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Dirk Yarder (left) and Rob Ramaker show a small ballista constructed by Myles Cameron.
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WIU Students Demonstrate History Research Projects; Ballistae, Stocks

April 29, 2008

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MACOMB, IL - - Get ready! It's time for Western Illinois University's history research reality games and demonstrations, scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, May 1 on the campus mall east of Morgan Hall.

Students in the History 430G "Topics in Ancient History" course taught by Associate Professor of History Lee Brice, and in the History 482 "Topics in European History" course taught by Assistant Professor of History Jennifer McNabb have engaged in research projects that explore the past through experimental archaeology. This year's demonstration will include two ballistae, which were modified by Romans and used as siege engines and later battlefield artillery; some Roman soldiers in battlefield armor; and public punishment devices from early modern England, including stocks and a pillory.

Student researchers include junior history major Myles Cameron (Edwardsville, IL) demonstrating a small ballista; senior history major Rob Ramaker (Keokuk, IA) and graduate student/alumnus Dirk Yarker (Peoria, IL; B.A. History, 2006), demonstrating a large ballista; who are mentored by Brice. Senior history education major Abby Lagemann (Pittsfield, IL) researched the stocks and pillory, under the guidance of McNabb.

"We will be test-firing the ballistae for range and accuracy and testing the pillory and other gear for effectiveness," Brice said. "There will also be some Roman armor so people can see why it was effective.

"The University and surrounding communities are invited to join us in celebrating undergraduate research and in testing our historical hypotheses," he added.

The students received College of Arts and Sciences research awards to assist with building their projects. Brice also received a grant from the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs to fund the undergraduate research. In addition, Lagemann won a Norman and Cermelita Teeter Research Grant to fund her travel expenses to present her research at the Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society regional conference in Terra Haute, IN.

This is the fourth annual student research demonstration - - or field exercise, as he calls it - - for Brice's class. The first, in Spring 2005, was a mock battle between Greek hoplite warriors and ancient Roman soldiers. It included the first demonstration of a trebuchet, a large siege engine.

The event is free and open to the public.

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