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Everyday life of the past: primitive pottery making & burning

Date: 
Friday, 29 July, 2011 to Sunday, 31 July, 2011
Responsible: 
Elsa Hietala (archaeologist, researcher at Sarka - the Finnish Museum of Agriculture)
Miska Sliden (archaeologist, museum curator at the Kierikki Stone Age Centre)
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
2000 visitors

The experiment was designed and conducted by archaeologists Elsa Hietala and Miska Sliden, whom which Elsa Hietala was the leading person.

Preparations
We decided to use Finnish red clay which is of the same kind as they used here in the Stone Age. The clay was bought from Kerasil Ltd, located in Espoo, Southern Finland, since no known clay sites are no longer found nearby. We needed clay also for the public to use so 70 kg was bought.
To mix with pure clay, we obtained sand and crushed stone. To be able to do burning experiments, we made some vessels ready a couple of weeks ahead of the event. The vessels were of various sizes, and decorated with comb prints in the Neolithic style (Typical Comb Ware).
For rain cover, a lean-to was made and for burning, a primitive fireplace. We used dry birch for burning.

Goals
Our goal was to try pottery burning on open fire and learn the process, since it has not been done in Kierikki before. We also wanted to bring some new archaeological components into our Stone Age Market program. The activities in this kind of event should be appealing for the public and possible for the visitors to try out themselves.
As it turned out, the audience was really keen on making pottery, and the burning process was a great addition to their experience. Miska learned a lot and can now explain the process to visitors. So in both senses, our goals were fulfilled.

Implementation
Pottery was made with the visitors of the Stone Age Market all through the event. Burning was also conducted every day. All phases of the process were explained to the public.
The weather was windy and partly sunny the whole three days, except for one rain fall on Friday. While it rained, we kept a skin over the fire to protect the burning process.
A total of three larger (5-10 litres) pots were burned in addition to a number of smaller ones. The open fire reaches a temperature of just about 700 degrees Celsius and it is enough to turn clay into pottery. The vessels were kept on fire for about 3-4 hours. We succeeded in the burning process thanks to Elsa´s earlier experience. Only one vessel suffered small damage during burning (see Figure 5).

Images

Fig 1. Starting up the fire. Photo: Jasse...
Fig 2. Vessels are put on the fireplace....
Fig 3. Before turning reddish-brown, the...
Fig 4. The temperature has to be risen...
Fig 5. Notice a crack at the mouth of the...
Fig 6. Second set going in. Photo: Jasse...
Fig 7. Forming a small vessel. Photo: Jasse...
Fig 8. Decorating tools made of reindeer...
Fig 9. Audience at work. Photo: Jasse...
Fig 10. People following the burning process...