Archaeology and Technology

Session Hosting Format: 
in-person session
Vendredi, mai 3, 2024 - 3:20pm - 5:00pm
  • Session Chair: Steven Mozarowski
Contact Email: 
03:20 PM - 03:40 PM: Cooked to Perfection: Insight on Cuisine from Early Northern Great Plains Pottery
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Andrew Lints

During the time of Besant and Sonota, cuisine likely held a central role in daily life and culture, much like today. However, the challenge of preservation often obscures our understanding of these past culinary practices. Microbotanical research provides archaeologists with an invaluable means to identify even the most delicate remnants of past meals (e.g., plants) cooked within pottery vessels. Analyses of carbonized residues, combined with visual analyses of vessels from 24 sites provided an opportunity to gain insight into the cuisine of this time. At the Stelzer site (39DW242), a combination of maize, chenopodium, and local berries was found within multiple vessels spread throughout the campsite. These combinations closely resemble recipes that are still prepared today, as documented in ethnographic accounts. Similarly, at the Walter Felt site (EcNm-8), an abundance of common grass phytoliths was observed in each vessel, requiring thought to food recipes. This finding suggests that these vessels may have been used to prepare meals containing stomach contents, aligning with ethnographic descriptions of food preparation practices. By continuing microbotanical research on carbonized residues in concert with a functional analysis of pottery vessels, we can continue to shed light on past cuisine. 

03:40 PM - 04:00 PM: Learning from the ancient masters: Seeing the people through technology
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Wen Yin (Elaine)  Cheng - University of Toronto

Studying technology through archaeology science often focuses on the material science aspects of the artifacts such as the raw material, changes in the raw material through its production, and application of the raw materials to its use. Technology is but one aspect of the past. To learn from the masters in the past in their techniques and production, we must look beyond the results of archaeological science from the material science and technological application point of view and understand the human factors involved in the changes of raw materials in the form of specialization, organization, and how the knowledge was passed down, while keeping in mind the geographical landscape, technological knowledge, and cultural preferences. Without these factors the artifacts will not exist in the form we see them today. This paper will use Wendat pottery and Chinese bronze casting as examples to learn from the artisans. The artisan theory combines landscape archaeology, sequence of production, and knowledge theory to bring a new avenue of discussion by focusing on the artisans beyond the technology.

04:00 PM - 04:20 PM: Technological Styles in Indus Terracotta Production
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Sutapa Lahiri

The Indus or Harappan Civilization's Urban Phase, also known as the Integration Era, flourished in South Asia between 2600-1900 BCE. It is known for its unique features, such as urban planning, hygienic practices, undeciphered script, extensive regional and interregional trade, and cultural uniformity across a vast geographical area. Despite the amount of material culture available from this period, little research has been conducted on the technological styles, cross-craft technologies, and knowledge transmission involved in the production of Indus terracottas. In this presentation, I analyze a sample of terracottas from two Indus settlements in the Ghaggar Basin in Northwestern India dating to the Mature Indus period (2600-1900 BCE). This study offers the first comparative analysis of Indus terracotta technological styles and demonstrates the presence of different technological choices in terracotta cakes, toys, and figurines. The present investigation offers new insights into the technological choices made by Indus terracotta artisans and highlights the significance of terracotta in their social structure.


04:20 PM - 04:40 PM: Mixing methods to reconstruct past diet: Microbotanicals and Stable Isotopes from Carbonized Pottery Residues
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Steph Skelton - Lakehead University

Reconstructing past diet is important for Indigenous reclamation of traditional foodways and our understanding past human economic systems. The Six Seasons of the Asiniskaw Īthiniwak (Rocky Cree) project seeks to contribute to Indigenous reclamation of language, history, and knowledge (including food systems). As part of this larger project, my goal is to investigate the traditional foodways of the Asiniskaw Īthiniwak’s ancestors, through the analysis of carbonized residues preserved on a series of Late Woodland Selkirk Composite vessels from South Indian Lake in Northern Manitoba. A fundamental goal of this project is to establish what foodstuffs were cooked in these vessels, and therefore what plants and animals may have contributed to the Asiniskaw Īthiniwak ancestor’s diets. Microbotanicals, such as phytoliths and starch granules, are readily recoverable from these residues, allowing the identification of plant foods. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses of these same residues can identify proteins, in particular the presence of aquatic sources. Combining these two methods allows for a broader assessment of past diet than either of these methods does alone liking them to a specific vessel and therefore to the final meals cooked in those vessels. 


04:40 PM - 05:00 PM: Automated starch granule identification using high-throughput microscopy and machine learning
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Steven Mozarowski - Pre-Construct Archaeology

Starch analysis is used in archaeology to investigate the processing of wild plants for food and medicine, as well as the domestication and spread of cultigens. Starch analyses depend on the development and use of plant species identification keys. To date, all methods to identify starch are either time-consuming to produce and apply, or impossible to statistically validate for their accuracy. This paper describes a statistically testable starch identification method developed during my MSc research (LakeheadU) called the machine learning method (MLM). MLM mitigates two production bottlenecks in existing methods. First, collecting reference images of starch is accelerated using a multispectral imaging flow cytometer (MIFC). This microscope can collect thousands of images per second. Second, the traditional step of collecting measurements of individual starches by hand is eliminated. Image sets are used directly to train image recognition algorithms at species identification. MLM produces identification accuracies comparable to or better than other methods. When MLM is applied using 8,500 images of starch from 17 plants mostly occurring in eastern North America, identification accuracy is observed to be as high as 99.5%. MLM promises to provide a feasible and accurate means to identify starch recovered from archaeological materials.