The Workshop for residues and Hafting, University of Liège, June 2-4 (2015)

                                                                                     Blog post by Noora Taipale & Ebbe Hayes


Earlier this month (2nd – 4th June, 2015), Veerle Rots and the TraceoLab team from the University of Liège (ULg), Belgium, hosted the Workshop for Residues and Hafting. Thirty guests from all over the world, including Australia, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK, took part in the three day workshop. Special guest speakers included Martine Regert (CNRS and University of Nice, France), Ebbe Hayes (University of Wollongong, Australia), Geeske Langejans (Leiden University, the Netherlands), Pierre-Hugues Stefanuto (ULg), Ludovic Bellot-Gurlet (Sorbonne University, France), Larry Barham (University of Liverpool, UK), Marie Soressi (Leiden University) and Richard Fullagar (University of Wollongong). Staff members, post-doctoral fellows and students at TraceoLab and ULg (Veerle Rots, Carol Lentfer, Jimmy Linton, Hélène Salomon, Dries Cnuts, Sonja Tomasso, Noora Taipale, Christian Lepers and Justin Coppe) also presented their ongoing research.

The aim of the workshop was to discuss the aspects of stone tool hafting and residue analysis in an informal setting by bringing together investigators with various research strengths and scientific backgrounds. The discussions centred around the cognitive, social and technological foundations of hafting, as well as contemporary and innovative methods of tool residue analysis. Current studies on Palaeolithic and Neolithic hafting, along with ongoing experimental work focused on Palaeolithic hunting systems, were also presented.

Workshop participants were given a guided tour of the TraceoLab’s new microscopy laboratory, which houses an extensive experimental reference collection of approximately 2000 stone tools. Guests were able to examine selected tools using any of the nine Zeiss® microscopes. Veerle Rots, the director of the TraceoLab, explained the basics of hafting wear formation, and, with the rest of the TraceoLab team, provided guidance in identifying particular traces of wear. Guests were able examine collections of projectile tips, ground stone tools and chipped flint tools that had been used for various purposes and durations. These tool categories represent crucial aspects of human behaviour and evolution.

Residue removal and treatment techniques were demonstrated in the wet chemistry laboratory, and included methods of residue removal, slide preparation and staining. Residues were removed via pipette extractions and ultrasonication, and mounted on glass slides for examination under the transmitted light microscope. The application of various staining agents to highlight damaged and amorphous residues was also demonstrated. During this practical session, guests were able to try their hand at removing residues, preparing slides, and examining removed material under high magnification. The development and application of residue removal and analysis techniques is becoming increasingly important for our understanding of tool function and past behaviour.

The second practical session concentrated on the dynamics of stone tool hafting. TraceoLab’s master knapper and experimenter Christian Lepers demonstrated methods of processing raw hide, sinew and resin for hafting purposes, and participants were able to examine tool and weapon replicas and other equipment that are in use in the experimental lab. The guests also got a first-hand experience of Palaeolithic hunting systems by trying out a spearthrower!

The three workshop days were passed in a relaxed atmosphere. The topics covered and the questions discussed demonstrated that functional analysis is a truly multidisciplinary field of study where new methods meet fundamental questions of human ecology, culture, and evolution. The organisers would like to thank all the participants for their enthusiasm, inspiring presentations and stimulating conversations. We hope that this small gathering encourages collaboration and exchange of ideas between different institutes as well as experts in various fields.

To view more photographs from the Workshop, please visit AWRANA’s Facebook page