You are here

May 2013: 2nd Exeter Workshop

Monday, 20 May, 2013 to Friday, 24 May, 2013
Dr P. Cunningham
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
25 participants, of which 17 speakers

The life cycle of structures in experimental archaeology:
an object biography approach

A very successful second Dialogue with Science workshop exploring the life cycle of structures in experimental archaeology was held in May 2013 at the University of Exeter, UK.  Participants from Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and the UK who are either working on experimental research projects and/or at Archaeological Open-Air Museums met to discussthe birth, life and death of various structures including houses, boats and a furnace. 

Tuesday began with participants meeting in the Department of Archaeology for a day of presentations. Linda Hurcombe began the proceedings with an introductory talk defining the overall theme of the workshop.  The birth, life and death of structures were explored through the presentation of various experimental projects and included topics such as the planning phase, the choice and collecting of materials, the construction phases, the maintenance and repair needs and air quality within the structures and the changes in use of buildings as they age.

After each presentation there was time for participants to ask questions and as all the papers raised important issues, they were followed by lively discussions. It also became clear from these discussions that there was a wealth of knowledge and experience within the room and that a number of key themes were being raised that ultimately influenced the topics to be discussed at roundtable sessions. In the late afternoon, participants were given the opportunity to either explore the cathedral city of Exeter or to attend the departmental lecture given by a visiting speaker.

On Wednesday morning, participants once again met in the Department of Archaeology for the final papers exploring thedismantling and destruction of experimental structures and how the dilapidation of structures can be used to engage visitors. This session also saw presentation more away from structures as ‘houses’ to structures that included boats and furnaces.   

Wednesday afternoon was set aside for roundtable discussions with themes determined by the nature of earlier discussions and included Recording and monitoring, Engaging and keeping volunteers, Log boats, and Roofs: smoke, air quality and firewood. Once the themes were agreed, the participants were given post-it notes to write a comment/thought/solution for each topic. Three of the above themes which attracted the most interest and suggestions were chosen for further discussions.

Participants split in three groups and were asked to consider and identify problems, solutions and recommendations to Engaging and keeping volunteers, Log boats, and Roofs: smoke, air quality and firewood and then present their ideas to the rest of the participants. Common problems were identified and solutions established but each group brought something different and unique to the discussion.

On Thursday morning, participants meet with Luke Winter of the Ancient Technology Centre at the reconstructed Neolithic structures, Old Sarum in Wiltshire. The three structures, based on archaeological remains from the Neolithic site of Durrington Walls near Stonehenge, are part of an experiment to test different construction methods and materials.  The results will then be used to inform the structures to be created as part of the new Stonehenge Visitors’ Centre.  The visit to the newly constructed houses offered participants not only the opportunity to see the houses but to discuss some of the reconstruction issues faced by the team, issued raised from the interpretation of the archaeology and the impact of visitors to the structures.

After taking a slight detour to see Stonehenge, we moved on to the Ancient Technology Centre, Dorset.  On arrival we were greeted by a group of school children dressed in Viking costumes eating lunch in a Viking longhouse and thanks to Pascale Barnes, a warming cup of coffee! Once we had warmed up, participants were given a brief history and tour of the Centre, discussed future plans and how the Centre’s staff work with volunteers and schools. 

Tuesday 21st May – Presentation of formal papers

9.00 - 9.15




Linda Hurcombe


9.15 - 9.45

Welcome and Introduction

Taking a life-cycle approach to structures in experimental archaeology

Linda Hurcombe

9.45 – 10.15

Reconstructing Avalon; experimental and experiential archaeology on the Somerset Levels

Richard Brunning

10.15 - 10.45

“U Pagghiaru”:  studies of  traditional shepherd’s huts and their relevance to a Bronze Age hut-rebuilding project  in Sicily

Kati Caruso & Claudia Speciale

10.45 – 11.15




Roeland Paardekooper


11.15 – 11.45

Huize Horsterwold’, the reconstruction of a Neolithic houseplan using stone age equipment

Annelou van Gijn and Diederik Pomstra

11.45  - 12.00

Skin as Building Material

Theresa Emmerich

12.00 - 12.30

Indoor environment and personal health in a reconstructed Viking house

Jannie Marie Christensen

12.30 -  1.30




Annelou van Gijn


1.30 – 2.00

Extending the life of an Iron Age round house; investigating slot trenches and post holes in the archaeological record

Ryan Watts

2.00  – 2.30

Building Botai: problems with (re)constructing superstructures in the absence of postholes, a case study from Eneolithic Kazakhstan

Alan Outram


2.30 - 3.00

The day the house sat down: the deterioration and collapse of the Ferrycarrig roundhouses

Tríona Sørensen

3.00 - 3.30

On-going Biography of a Subterranean Masonry Structure

Bruce Bradley

3.30 - 4.00

COFFEE BREAK and FREE TIME to visit Exeter City Centre and/or the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (Museum of the year 2012)



4.00 – 5.00

Join the Archaeology Departmental Lecture: Greyfriars, Leicester and
the Search for Richard II

Richard Buckley (Leicester University) visiting speaker

Wednesday 22nd May – Presentation of formal papers and roundtable discussion, Rooms 218 & 211, Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter




9.00 - 9.30

Life, and death, of a round house construction at Butser Ancient Farm

David Freeman

9.30 - 9.50

There's always something new here!": wear, tear and the considerate visitor 

Sara Huws

9.50 - 10.20

A venerable structure: the gentle decline of a once powerful furnace

Gill Juleff

10.20 11.00




Bruce Bradley


11.00 - 11.30

Boats as structures: an overview

Linda Hurcombe

11.30 – 11.50

Boats: Questions and Answers with a Shipwright

Brian Cumby

11.50 - 12.20

(re)constructions in archaeological open-air museums, what's the use?

Roeland Paardekooper

12.20 – 1.00

Setting the topics for the discussions

Linda Hurcombe

1.00 - 2.00



2.00 – 5.00

Roundtable discussions


Thursday 23rd May – A visit to the Ancient Technology Centre, whose staff have worked with English Heritage to construct three different house structuresbased on archaeological remains from the Neolithic site of Durrington Walls near Stonehenge.


Participants to the 2nd exeter Dialogue...
Roundtable Discussions
Presentation of the discussions
Field Visit to the neolithic Structures
Inside one of the Neolithic Structures, with...