Invisible Technologies & the Container Revolution
Supervisors: Prof.Oliver Craig & Dr Aimee Little
Funding: White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH)
Before pottery was adopted, Mesolithic foragers relied on ‘aceramic’ technology for cooking and food processing including hot stones, organic containers and hearths. However, due to a focus on pottery and lipid analysis, these technologies have been ignored. The efficiency of pottery has also previously been assumed but never tested. This project combines experimental archaeology with an examination of biomolecular evidence for the use of stones, containers and hearths in order to evaluate the reasons for technological change with the arrival of pottery, and to explore previously invisible cultural and economic shifts across the Mesolithic.
I completed a BSc in Biochemistry from Cardiff University in 2016 before moving to York and finishing a part-time BA in Mesolithic Studies in 2019. My research focus was on the production of birch-bark tar adhesives during the European Mesolithic, a project which primarily used outdoor experimental archaeology.
My research interests are focused around Mesolithic and hunter-gatherer material culture. I enjoy combining actualistic experimentation with laboratory science to attempt to uncover the invisible organic materials that have perished in the record. More broadly I’m interested in prehistoric diets, craft working and production, the symbolic dimensions of technology and the interactions between human cultures and their environments.
To that end I’m also a team member for the York Experimental Archaeology Research Centre (YEAR). My role as Research Assistant means I locate and produce materials and artefacts used in teaching and research and I assist in teaching students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Through this I also teach flintknapping to student groups and have been involved in outreach activities with schools and the general public.
Publications, Papers and Awards
- Langley, A and Wisher, I. (2019) ‘Have you got the tine? Prehistoric Methods into Working Antler.’ EXARC 8 (2) [online]. Available at: https://exarc.net/issue-2019-2/at/have-you-got-tine-prehistoric-methods-antler-working
- Needham, A., LANGLEY, A., Benton, H., Biggs, S., Cousen, J., Derry, A., Hardman, M., Macy, K., Millar, D., Murray, E. and Pock, F. (2019) Spinning in Circles: the Production and Function of Upper Palaeolithic Rondelles. EXARC 8 (3) [online]. Available at: https://exarc.net/issue-2019-3/at/spinning-circles-production-and-function-upper-palaeolithic-rondelles
- 2019: Langley, A. (15/02/19) Experimental Neanderthal Pyrotechnology. Unravelling Human Origins, University of York.
- 2018: Langley, A., Wisher, I. (18/12/19) Experimental Archaeology: A Conceptual Bridge? Experiences of Mediating Science and Theory through Antler Working Experiments. Theoretical Archaeology Conference, University of Chester.
- 2018: Langley, A. (14/09/18) Mesolithic Shamans: The Disabled and the Unique. Cambridge Archaeology Student Association, University of Cambridge.
- 2019: Langley, A. Birch Bark Tar: The first synthetic substance? (20/02/19). Palaeo Research Group. University of Durham.
- 2019: Langley, A., Needham, A. and Little, A. (21/06/19) Inspiring Young Minds: The Role of Experimental Archaeology in Delivering the Key Stage 2 Stone Age Curriculum (2/2). Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 11, University of York.
- 2019: Little, A., Needham, A. and Langley, A. (21/06/19) Inspiring Young Minds: The Role of Experimental Archaeology in Delivering the Key Stage 2 Stone Age Curriculum (1/2). Annual Learning and Teaching Conference 11, University of York.
- 2019: Langley, A., Needham, A., Benton, H., Biggs, S., Cousen, J., Darlington, A., Derry, A., Hardman, M., Macy, K., Millar, D., Murray, E., Pock, F., Rowsell, J., Sandin Catacora, M., Van Oordt, G., Veitch-Scoggins, D. and Little, A. (16/02/18) Going around in circles? Exploring production and use of Magdalenian rondelles using experimental archaeology. Unravelling Human Origins Conference, University of York.
- 2019: Amy, M., Needham, A., Langley, A. and Wisher, I. (16/02/18) Playing with fire: Exploring the role of Magdalenian limestone plaquettes in hearth structures using experimental archaeology, Unravelling Human Origins Conference, University of York.
- Langley, A. Feb.2019. Neanderthal Fire Lighting Experiments: Overview of experiments into Neanderthal pyrotechnology, focusing on how the mineral pigment manganese dioxide may have been used to aid fire lighting https://yorkexperimentalarchaeology.wordpress.com/2019/02/22/neanderthal-firelighting-experiments/
- Langley, A. Mar.2019. Mesolithic Studies Master’s Student Runs Outreach Activity for Hertford Vale Primary School Pupils: A short report into a flintknapping and bead making workshop that I helped organise and run with a number of primary school students https://yorkexperimentalarchaeology.wordpress.com/2019/03/26/mesolithic-studies-masters-student-runs-outreach-activity-for-hertford-vale-primary-school-pupils/
- Nov.2019. Recipient of the Herman Ramm Award for Best Masters Dissertation in Archaeology, awarded by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society.
- Oct 2017. Joint winner of Best Documentary chosen by York Archaeological Trust as part of the Masters Experimental Archaeology Skills Module. The documentary will form part of National Curriculum Key Stage 2 learning materials.
Teaching and Impact
2018 & 2019: GTA: Experimental Archaeology Design and Practice, University of York, 5 credits, 16 students
2020: GTA: Guest Lecturer (module leader: Dr Stephanie Wynne-Jones) for Material Culture and Theory Masters Skills Module.
Year 3 Undergraduate
2019: GTA: Assisted with outdoor experimental session (module leader: Andy Needham)- Assessed Seminars: Neanderthals and Modern Humans in Europe, 30 credits, 12 students.
Year 2 Undergraduate
2019 & 2020: GTA: Skills Module: Experimental Archaeology and Material Culture, University of York, 20 credits, 13 students.
Year 1 Undergraduate
2019: GTA: Accessing Archaeology, 30 credits, 16 students
- Aug.2020. Interview with Dr Andy Needham for the YEAR Centre Podcast. Discussed my research interests and work with Mesolithic technology. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPmxdlzuFpo
- Jan.2020. Article in The Atlantic. Media piece exploring how humans boiled water before ceramic pots, based on an interview with myself and Masters students. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/01/how-did-humans-cook-before-the-invention-of-pots/605008/
- Jun.2019. Expert guest on documentary series Mystic Britain, episode 8 Ice Age Shaman. My contribution was discussing the Mesolithic relationship with red deer and some of the tools that they made from their bones. https://www.radiotimes.com/tv-programme/e/h2js7j/mystic-britain--s1-e8-ice-age-shaman/
- 2019: Langley, A., Needham, A. Led Key Stage 2 student experimental archaeology workshop at the YEAR Centre. University of York.
- 2019: Assisted at Masters open day - led experimental archaeology session at the YEAR Centre. University of York.
- 2018: Assisted at Needham, A. (17/11/18) YorNight, public exhibition entitled: Ice Age Art: Making Art in the Magdalenian, University of York.
- 2018: Participated in York Viking Festival (28/02/18) - engaged public with prehistoric antler artefacts. City of York.
- 2019: Festival of Ideas, (06/19), assisting with families participating in replica artefact manufacture, University of York.
- 2019: Needham, A., Langley, A., Little, A. YEAR Centre Experimental Archaeology Photographic Exhibition, University of York.