Working with experimental archaeology has been a real eye-opening experience. When you see oil lamps in the movies, they’re simply pleasing prop pieces. However, building them in real life takes an unbelievable amount of trial and error to shape the lamp and form the wick, let alone cultivate the plants to provide the oil. When you make bread, you go to the store to buy a pound of flour. I never could have imagined how hard it is to make flour from grain. In theory, you bang it together between two rocks, but it takes a lot more effort than that, and you still only produce a tiny amount of finished flour. Baking bread goes from tasty kitchen project to back-breaking labor that requires, again, lots of trial and error.

One realization I had while working during the meal preparation competition was just how much our daily lives and priorities have changed. 6,000 years ago, daily life was built around survival- food, clothing, and shelter. One could spend a whole day hunting, the next day farming, and the third making pots and grinding grain. All of this effort would probably produce about enough food and utilities for the next three days, and so the cycle continues. “Labor saving devices” that we moderns have invented would in theory allow more time for leisure, and get the work done faster. However, though we do have more time for personal enjoyment rather than simple survival, humans have found other “necessities” to fill our days with work. With all the changes that have come over the past 6,000 years, we still can’t allow ourselves to step back and free ourselves from our work, even though the threats of death by starvation or exposure disappeared long ago.

–  John Timms

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