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Conference: Experiment and Experience: Ancient Egypt in the Present
Many of the papers focused on a diverse array of materials and processes including -building (Creasman), lithics and (Lund, Cwiek, Stocks), (Killen) textiles (Janssen, Richards, Johnstone), garlands (McAleely), glass (Nicholson), (Merkel) and (Szpakowska). Many of the papers included demonstrations of the skills or materials associated with their topic. For example, Geoffrey Killen demonstrated with ancient Egyptian tools, including a replica lathe based on ancient illustrations, and Marquardt Lund ( Scenes from Beni Hassan Tombs) also included demonstrations of knapping.
While most of the demonstrations were more experiential in nature, a few aimed to answer archaeological questions through . Rosalind Janssen ( Demonstration) used volunteers to create pleats in linen using both a replica laundry and by hand so as to compare the two processes, while Salima Ikram (From the Meadow to the Em-baa-ming Table: and Mummification) tested the hypothesis that an alabaster containers can be stained with blood. Wileke Wendrich’s study of apprenticeship through ethnography served as a reminder that the people that produced the materials that are studied through experiment often had years of experience and knowledge often unavailable to present researchers.
Several papers also explored the historical significance of both experimental archaeology and experiential studies in Egyptology. Donald Ryan (Reed Building: Early Experiments) recounted the work of Thor Heyerdahl, including that which had tenuous links to Egyptology. Ashley Cooke (The Experimental Work of FCJ Spurrell: Faience, Glass and ) and Carolyn Graves-Brown (History of Experimental Lithics: From Spurrell to Lund) highlighted the important historical role of experiment/experience in archaeological research, and Egyptology in particular.
The inclusion of demonstrations in many of the presentations was a welcome change, and several of the presenters were able to skillfully employ conventional methods with showing off skills or answering archaeological questions. This was aided by the fact that most papers were allotted 40 minutes to an hour. However, some papers would have benefitted from being kept to a more traditional time allowance of 20 to 30 minutes. This may have allowed for part of the conference to be dedicated to more in-depth demonstrations or experiments. The decision to make the conference available online was a good one that should be made more often for smaller conferences such as this. Online streaming, or similar techniques such as podcasts, make such conferences more accessible to students and to researchers located abroad. While much of the conference focused on experience rather than experiment, it was able to highlight the importance of such work and that fact that such experience is often needed to construct viable archaeological experiments.
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