6-9th June 2012: Whole of the Animal (Woodcraft School)


The fouth part of my Primitive Technology course (NCFE Level 3 qualification) called "Whole of the Animal" was held in the 450 acres (150 hectares) of ancient woodland and run by the Woodcraft School in West Sussex.

Over a very wet and windy 3 days, leaders John Rhyder and Stephen Lawson (right) showed the eight students how an animal carcass could have been fully utilised in primitive times. We learned how to butcher an animal and transform the various elements into various usable products, such as hide and sinew.

The first part of the course was to butcher a complete Fallow deer (Dama dama) - something that I first did during the filming of the National Geographic's Stone Age Atlantis (2009). I had taken a number of flint tools, including several large handaxe's and was keen to see how each type would butcher the deer compared to the smaller flint blades. Many of my fellow students also wanted to use my flint tools in preference to the modern steel knives.

Brain tanning was the next part of the session - of course this involved removing the brain first ! We were given the head of a deer and asked to access the brain via a cranial burr hole. While most of the students used a steel knife to open the skull, I decided to use a flint blade in a similar way to the prehistoric method of trepanning - the oldest known human trepanning was found in a skull from the Dnieper Rapids cemeteries near Kiev in Ukraine, dated to 7,300 - 6,220 BC.

The last part of my NCFE course (Own Project Development) will be on 11/12th August. This will also count towards the Ancient Technology module for my NAS Part III Advanced Certificate in Foreshore and Underwater Archaeology.

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