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Dialouge with Science Roadshow: Sagnlandet Lejre

Saturday, 11 July, 2015 to Sunday, 19 July, 2015
Dr. Linda Hurcombe
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
50+participants in the Athra gathering; 5 from the University of Exeter, 1 from AOZA, 1 from Keirikki, plus many from Lejre, an EXARC member

The Athra Gathering held at Sanglandet Lejre: Land of Legends in Denmark was the third stop for Exeter’s Dialogue with Science road show. The Dialogue with Science was set up off to one side of the Stone Age encampment area. This area was branded as the experimental archaeology area where the University of Exeter participants could carry out experiments and demonstrations of period appropriate activities including skin tanning, cordage and textile processing techniques, stone tool use-wear experiments and flint tool production; in addition two different birch tar production experiments were made in collaboration with AOZA. The demonstrations and activities were engaged in not just by the general public but also by the Lejre staff members and by the other Athra demonstrators. Some of the use wear experiments undertaken included, wood cutting, rawhide thong cutting, softening tanned furs, defleshing a coyote skin and trampling both buried and surface flakes. In the latter the public was asked to walk, run, jump or stomp on a square of earth where the flakes were located in order to assess the types of breakage patterns and striations this type of process created. The public were also able to use stone tools themselves and there were locally gathered materials on display to make a direct relationship between the plants in the environment and the ways they could be used to make cordage and basketry items. The demonstrations of tanning focused on the production and use of fur skins as this type of product is heavily associated with northern climates as evidenced by examples seen in the National Museum on Denmark in Copenhagen earlier in the year. The cordage and textile techniques focused on locally acquired materials and included, nettle (Urtica dioica), soft rush (Juncus effusis), Willow bark (Salix sp.), Lime bast (Tilia sp.) and cattail (Typha sp.) as well as animal based cordage material such as sinew, gut, rawhide and skin processed with a variety of tanning technologies. Visitors were encouraged to make small segments of cordage from hemp or linen fibre which will be later used in breakage experiments intended to look at the part skill level plays in cordage strength.

Craft-Skill Transmission:
All of the Exeter participants had had the opportunity to attend the craft skills workshops held previously at Exeter University. The experiences and skills learned during the workshops were relayed to a much wider audience during the ‘road show’ events over the course of the summer. An especially useful exchange of ideas and skill sets surrounded the production of stone tools. Matt Swieton, Alice La Porta and Sabine Martin all post-grad students whose research revolves around stone tool production had the opportunity to work with a host of expert flint knappers invited by Lejre to demonstrate tool production for the visitors. This resulted in lasting collaborations with continued on into other Openarc h partner projects including future Dialogue with Science stops and the Living Mesolithic Project hosted by the Steinzeitpark Dithmarschen (AOEZA) which reached over 5,000 visitors. In addition to stone technologies, more ephemeral products and their processes were demonstrated in an attempt to communicate the research agenda of experimental archaeology to a wider audience. In conjunction with Werner Pfeifer from AOEZA, the production of birch tar from birch bark was used to demonstrate how even perishable goods may leave a signature in the archaeological record from their production process.

In addition to achieving the core goals of the Dialogue with Science during the week, the Exeter participants also took part in the weapons demonstrations for visitors, evening presentations – we gave one of these - of ongoing projects and lively campfire discussions! We genuinely enjoyed the setting, visitors and our fellow demonstrators and look forward to an ongoing association with this fantastic event! Many thanks to Laurent Mazet and all the Lejre staff.

Linda Hurcombe
Theresa Emmerich Kamper
Matt Swieton
Alice La Porta
Sabine Martin
University of Exeter, Department of Archaeology


Setting of the science camp.
Cutting Typha
Birch tar experiments in front of members of...
Birch tar production.
Using flint tools.
Learning flint knapping.