Retrieving the perishable past: Experimentation in fiber artifact studies

Edward A. Jolie, Maxine E. McBrinn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


Throughout most of humanity's history, perishable objects such as cordage, netting, textiles, and basketry have constituted a large percentage of peoples' material culture. Despite this fact, until recently perishables have been largely ignored in archaeological research because of preservation's bias toward durable objects (e.g., ceramics, bone, stone, antler, and ivory), the historical association of perishable technologies with women's work (Adovasio, Soffer, and Page 2007; Barber 1994; Mason 1899), and a failure to sufficiently account for variation in the archaeological record (Wobst 2001). Yet since the beginning of perishables studies, experimentation has been key to understanding the interrelatedness of material, technique, and form in perishable artifacts. Professional interest in archaeological perishables has increased dramatically over the past three decades, with substantial growth in the number and sophistication of studies. Yet experimentation continues to be an uncommon and often underreported component of this research, despite being integral to informed interpretation (Clark 2002.) In this chapter we address how experimentation enriches our understanding of perishable technologies and the people who made and used them. By reviewing previous work, suggesting avenues for future study, and offering guidelines for developing experiments, our goal is to take a step toward establishing a body of knowledge that can be drawn on by other archaeologists in the analysis and interpretation of perishable material culture wherever it is encountered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDesigning Experimental Research in Archaeology
Subtitle of host publicationExamining Technology through Production and Use
PublisherUniversity Press of Colorado
Number of pages41
ISBN (Print)9781607320227
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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