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Experimental archaeology
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Experimental archaeology

Experimental archeology is a method to learn about ancient technology by reconstructing an object based on (primarily) archaeological source material. This can be a way to test a hypothesis or an interpretation.

Subtypes of experimental archaeology include reconstruction archaeology, in which a group of modern workers attempt to build copies of historical structures using only historically accurate technologies. It should be kept separate from historical reenactment. An example is Butser Ancient Farm in the English county of Hampshire which is a working replica of an Iron Age farmstead where long-term experiments in prehistoric agriculture, animal husbandry and manufacturing are held to test ideas posited by archaeologists. In Denmark, the Lejre prehistoric farm carries out even more ambitious work on such diverse topics as artificial Bronze Age and Iron Age burials, prehistoric science and stone tool manufacture in the absence of flint.

Other types of experimental archaeology may involve burying modern replica artefactss and ecofacts for varying lengths of time to analyse the post-depositional effects on them. Other archaeologists have built modern earthworks and measured the effects of silting in the ditches and weathering and subsidence on the banks to understand better how ancient monuments would have looked.

The work of Flintknappers is also a kind of experimental archaeology as much has been learnt about the many different types of flint tools through the hands-on approach of actually making them. Experimental archaeologists have equipped modern professional butchers, archers and lumberjacks with replica flint tools to judge how effective they would have been for certain tasks. Hand axes have been shown to be particularly effective at cutting animal meat from the bone and jointing it.

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