Archaeologist returns home, recreates ancient weapons


Assistant anthropology professor Dr. Metin Eren creates replicas of excavated, ancient weapons in his lab on Thursday, April 27, 2017. “It’s fun to recreate technology from the past to learn about people’s lives,” said Dr. Eren.

Tyler Haughn

Metin Eren, an assistant professor of anthropology and director of archaeology at Kent State, said he wants to take archaeology in a new direction with his work.

Joining the faculty in 2016, Eren created and developed his own lab, the Eren Lab, featuring a ballistics range, stone weapon creation and pottery making.

“Experimental archaeology is the future,” Eren said, calling it “reverse-engineering prehistoric technology.”

Eren said he and his colleagues can visualize virtually any aspect of a past culture by recreating not only their weapons, but also their everyday tools, such as pots and metal objects.

The new phenomenon of experimental archaeology recently gained more exposure, but Eren said he has always vested interest in the subject.

Eren’s lab hopes to take archaeology in a new direction through his experiments testing the viability and durability of the projectiles that early inhabitants of North America used to adapt to their new environment.

“What we’ve built here does not exist anywhere else in the world,” Eren said. “It is the premier experimental archaeology facility in the world.”

Eren said while he can study and recreate any prehistoric culture in his lab, his specialty focuses on the Clovis culture, one of the first colonizing cultures in North America.

Eren said archaeologists have recently become determined to use numbers for their archaeological research, which Eren prioritizes in his lab.

“It has only been within the last 5 to 10 years that archaeologists have been serious about approaching the archaeological record in a scientific way — using quantitative methods, statistics and explicit hypothesis testing,” Eren said.

A few years ago, Eren published a scientific journal detailing the diversity and richness of different artifact classes. He said he realized that the same method they used could be applied to modern businesses, surveys and marketing.

“That was an instance where an idea from archaeology made it to the wider world, and was applicable to these other fields,” Eren said.

A native of Cleveland, Eren said he always envisioned himself coming back home to continue his research.

Eren said he always wanted to continue his research and work in Northeast Ohio, so he was more than happy to join Kent State’s faculty.

“Northeast Ohio is the greatest place on earth,” Eren said. “I love it. This is my home. I think the people are genuine here, and friendly.”

Eren said a personal goal of his is to find ways to apply ancient archaeological finds to the modern facets of life and ultimately make people’s lives better. This has been a driving force in why Eren decided to come home, as well as the significant place Ohio holds in the archaeological record.

“The Southern Great Lakes and Northeastern Ohio actually provides us with one of the clearest instances of colonizing humans anywhere in the world,” Eren said. “We can study prehistoric colonization better here than anywhere.”

As a child, Eren found himself being interested in both science and history. But coming from a line of doctors, Eren knew he did not want to have a career in medicine.

For Eren, archaeology was a perfect union between both science and history.

He started working with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which enabled him to develop his archaeological skills at 16 and harness that passion into participating in excavations or digging for artifacts.

Eren said these early experiences in archaeology with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History helped him recognize that archaeology was the field for him.

Eren spent the majority of his career out of state, graduating from Harvard University with a degree in anthropological anthropology. Eren then received both his master’s degree and Ph.D. in Dallas from Southern Methodist University.

From leading research teams and excavations in India, to receiving his second master’s degree and teaching experimental archaeology in England, Eren has spent a lot of time traveling and said archaeology has given him the opportunity to do so.

“If you’re lucky in archaeology and you work hard, you have the chance to do and see things that you might not have otherwise been able to do,” Eren said.

Although Eren has experienced many cultures and places from around the world, he said Ohio will always hold a place in his heart.

“I think Northeast Ohio is really special,” Eren said. “I wanted to come home the first chance I got.”

Michelle Bebber, an anthropology grad appointee who works alongside Eren in the experimental archaeology lab, said they compliment each other with their work ethic and passion for archaeology.

“He has great experience all over the world and that is good to have in a mentor, especially for someone who is so young,” Bebber said. “Sometimes they don’t have that experience, but he does.”

Bebber said the subfield of experimental archaeology is blossoming at Kent State, citing Eren’s knowledge of experimental archaeology and the contacts he has developed throughout his career in academia.

“We are definitely way ahead of the game, and we have a huge lab,” Bebber said. “Dr. Eren has these connections to some of the best testing and dating centers in the world.”

Angelia Werner, an anthropology graduate student, characterizes Eren as a leader in experimental archaeology.

“I would describe Dr. Eren as very energetic and enthusiastic,” Warner said. “He is very strong-willed and has a burning passion for research and publications. He is truly innovative and a phenomenal driving force in the field of experimental archaeology.”

Anthony Tosi, an assistant professor of anthropology, said he believes Eren’s involvement with students will help them succeed, as Eren provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to get published. Typically, only graduate students in anthropology get published.

“It’s not just that he is doing research, but he is bringing a lot of students at the graduate and undergraduate levels into the fold and he is publishing with them,” Tosi said.

Tosi said Eren’s work is already affecting the anthropology department in a positive way through his charisma and ideas.

“He is certainly a very big thinker,” Tosi said. “He has a wide set of interests, and he is in the right place at the right time in the field with technology cross-fertilizing with his ideas, and then going out and testing his theories.”

Eren said he is excited to be home and would not want to be anywhere else conducting his research.

“Cleveland and Northeast Ohio is in my blood, and I belong here,” Eren said.

Tyler Haughn is the student health reporter, contact him at [email protected].