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Experimental archaeology is the ""method acting"" of human history. It is the duplication of the construction and function of ancient remains using only the materials and technological capabilities which were locally available to the ancient society under investigation. Two popular examples of this method of research are Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki and Ra expeditions. But the book is not for the ""popular"" market. It is a scientific survey of experiments performed by archaeologists working individually or in specially constructed research centers which serve as open laboratories and public museums. There are three main sections on food production (land clearance, storage, preparation), heavy industry (house and monument building, boats and voyages), and light industry (stone, wood, bone and metal working, pottery making, painting, music). The experiments are carefully recorded and all pertinent data is included. It is not light or entertaining reading, although a polite smile might be evoked by the author's comment following a detailing of the reconstruction of a Bronze Age cooking site. A leg of mutton was boiled (according to a series of instructions which read like a 1500 B.C. Joy of Cooking) in a water trough heated by stones from two adjacent hearths. ""After 3 hours and 40 minutes the mutton was extracted, perfectly clean and cooked to perfection. The sheepdogs were unrewarded as the experimenters themselves consumed the food."" Certainly a valuable reference guide for archaeology students concerned not only with the question of ""what did they do,"" but ""how did they do it.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1974
Publisher: Scribners