Experiential experiments

We've spent the past couple of days doing burning experiments in the reconstructed mudbrick house at Catalhoyuk, as part of our Wellcome Trust project. The aim of the experiments is to collect some pilot data relating to smoke emissions when ovens and hearths are in use. We don't have time in the pilot study to conduct a detailed series of controlled experiments - there are a lot of different variables that could be adjusted to test different scenarios - but we do hope to get some basic comparisons of different fuel types and how emissions change over a few hours of burning. I think the most useful part of doing this pilot work has been the practical side of things, the experience of having to find the materials for fuel, finding out how much fuel works best (and at what point there's too much fuel and you get smoked out of the house), observing how different people react differently to smoke levels. We tried using animal dung but it smouldered really badly, which we realised was because it was not fully dried out. All of these observations will help us design better experiments for our future work, which will enable us to build a model of fuel use and smoke exposure under different scenarios. We also realised that we need to think more closely about including ethnographic work in the future study - the people who live at Kuccukoy village near Catalhoyuk have a lot of experience and important insights that have been crucial for collecting usable data in the pilot study. Whilst ethnographic analogues cannot be used as direct comparisons with archaeological cultures, there are definitely practical insights that can help us develop our hypotheses.