Ethnographies and Actualistic Cooking Experiments: Ethnoarchaeological Pathways toward Understanding Earth-Oven Variability in Archaeological Records Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This article addresses aspects of earth-oven baking, as reported in ethnohistoric and ethnographic accounts from western North America and via a series of actualistic experiments. Ethnographic and ethnohistoric accounts attest to far more variability in oven morphologies, baking times, and food types than has been identified archaeologically. Toward mitigation of this data-discrepancy, we present methods and results of building and using nine earth ovens representative of those known ethnographically and expected to be represented in archaeological records. Our experiments demonstrate that earth-oven baking in a morphological variety of facilities is readily replicated by drawing from the ethnographic and ethnohistoric literature. Successful strategies are quickly learned through trial and error. With that comes an adequate understanding of how heat energy flows in various facilities along with recognition of critical roles of temperature, moisture availability, and cooking time, thereby providing a basis for better understanding the nature of related archaeological records.

author list (cited authors)

  • Thoms, A. V., Short, L. M., Kamiya, M., & Laurence, A. R.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • July 2018