The first ever Experimental Archaelogy Conference was held at Wits University. 

AIM AND THROW: Participants throwing spears at “The ancients had skills: Ancient throwing weapons workshop”. Photo: Provided

The first ever African conference on experimental archaeology (ACE) was hosted at Wits University from March 20 to March 22 at the Wits Club in Johannesburg. 

Experimental archaeology uses different methods, techniques, analyses, and approaches to generate and test hypotheses, based on archaeological source material, like ancient structures or artifacts. The conference was organised and hosted by the archaeology division of the Wits School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies in collaboration with  Open-Air Museums and Experimental Archaeology (EXARC). 

According to Wits Claude Leon Postdoctoral research fellow, Dr Silje Evjenth Bentsen, the conference aimed to showcase the different types of experimental archaeology projects that are happening on the continent Africa and to create opportunities for networking.

“We have students here who may be looking for projects, researchers here who may be looking for students to collaborate with and funders who have sponsored us and may be looking for projects. So we are trying to connect these people,” said Bentsen.

The conference comprised of presentations of research from academics from Wits and other international and local universities like the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and University of California. The gathering also participated in a workshop focused on the throwing of ancient weapons.

A student representative from the organising committee and PhD in Archaeology student Joshua Kumbani, said, “For us as students it’s good because it gives us an opportunity where we can present our research and get feedback from others who are doing their work in environments that are different from others.”

Wits BA Honours in Archaeology student, Andrew Bell said, “If you’re still in your undergrad conferences are always good because you can get exposed to the things that you’re not usually expose to in class … what the conferences are good for is also networking and getting to know other archaeologists on the continent and in the country.”