EXARN: a documentary

Over the past few months the EXARN team has been working alongside three masters students from The Culture Lab at Newcastle University, Kypros Kyprianou, Katie Oswell and Jasmine Padgett.

We have written, filmed and created a documentary about experimental archaeology with the aim to bring archaeology and experimental archaeology to all audiences. We want to engage the public and academics alike in a subject we adore.

Please watch our documentary below…



Time for beads!

Hi everyone, welcome to our first blog post of 2019!

Today’s post comes from Eleonora Montanari a new EXARN member for this year. Ele’s research aims to shed new light on the role of glass beads in the construction of personal and group identity including gender, age, status, and ethnicity in Iron Age Spain and Italy.

As part of this research she is carrying out a series of use wear experiments on glass beads!

Glass, amber, and bronze beads ready for assembly into necklaces.

Here’s what she has to say:

The bead wearing experiment has finally started! A group of lovely volunteers will be wearing necklaces, each with two glass beads and an amber or copper alloy bead, for three years (gasp!). The aim of the experiment is to see if any recognisable traces of wear by use will develop on the glass beads, and how these traces might differ from what are observed on beads from archaeological contexts.

This experiment is an integral part of my research, and for this reason, each element of the necklaces reflects the most common types of materials present in ornaments in Spanish and Italian Iron Age burials. The glass beads have the same broad composition of the archaeological specimens of the first millennium BC, which means they are softer than modern ones. I should add as well that I made the glass beads myself, and I feel quite proud!

You can follow Ele and her experiments ‎@EleVenerabl on Twitter, and we will keep you updated with more on our blog too!

I hope that’s whetted your appetite for experimental archaeology, we’ve got some big projects coming up in 2019 (including more glass and more beads!) so be sure to look out for more on those in the near future!

EASTs 2018

Last weekend EXARN hosted the first Experimental Archaeology Student Symposium (EASTs) at Newcastle University.

What a success! All speakers were very impressive and of a high quality. Their papers ranged from glass knapping to charcoal production and iron smelting experiments. Theory, practice and reflection provided interesting thought on experimental outcomes, objects biographies and interpretations. We would like to thank our speakers for helping to create such an interesting and engaging event.


We couldn’t have asked for a better conference and we a pleased for it to be continued next year at Sheffield University. We are so excited!

We also received some brilliant feedback from Dr Chloe Duckworth; we are confident the success of EASTs will continue for years to come.


The conference excursion continued the successful event. It was so much fun! We spent the day at Jarrow Hall Anglo-Saxon Farm and Bede Museum where EXARN have carried out a number of out smelting experiments. One of our speakers, John Pripani, held a glass knapping workshop for us. He taught us to use the base of glass bottles to fashion a barbed and tanged arrowhead using traditional Bronze Age flint knapping techniques, such as pressure flaking.

The whole group successful learnt the knapping and pressure flaking techniques resulting in a knapped glass arrowhead for each one of us. Many of us had previously found flint knapping very difficult. But, with John’s guidance, we were able to understand how the material flaked and the types of pressure and motions needed to remove flakes. We learnt that we could practice on so many different materials which reacted in the same way as flint, including glass and toilet ceramic piping. Many of us are now sourcing materials to continue to build on the skills that John helped us develop during this workshop.

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Contributions across Europe

It is forever important to not only research using experimental archaeology, but also to spread knowledge and results to others. We see no boundary for this and open our arms to those from far a field. We also travel so that as many people can learn about what we are doing.

So, this summer, amidst out smelting experiments, Marco travelled across the pond to a conference in Italy.  The conference, “Prehistory and Protohistory in Etruria”, was  dedicated to the Archaeology of Inhabiting.

Marco gave a paper entitled:

“Palaeoarchitecture in Southern Etruria: the contribution of Experimental Archaeology”

We are holding our very own experimental archaeology conference at the end of October, for which registration is now open.


We encourage all to attend, academic, student and members of the public.

EAStS registration open!

Hi All,

We are so excited for he 1st Annual Experimental Archaeology Student Symposium (EAStS 2018) at the end of the month.  Registration is now open for all attending, we really hope to see many people there. Please click the link below to register:


EAStS is the first student led, student focused experimental archaeology conference. Founded by EXARN, a PGR led experimental archaeology research group at Newcastle University.

The conference will be hosted by the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University on the 27th – 28th October 2018. Presentations will be given on 27th followed by an excursion and a glass knapping workshop on 28th at Jarrow Hall, Anglo-Saxon Farm, Village and Bede Museum.

Please see the program below for details:


New new new: new academic year, new students, new skills day

The next academic year is beginning and we are delighted to meet all the new archaeology students, undergrad and postgrad alike. Every year a skills day is organised for the new postgrads to break the ice and meet everyone over some fun archaeological activities.

This year the skills day took place at Jarrow Hall, so we decided it would be a great idea to demonstrate our copper smelting experiment which we  carried out there over the summer. We hope that we gained the interest of many new students. It is our aim to spread knowledge and enthusiasm if experimental archaeology to as many people as possible!

Marco, Alicia and Victoria were there to capture new members for EXARN

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EBA Perforated Stone Tools

Stone battle-axes and axe-hammers from the Early Bronze Age (EBA) are implements of intrigue. Over the years they have been subjected to a variety of interpretations, much of them based on little secure evidence. Battle-axes are often assumed to be non-functional and purely ceremonial, while axe-hammers are surmised to be too large to be functional.

It is part of Amber’s (EXARN founding member) PhD research to test these assumptions and understand the uses of these implements.

Battle-Axes: are implements less than 190mm long and 80mm broad with a shaft-hole, hammer-face and at one end a blade

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Axe-Hammers: are implements greater than battle-axes in either dimension, with a shaft-hole, hammer-face and at one end a blade.


By carrying out microwear analysis (the study of wear patterns on materials to understand elements including manufacture and function)  and experimental archaeology a re-assessment of the potential uses of these implements can take place.

Recently, a number of experiments have occurred as part of this project and EXARN. We have carried out digging, land clearance, chopping wood, and splitting wood thus far. They have all be successful and given some exciting results which I am sure you will hear in due course.

But what were these experiments?

Digging earth with stones:


Land Clearance:

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Chopping Wood:

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Splitting Wood:

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The experiments were carried out with replicas of battle-axes. Stay tuned for the experiments with replica axe-hammers, these include animal slaughter (no animals are harmed) and wedging to split wood.