The Legacy of Ancient Technology: UHON 222-009 (Sophomore Level), 3 Credits

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This course is based in the actual construction, use, and hands-on study of ancient technologies. The everyday, the mundane and the ubiquitous are keys to understanding the past. At the same time, ancient technologies set the stage for modern tools and artifacts, and they provide comparisons to how and why we use technology today. Students will construct and experiment with fire, stone tools, spears and atlatls, weaving and basketry, and adobe architecture. This course will also expose students to both historical and modern issues of resource use and preservation, consumerism and fashion, and the relationship between the natural and built environments.

(As with all University of New Mexico Honors Program courses, registration is capped at 16 students).


Students use an Honors Program produced reader (individual readings discussed below) and John Whittaker's book Flintknapping: Making & Understanding Stone Tools (1997).


Week 1

Jan. 17-19 An Introduction to How and Why We Study Ancient Tools and Technology

Read: 'Ethnoarchaeology: A Discussion of Methods and Applications' by Daniel Stiles (from Man, vol. 12, no. 1, 1977) and short excerpts from Leonard Bruno's The Tradition of Technology (1995)

Week 2


Fire and Fire Making

Hands-On Experiments with Matches and Flint and Steel

Read: selections from Stephen Pyne's Fire: A Brief History (2001), Walter Hough's 'Aboriginal Fire Making' (American Anthropologist, vol. 3, no. 4, 1890), and Dino Labiste's web-based essay 'Making Fire with a Bow Drill' (2001).

Week 3

31-Feb. 2

Fire and Fire Making cont'd

Hands on Experiments with Bow Drillings, Fire Ploughs and Friction Methods

Discussion of the Social Impacts of Fire

Read: selections from Stephen Pyne's Fire: A Brief History (2001)

Week 4


Making and Using Stone Tools

Flintknapping Demonstration

Read: Whittaker's Flintknapping chpts 1-7

* Assignment 1 Due (fire making narrative and essay on the social impact of fire)

Week 5


Stone Tools cont'd

Hands-On Flintknapping Experiments Using Obsidian

Read: Whittaker's Flintknapping chpts 8-10

Week 6


Stone Tools cont'd

Hands-On Flintknapping Experiments Using Obsidian and Cherts

Experiemental Use of Stone Tools on Wood and Bone

Week 7

28-Mar. 2

The Physics of Spears and Atlatls

Read: Brian Cotterell and Johan Kamminga's 'Projectiles' (from Mechanics of Pre-Industrial Technology, 1990)

* Assignment 2 Due (essay on stone tool manufacture and use)

Week 8


Making and Practice Using Spears and Atlatls

Practice Throwing Atatls (meet at the Johnson Athletic Fields)

Read: George Frison's 'Experimental Use of Clovis Weaponry and Tools on African Elephants' (American Antiquity, vol. 54, no. 4, 1989)

Week 9


Spring Break, No Class.

Week 10


Discussion of the Value of Textiles, Rope and Fiber Technologies. …


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