James Woods

The Complexity of Prehistoric Tools and Weapons

Our society has made remarkable advancements in technology since the advent of metals. These achievements have been made possible only after many thousands of years of experimentation with more modest materials such as bone, wood, fiber, shell, and stone. Though the distance between steel and bone may seem long, the minds of ancient toolmakers were as analytical as today’s engineers, observant as today’s artists, and as skilled as today’s craftsmen. Ancient people produced swords of wood and stone that were sharper than steel, drilled holes in jade using drill bits made of bone, and develop weapons of wood capable of dispatching from a distance the now-extinct mega-beasts of the last ice age. This program uses a combination of slides and demonstrations, and is enhanced by numerous replicas illustrating a variety of clever and unusual tools and weapons made and used by our prehistoric ancestors. Included in this presentation are several vignettes of recent case studies showing how archaeologists use replication analysis to learn more about ancient technology.