Group F Lab Data – Week 4

Group F participated in the sacrificial ritual section of the lab. We worked closely with Group B (our data should be quite similar) to investigate the performance of rites at the altar. Over the course of three hours, we were able to burn two bovine femurs wrapped in fat, one wrapped lamb femur, one unwrapped bovine femur, three oxtails, and four skewers of splanchna (lamb kidneys, hearts, and livers). These animal pieces were roasted over an open firepit that was stoked and rebuilt many times throughout the lab. 

Along with the quantitative data and timing of the ritual, I also observed how the participants, in this case the lab groups, reacted to the rite. In the ancient world, these sacrifices were important for building and cementing a community through shared experience with the gods, so the impacts on the participants were important to note. The reactions clarified the tension that is built into the rite. At times when it seemed like the bones were failing to do what was expected and make contact with the gods, there were murmurs of “why isn’t this working,” and when they ended up being successful there were occasional cheers and comments about the sweet smells of wine quenching the fire. Time flew by, and we ended up intently staring at a campfire of over half an hour just to watch, even when we felt confident in what to expect. 

Data Summary

Our main objects of interest were the various femurs, tails, and organs that we roasted over the fire. The following list is a breakdown of each “cut” of meat, the timespan in which it was cooked, and important details of the spectacle created:

Bovine femurs

We roasted three bovine femurs: one fat-wrapped that ended its cooking with an oxtail, one fat-wrapped that cooked alone, and one unwrapped that cooked simultaneously with an oxtail. As they roasted, we were looking for the moment in which they caught flame and created a spectacle of fire that raised multiple feet above the firepit. We cooked the unwrapped femur for 32 minutes, but it never achieved this. The oxtail combination femur caught fire after three minutes and died down by eighteen minutes. The femur cooked alone created a shorter, but more dramatic, spectacle ranging from minute one to minute seven. 

Wrapped lamb femur

The lamb femur took longer to catch fire than the bovine femurs (about six minutes) and had the shortest burn (a total of four minutes). The flame did not reach as high as it did with the bovine femurs, but this was expected because the lamb bone itself was also much smaller. 


Three oxtails were roasted over the fire with the fat facing down. The first was cooked with the first femur, the second was placed on the fire with the unwrapped femur, and the third was added to that same fire eighteen minutes later. In all cases, it took only a few minutes for the tip of the tail to point downwards into the fire, creating the impression that it would not curl upwards properly. However, they all eventually did curl starting at thirteen, fifteen, and four minutes, respectively. 


The splanchna was divided across four skewers each with half a heart, two kidneys, and a few pieces of liver. The heart cooked the fastest while the liver was difficult to cook on the rounded spit because it would slip instead of rotating with the rest of the organs. The general impression was that heart tasted like steak and was therefore the best of the organs. The first batch of liver was undercooked and the least favorite of the group, but the second batch that was left in the fire longer was much improved. 

Full Data

Below is the full data from the lab. I broke down the lab into multiple tests each beginning and ending with an empty firepit. Included with the timestamps are the measurements of the meat, start times, and qualitative observations. 

Wrapped femur followed by oxtail (2:35 PM)

Wrapped bovine femur: 3584 g (2760 g femur in 824 g omentum), 44 cm length 

Tail: 1380 g

0:00 — wrapped femur is placed on fire across the three pieces of wood creating a platform

2:00 — sizzling bacon sound, browning on one end of the femur 

3:00 — fire is temped at 454.8℃, the flame looks to be about two feet tall, engulfing whole fire pit when the wind hits

8:00 — a second wave of large flames is created around the femur 

13:00 — tail is placed on the fire parallel to the femur

14:00 — tip of tail begins to curve downwards, sense of disbelief from group that it will curl properly 

18:00 — fire around femur is starting to calm, body of tail is curling into a c shape but the tip is still pointing downwards 

22:00 — tail picks up browned crust like it has been seared on the outside 

24:00 — tip of the tail beings to move, excitement from the group as we watch

26:00 — first sign of the curling upwards, femur is continuing to char with some white bone exposed underneath

28:00 — skin on tail starting to pop open as it continues to curl 

30:00 — one of the wood beams supporting the bone and tail cracks, but the bones stay upright

32:00 — douse the femur with wine creating a strong sweet aroma

32:30 — transfer bone cracks cleanly in half in thinnest section when transferred to a sheet tray, push oxtail into the fire 

Lamb femur and splanchna (3:15 PM)

Wrapped lamb femur: 177 g, 18 cm length 

*rebuilt fire with two new planks of wood before beginning

0:00 — place lamb femur on the new platform in the fire 

1:00 — fat drips off leaving some of the hip joint exposed 

2:00 — large piece of fat drops into the fire, but still giving off less of a barbecue smell than the bovine femur 

4:00 — flame picks up briefly around the femur as it browns 

6:00 — large cone of flame appears around the femur, excitement from the group as we watch 

7:00 — pillar of flame continues to grow 

10:00 — splanchna (heart, liver, kidney) is roasted on two spits held diagonally next to the femur, flame ceases around femur 

11:00 — splancha starts to brown and give off a lot of juice, the heart cooks faster than the other organs, kidneys work best on the flat spit where they can rotate 

19:00 — douse femur in wine and remove from fire, take off splanchna 

Wrapped femur alone (3:39, this test was captured on the official camera)

Wrapped bovine femur: 4328 g (3306 g femur in 1022 g omentum), 46 cm length

*fire rebuilt before beginning 

0:00 — place wrapped femur on fire 

0:20 — strong sizzling sound like bacon in a frying pan

1:06 — flame of about two feets emerges around the femur 

2:50 — strong cylindrical flame is standing upright when the wind dies down, barbecue smell intensifies 

7:23 — flame starting to decrease (end of the spectacle) 

12:20 — douse femur in wine and remove to tray 

Unwrapped femur and tails followed by splanchna (3:56 PM)

Unwrapped femur: 3503 g, 45 cm length

Tail 1: 1192 g, 47 cm length 

Tail 2: not sure if anyone was able to measure before putting on the fire 

0:00 – unwrapped femur and tail 1 placed on fire, not many active flames 

3:00 – tail 1 beings to point downwards 

6:00 — middle log of platform burns out, but bones stay supported, group is not as worried about ritual failing after seeing this happen to a tail the first time and still succeed 

15:00 — tail 1 starting to curl upwards a little bit 

16:00 — rotate the femur and tail with tongs so that they don’t collide 

18:00 — tail 2 is placed on the fire 

21:00 — tip of tail 1 is starting to flatten out horizontally, two spits of splanchna are roasted to the side of the femur 

22:00 — tail 1 is starting to curl upwards 

23:00 — tail 1 curl is complete 

27:00 — tail 2 beings to curl 

32:00 — fire doused in wine and all bones removed, femur is charred and holds together when it transferred

Final test: two oxtails, two spits of splanchna, and one unwrapped bovine femur being roasted simultaneously.
Final test: two oxtails, two spits of splanchna, and one unwrapped bovine femur being roasted simultaneously.

0 thoughts on “Group F Lab Data – Week 4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.