PALEOTECHNICS

PROGRAM TOPICS

with Tamara Wilder
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Current
Paleotechnics
Class Schedule
(pdf download)

Here is a brief description of regularly presented topics.

Specialized programs and demonstrations of each of these topics are also available.
Please email us for details on designing a program which fits your needs.

Check the school programs page for already designed programs for groups of young people or check the schedule page for already scheduled classes in many of these topics.

Programs can vary from one hour to a whole weekend in length. Short programs give a basic overview while longer programs have a more indepth approach.

Most programs are "hands-on" and the participants usually come away with something they have made themselves by hand.

Presentations without hands on participation are available on all of the topics. This approach is preferable for groups larger than 20-30 people.

OVERVIEW PROGRAMS
Give participants a solid introduction to core "paleotechnologies".

These can be organized as either private kids or school programs, family programs, or adult programs.

Overview programs or demonstrations can range from a few hours to a whole day or weekend. Longer programs allow more depth and hands on participation.

Topics covered in a hands-on fashion generally include:
-firemaking with prepared kits,
-cordage with dogbane fiber,
-stoneworking in the form of making soapstone beads,
-pine nuts beads and target practice.

Discussion of a variety of stone, bone, skin and plant processing technologies places the hands on experience in the context of old ways living skills in general.

upcoming overview programs

school or kids program info


CORDAGE (Stringmaking)
The knowledge of how to make string is one of the most basic & important human skills. All programs utilize Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), the most widespread and widely utilized native fiber plant in North America.

Programs or demonstrations on cordage can range from a few hours to a whole day or weekend.

Basic cordage using partially prepared materials is included in the skills overview program.

Longer programs allow for more hands on participation, give time to explore a variety of twisting and splicing methods, and include discussion and/or use of other fiber bearing plants and materials.

Day and weekend programs can also include netmaking and ropemaking.

upcoming cordage workshops


FIREMAKING
Obtaining the knowledge of how to make fire by friction was a critical step in human evolution. It is also an essentail part of ancient living and wilderness survival skills.

Programs on firemaking can range from several minutes to a few hours or a whole day.

A common request is to include a demonstration of making a fire as part of another program.

In the shortest programs, participants have the opportunity to try to make a hand and/or bow drill fire using supplied already prepared kits. Basic handdrill firemaking using supplied kits is included in the skills overview program.

Longer programs give time for the participants to make their own hand drill kits and allow for more practice and experimentation. Other methods of making fire such as the fire plough, fire piston, and flint & steel, as well as firebuilding, safety, and maintenance can also be incorporated.

upcoming firemaking workshops


HUNTING TOOLS
(Target Practice)

The diverse hunting weapons utilized throughout pre-history are a reflection of how people of different eras lived. As the climate & animals changed, so did the hunting technologies.

One of the easiest ways to understand how our ancestors hunted is to practice using the same types of weapons that they used. Not only is it fun, but the active participation brings with it a deeper understanding and persistent memory.

A grass field is the best venue.

The tools which are available for this activity are:

  • rabbitsticks
    The oldest & most pandemic of hunting tools.
    • In Australia, the rabbitsticks evolved into the boomerang for hunting birds, but most rabbitsticks are non returning.
  • handspears
    One of the oldest most fundamental of hunting tools.
    • hoop & pole game is a very fun and instructional spearthrowing game played in many areas of North America.
  • bow & arrows
    Probably the most familiar hunting tool.
    • The bow & arrow was an extremely successful development which is still used in many different forms today.
  • spearthrowers
    Spearthrowers enjoy a long & diverse history as the tool used worldwide to hunt mammoths, mastodons & other megafauna.
    • In the Old World, spearthrowers were replaced by the bow & arrow long ago.
    • In the New World, the bow & arrow only made its appearance possibly as recently as 500-1000 years before contact; therefore, North American spear throwers reached a much higher level of design than those of the Old World.
    • Atlatl is the Aztec word for their spearthrowers, which were a war weapon used by elite warriors.
    • Woomera is the Australian Aboriginal name for their spearthrowers. Australian Aborigines never adopted the bow & arrow (precontact) and even today sometimes still depend on the woomera for hunting.

Hunting Tool Target Practice is a main component
in the skills overview program.


WILD FOODS
Most of the wild foods utilized by local native peoples require some sort of processing before they are eaten.

Programs on native foods involve an exploration of the technologies developed to process the food into an edible /palatable meal. For example, processing acorns involves cracking, pounding, sifting, leaching and cooking, while manzanita berries only require pounding. Some major foods which are easily covered in a program are acorns, manzanita berries, and bay nuts. Other foods can be discussed or covered with special preparation.

upcoming wild foods workshops


ETHNOBOTANICAL PLANT WALKS
The cornerstone of survival for a hunter/gatherer society is an adequate knowledge of how to utilize the local flora.

The first step in utilizing plants is identifying them. A great way of introducing people to this aspect of the local ecosystem is to take them on an ethnobotanical plant walk. These walks can range from a few hours to a whole day, during which time the identity and uses of the plants encountered are described. Depending upon the interests of the participants and the feasibility of harvesting plant materials at the location, this program can also easily be expanded to include some hands on utilization of what we find. The focus can also be expanded to include a display and discussion of a variety of items made from local plant sources, including many native plant foods.


