so it was a great learning experience for us! The first task was to trim the willow that would be used to make the boat.
Katie Marly getting to grips with trimming the willow
Helen Williams getting the hang of it!
Next job – making it pointy!
A coracle (which is what our boat was based on) is basically a very large basket covered in hide and sealed with tree sap and tar to make it water tight. The next step was then to weave the structure of the boat, basically into a very large basket!
The boat begins!
Pointy sticks in the ground!
Master Coracle maker who guided us through the whole process!
One to work….five to watch!
Masters at work!
The rest of us get stuck in!
Making the shape of the boat
Bending the stems over!
Looking a bit more boat like now
Making the bow
All hands to the pump to get those last thick willow stems to stay in place!
Ready for the skins!
View from inside the boat at dusk
Part two….covering the boat!
Well I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while! I really want to share with everyone the wonderful efforts of my friend and colleague Emily Hellewell in educating children about the Mesolithic. This was a project that came to fruition with a free activity day for children to learn about the Mesolithic in our own home institution at Kings Manor York University. The small part I played was the creation of the feedback tree.To find out more about Emily’s Mesolithic click here
One of our responsibilities as soil specialists and also one of the great joys is to pass on our knowledge to others. I was given just such opportunity when I was asked to be a guest lecturer in the forensic archaeology adult learning class. My remit – teach them about soils and burials! So the gauntlet thrown I raced head long into working out what my learning outcome and teaching goals for the lesson should be!
The class was a mixture of adult learners who just wanted to know more about the forensic side of archaeological science and those wanting to be get accredited for the module. We started off by getting the class to think about what a soil actually was and what sort of information it might be able to give us about burials by producing a word cloud. Then straight into the main presentation, the class were a very quiet group but after some chatting we managed to get them interacting and talking about the different aspects of soil formation processes and taphonomy. The highlight of the lesson was a great little soil description exercise where I asked all of the students to bring in soil from their homes (I also brought a selection). This let the class get to grips with the techniques used in both soil science and forensic archaeology. It was a great activity and the class really enjoyed it!
We then went on to talk briefly about the soil chemistry, although I think in future I may need to find a more user friendly way to present this information! And then spent the last part of the lecture looking at examples of the use of soils in criminal investigations using Petraco, N., Kubic, T.A., Petraco, N.D.K., 2008. Case studies in forensic soil examinations, Forensic Science International 178, e23-e27.
Students getting to grips with soil!
Students deciding which soil looks the most interesting!