9th Experimental Archaeology Conference poster – Clifton

It’s Getting Hot in Here: living conditions in a Neolithic building reconstruction

Briony Storm Clifton

The Ancient Technology Centre

The reconstruction of a stake-walled Late Neolithic building by The Ancient Technology and Centre and English Heritage in 2013 provided a unique opportunity to investigate the properties of these types of buildings through practical methods. One purpose of this research was to discover the thermal properties of the reconstruction. Structural design and materials are just two aspects that determine internal temperature loss or gain; therefore thermal imaging was conducted in order to establish the thermal efficiency of the building. These preliminary results revealed the differing levels of thermal efficiency in the walls and the thatched roof. When combined with digital recordings of internal temperature, the discoveries exhibited a surprising contrast. Particulates from an open fire within the reconstruction were also analysed. These air quality results, together with ethnographic information, suggest unhealthy living conditions were likely if the building was used regularly with frequent open fires.

Living experiments were also carried out over four nights with responses from four individuals, one male and three females of varying ages. The main documentation used for this experiment was feedback from the participants recorded in diary form. The diaries revealed how the participants were effected by and dealt with smoke from the open fire, the interior temperature of the building, the use of the furniture and the characteristics of the hearth. Photographic recording was also employed with one photograph taken per minute for three days. These provided information on the participants’ physical movement and their use of space within the structure, which showed a preference for certain living spaces. This study has assisted in the enhancement of our understanding of prehistoric health and living conditions, and has helped determine that the reconstructed Late Neolithic buildings are
valid structures for habitation.

 

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