BRAINTANNING BUCKSKIN/GOATSKIN
The art of tanning the skins of animals by utilizing the fatty acids contained in brains is called "braintanning" and is the tanning method which has been used by Native Americans for thousands of years. The process is completely natural and non-toxic and the resulting buckskin is a soft, washable, strong, and durable leather.

The braintanning process is lengthy and time intensive and requires a hands on seminar of at least two long days.

upcoming tanning workshops

BRAINTANNING FURS
Braintanning the skins of small animals with the hair intact is a variation on the buckskin process and can produce a beautiful fur. Braintanning also combines well with alum in this process.

Fur tanning is lengthy and time intensive and requires a hands on seminar of at least two long days. A few small rabbit furs can also be tanned during a bucksking workshop if desired.

In situations where a fur or buckskin cannot actually be tanned, a demonstration which consists of samples of a typical hide at each stage, samples of the tools used, and a discussion of the process and history of braintanning gives participants or observers a better idea of the process.

upcoming fur tanning workshops


USES OF THE DEER
Animals are made up of much more than just skin and meat. All of the other parts are of great importance as well. In many ways, an animal's body is a virtual hardware store of miscellaneous useful items.

Programs on this subject can take a variety of forms. The shortest and simplest is a demonstration/discussion in which many different articles made from various parts of the deer are displayed and discussed. For a more hands on version, lower legs of deer can be supplied as a sort of mini representation of processing. This way participants can then learn a little about skinning, removing sinew, processing sinew, and boneworking. For a more complete and intensive approach, the group can process an entire animal. More time is required and the animal needs to be supplied. Educational institutions may be able to get a road kill permit or a similar sized domestic animal could also be processed.

upcoming deer uses workshops


ANIMAL PROCESSING
Many meat-eaters have never processed their own animals.
Taking an animal from "hoof to plate" is essential knowledge for survival or self-sufficient living.

Topics: killing, bleeding, skinning, gutting, gut processing (heart, liver, kidney, intestine, bladder), brain extraction & preservation, jaw & tongue extraction, meat cutting & preservation, fat rendering, broth-making, sausage making, hoof and sinew extraction, hide glue and skin preservation.

(does NOT include hide tanning)

This class is VERY hands-on.

Weekend or 2 day class only.

upcoming processing workshops


PIGMENTS & PAINTS
Mineral pigments are only one of the many materials which people around the world have used to brighten their lives and express themselves artistically. Deposits of colors —ranging from black and white to green, blue, red, and yellow —can be found in many different locations and have long been valued, gathered, and processed into paint.

This program consists of identifying, processing, and utilizing mineral pigments, which can then be used to decorate most anything. Different mediums and binders are also discussed and utilized. Time can range from a few hours to an entire weekend.

upcoming pigments workshops


STONEWORKING
In pre-metal technology, stones provide many of the tools necessary for practicing virtually any living skill.

Pecking & Grinding is the method used to shape stones into such articles as mortars and pestles, manos and metates, hammers, axes, adzes, and net weights. It consists of hitting a suitable stone with a harder stone in order to peck away little bits, eventually reducing it to the desired shape. The final piece is then often ground to make a smoother finish, or, in the case of cutting tools, to sharpen them. Grinding is also utilized by itself in shaping certain kinds of stone.

Flintknapping is the method used to shape siliceous stones such as obsidian, chert, jasper, and flint into arrowheads, spearpoints, knives, drills, and miscellaneous multipurpose flake tools. It consists of striking, or otherwise applying pressure to, certain types of stone in a controlled manner so as to break them along a desired plane.

There are many different ways to make and use stone tools. The methodology depends on the rock and the intended use. Any of the programs listed can be carried out using solely stone-age tools made of stone, bone, shell, and plant materials. Programs focusing on making a certain stone object, such as a mortar and pestle or stone beads, require more time and may be limited by lack of materials.

Flintknapping can be demonstrated as part of a program on stone tools.

Basic drilling, shaping and polishing of soft stones is covered in the skills overview program.


FEE SCHEDULE

  • Demonstrations and Presentations
    • Base rate of $150/hr (2 hr minimum).
  • Day workshops run off a base rate of $75/person per day ($450 minimum).
  • Weekend workshops run off a base rate of $150/person ($900 minimum).
    • Materials fees vary due to topic and program type
    • Materials fees are charged in addition to the base rate.
  • A travel fee may also be added depending on location.

PROGRAM SPONSORSHIP

  • If you would like to sponsor a workshop at your location, please email Tamara for details and to schedule a date.
  • Sponsors generally take care of all location preparation, registrations & payments.

  • In exchange for sponsoring a workshop, the sponsor may attend the workshop free of charge and perhaps charge a small stipend to cover facilities expenses (varies with topic, length of workshop, and facilities or food provided).


PALEOTECHNICS
PO Box 876 Boonville, CA 95415
707-391-8683

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