Bradley Ross: Living replicas of the hands of Ardipithecus and Early Australopithecus were recreated in accordance with scientific analysis of the fossil record. Their effectiveness were compared to modern human hands when performing passive percussion (PP), bipolar knapping (BK) and free-hand percussion (F-HP). The results showed that both sets of hands could perform PP, but neither could perform BK nor F-HP. This supports the view of White et al (2009 and 2015) that the hand morphology of Ardipithecus was capable of making stone tools using PP. The results refute Harmand et al’s (2015) proposition, that Australopithecus afarensis could have made the 3.3Ma Lomekwian stone tools using BK. Further, these results identify PP as the only knapping method that our ancestors were capable of before becoming bipedal. Hence, the hip, knee and spine ranges of movement favoured for performing PP (as seen performed by capuchins) are similar to those used by H.sapiens when mobilising bipedally. The development in early hominins, of motor control of these joint ranges when performing PP, was the essential evolutionary step in our transition to obligate bipedalism.

Michael Manoel: For my project, I looked at alternative reasons for firing wood tools such as spears. Recent research has cast doubt on the previously held idea that firing would improve a tool’s durability, and another paper noted that their manufacture time during a recreation of the Clacton point was reduced when using fire during the production process. My experiment tested this, and I found that firing a spear during the manufacturing process significantly reduces the time and energy investment required to produce a spear from an unworked stick. This is possible explanation for why fired wood tools are more common than unfired tools both archaeologically and ethnographically.

Carita Robinson: For my experiment, I chose to investigate ostrich eggshell bead-making technology developed during the late-Quaternary period. To explain the prominence of broken eggshell bead fragments in the archaeological record, I manufactured 20 ostrich eggshell beads using two different methods to determine the rates of breakage sustained during their creation. I found that whilst only 40% of the beads survived the manufacturing process when they were drilled and then ground into shape, 100% of the beads that were ground first and then drilled survived. These results can be used as a possible explanation for the multitudes of snapped beads as well as complete beads that have been observed at ancient sites, holding exciting implications for hominin cognition and problem-solving skillsets. 

Ingrid Morgan: This experiment involved the construction and burning two open air funeral pyres to determine if a variation in their construction had any impact on the success of the cremations and the degree of burning to a pig carcass, used as a proxy for the human body. The practice of ancient cremations leaves Archaeologists with little more than an assemblage of burnt bone to examine and interpret, and their absence during this funerary practice leave them with little information regarding pyre design, size and dimensions. The basis of the experiment was to determine if building a pyre over a ditch would affect the intensity of burning based on the premise that more oxygen would be drawn up through the timbers increasing the temperature of the fire. The cremations were conducted outdoors and were subject to unpredictable weather conditions that impacted the length of the experiment. There were both successes and failures with the experiment, which the video records. However, Carrol & Smith’s (2018) ‘burnt bone colour scale’ was a very useful tool in the analysis of the excavated bones, which assigns a known temperature according to the colour change in the bones. While the overall results were unexpected, the experiment proved in this instance that both the pyres burned with similar intensity to each other with the ditch making little difference to the temperatures reached during the cremations. 

About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.