National Archaeology Week - Work choices 14,000 years ago

La Trobe University archaeologist Phillip Edwards can tell you what you would have packed in your tool kit if you'd set out for a day's work 14,000 years ago.

The entire contents of the tool kit, as found at the dig in Jordan.

Dr Edwards surveys the site of the former homelands of the Natufian people.

The 'showpiece' sickle with its twin blades.

And if you're a male contemplating a life of action-packed hunting, leaving all that gathering business to the women, you may have to think again.

As part of National Archaeology Week Dr Edwards will discuss his work which captured world headlines late last year — research into a prehistoric tool kit from an excavation in Jordan, one of the most significant archaeological finds of recent times.

Dr Edwards' lecture will be held at Melbourne Museum, Nicholson St Carlton, at 6 pm on Thursday 22 May.

He says the tool kit is one of the most complete and well-preserved of its kind. It contains the first tools ever linked to the Natufian people of Jordan and provides rare insights into their daily activities.

The showpiece is a sickle, made from two grooved pieces of horn, and fitted with colour-matched tan and grey bladelets — 'a marvel of form and function for its day,' says Dr Edwards.

The kit also contains flint spearheads, core for making more spearheads, smooth stones possibly used in a slingshot and gazelle toe bones used to make beads.

Dr Edwards explores questions such as whether the tool kit belonged to an individual or a group of foragers, and whether it was used for short trips or longer journeys to seasonal sites.

'Did an individual perform all the functions implied by the bag's contents,' asks Dr Edwards, 'such as flint knapping, point shaping, retooling, hunting, reaping and bead production?

'And if so, were gathering activities — often attributed as a female role in hunter-gatherer societies — and those of hunting and tool-making — generally ascribed to males — carried out by individuals of either gender?'

Dr Edwards can be contacted on tel: (03) 9479 1978

Further information

Also, as part of National Archaeology Week, a series of workshops on the art of stone knapping at the Ironbarks Hut on La Trobe University's Melbourne Wildlife Sanctuary — Saturday 24 May, hourly between 10 and 2pm. Meet at the Sanctuary's gates, Melway Reference 19 H5.

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