Modern Humans Using Ancient Tools

Kent State anthropology professor Metin Eren, Ph.D., is an expert on the engineering, techniques and functions of Stone Age weapon technologies and how nomadic hunter-gatherers used them. Eren, a master flint-knapper, has a hands-on approach when teaching students about prehistoric stone tools.  Students immerse themselves in a specially equipped lab in Lowry Hall that features everything from raw materials like flint and wood to a ballistics station to testing machinery you usually see in modern engineering labs. Eren is the founder and co-director of the Kent State University Experimental Archaeology Laboratory where students can conduct laboratory and field experiments, both inside and outside the classroom. The lab, which is co-directed by ancient ceramic and metals expert Michelle Bebber, Ph.D, assistant professor of anthropology, is a welcome resource for students to pursue unique research opportunities.

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“Having a place for students to explore, conduct independent research and joint research projects has only made our anthropology students better,” said James Taylor, a junior cultural anthropology major.  “We become more independent and confident in the lab, and when donors invest in Dr. Eren’s vision they are not only investing in him but also every student who walks into Lowry Hall.”

Eren’s expertise and research includes studying stone projectile points such as arrowheads and spear points made by flint-knapping, the ancient practice of flaking and chipping rocks to shape them into weapons and tools. The North American Clovis culture, a 13,000-year-old Stone Age culture and one of Eren’s specialties, made Clovis points, which are spear-shaped tools that could simultaneously serve as both hunting weaponry and game-processing implements.

The 41-year-old professor was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and graduated from Cleveland St. Ignatius High School in 2001 before graduating from Harvard University in 2005. He has become internationally renowned in his field and beyond for his research, which has been regularly featured in national and international media over the past 20 years. Most recently, he has collaborated with MeatEater, Inc., the popular hunting, outdoors and conservation media platform founded by renowned writer and TV personality Steven Rinella. Eren has been featured on MeatEater as part of field research study focused on experimental bison butchery using prehistoric tool replicas he and his students produced, such as Clovis fluted points and stone flake tools. The research was featured in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Please be advised that this video contains potentially sensitive content regarding animal butchery.

Prior experiments have focused on the effectiveness of Clovis points as weapons, but this most recent experiment explored whether Clovis tools could be used for butchering rather than killing. They conducted the experiment with a bison, an animal commonly preyed upon by Clovis groups. The animal was humanely dispatched on a commercial bison ranch, and then butchered by the MeatEater crew for the experiment using stone tools (and none of the meat went to waste). There haven't been any prior systematic, published experiments aimed at testing the efficacy of Clovis fluted points and flake tools in bison butchering, and the experiment likely represents one of the most innovative and thorough studies about Stone Age animal-processing ever conducted.

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“Metin has reshaped the archaeological narrative - rather than merely relying on assumptions based on the archaeological record, he utilizes rigorous scientific, laboratory-based experiments to supplement the narrative of North America’s prehistoric past,” said Anna Mika, ’19, M.A., ’22, a previous student of Eren’s who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in archaeology at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

The Kent State University Experimental Archaeology Lab’s focus on the evolution of technology is a sought-after topic, asKent State student lab members conducting this research report a 100 percent placement rate for doctoral programs, all of them receiving full scholarships to pursue their work.

“Once we understand how all this technology worked in the past, we can build models of how technology evolved over time,” said Eren about the study. “It’s so important to help explain the last three million years of human prehistory.”

The Kent State Experimental Archaeology Lab was envisioned as a place to support these efforts. Within its confines, students have relentlessly sought more information about the origins and evolution of technology, hunting and human survival. Unfortunately, operating the lab without sufficient financial resources has limited the brilliant, cutting-edge experiments happening there. The financial barrier has hampered involvement in worldwide archaeological field projects and the ability of Kent State students to have their ground-breaking research thoroughly tested and published. Philanthropic support could be the catalyst to change all of that, elevating the lab’s high rate of discovery and scientific contribution to new heights.

“We've built the world's premier experimental archaeology laboratory at Kent State and one of the most prolific, productive and unique archaeology labs in the 200-year history of the archaeological discipline,” said Eren. “Donor support will help us unleash the Kent State Experimental Archaeology Lab's full potential so that more Kent State students can achieve their dreams.”



Donations to the Experimental Archaeology Lab are directed to the Bob Patten Endowed Anthropology Program Fund.

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