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Exeter Dialogue with Science Roadshow: Hunebedcentrum

Date: 
Friday, 27 November, 2015 to Monday, 30 November, 2015
Responsible: 
Dr. Linda Hurcombe
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
Participants: 16 in total. 3 from the University of Exeter, 4 Hunebedcentrum staff, 2 Archeon staff, 1 US visitor and 6 volunteers, Audience: Approximately 1,500

The Hunebedcentrum was the tenth and final stop for the Exeter Dialogue with Science Roadshow. After travelling on the 27th of November the team split into separate areas of the venue on Saturday the 28th to cover different aspects of the demonstration materials which were brought along. The main theme of the weekend was textile use in prehistory. This was presented in a variety of ways. Inside the main museum Dr. Wendy Howard showed visitors a selection of items from the AHRC Touch the Past Project consisting of 3D scanned artefacts alongside a hand crafted replica of each artefact. The artefacts chosen all represented some form of evidence for early prehistoric textile production and included the Falkirk Tartan, the Luce Sands sherd and a leather shoe. Wendy also went on to discuss small mammal use in prehistory and the importance these creatures played in the survival strategy of some prehistoric groups. To illustrate this from a broader angle than simply one of caloric intake, fur samples and simply woven textiles from rabbit fur, based on Archaeological and Ethnographic evidence from Southwestern North America, were available for visitors to handle.

Meanwhile in the Neolithic house Dr Theresa Emmerich Kamper exhibited tannage types likely to have been common in prehistory, the tools used to produce them and clothing made from both hair-off and hair-on (fur) processed skins. Alongside the processed skin exhibits a variety of different fibres, both plant and animal based, known to have been used prehistorically in different areas of the world were available for handling. These included, dog fur, bison/wisent underfur, cow tail hair, human hair, sinew, nettle and yucca fibre. This variety of fibres was shown in an effort to show the public that the history of textiles is much more complex and interesting than just wool and flax. Ways of spinning these more unusual fibres were shown, including thigh rolling, drop spindles and thigh spindles. Tips on fire lighting and maintenance in a small structure were also covered with the public and members of the centre’s volunteers and staff. An interesting discussion arose from the use of these houses in the low season centred on light issues. The hours of daylight which made the house useable without resorting to lamps or a more targeted fire strategy were shorter than the opening hours of the museum.

In good daylight Dr Linda Hurcombe demonstrated drop spindle spinning and nettle processing. Harma Peining a nalbinding expert and regular contributor to the European Textile Forum visited and was able to discuss techniques and her publication. Ideas for collecting tools from volunteers and the interactions with Exeter’s use wear project were well received and we agreed to monitor the tools, including those produced by the volunteers such as Steineke Lankhorst.

Dr Linda Hurcombe talked with Harrie Wolters about the Hunebedcentrum’s future plans and the buildings, furniture, clothing and craft aspects of the reconstructions. Following Dr Hurcombe’s last visit in autumn 2014, when the Touching the Past project was presented, the Hunebedcentrum staff have bought their own printer and scanned both some objects from the museum and they have also scanned the buildings. Nadine Lemmers and Sabine Van Wijk discussed the game they are devising using some of the printed objects. Linda Hurcombe suggested they could also use the printed objects at a larger scale as an aide for visually impaired visitors. Nadine Lemmers also explained the way in which the Hunebedcentrum has developed an experience themed around fire and light for special needs visitors. Linda Hurcombe was able to relay Emily Pike’s comments on special needs visitors from experiences at the Archeon Dialogue with Science visit. The ideas developed by both Exeter and the Hunebedcentrum show how each has taken some of the other’s ideas forward and sparked new developments. We agreed to stay in touch to find out how the 3D print developments worked especially for the visually impaired.

The Hunebedcentrum consists of multiple interest areas. The outside spaces encompass buildings or occupational sites ranging in time from Neanderthal to Iron Age, an extensive rock garden and mineral exhibit as well as a well preserved hunebed. The indoor areas include more traditional museum cases displaying artefacts from the local area, a large collection of amber and amber items, a landscape display highlighting the areas geologic past, and a smaller stone burial chamber around which the main museum building was built. As a way to contextualise this diversity in relation to the surrounding area, a trip was taken to the nearby Drents Museum on Sunday evening. Some amazing finds are housed in Drents museum including the oldest log boat found in Europe, preserved wooden shafts from arrows and an adze, and of course the bog bodies and their accompanying clothing. This visit was followed up by some after dark hunebed hunting! While perhaps not the ideal time to see a megalith this was certainly a memorable experience. The team would like to thank Nadine, Sabine, Hein and Harry for taking such good care of us during our visit, and making the extra effort to show us the local area!

Images

The group discussing the plan for the...
Touring the museum exhibits.
Sabine giving us a tour of the outdoor...
The experimental archaeology area.
The rock garden showing the geology of the...
Sabine and Theresa looking at a new building.
Sabine and Theresa talking about some...
Sabine discussing some of the fibre projects...
Wendy showing and discussing the Touch the...
Theresa talking about early use of fibres...
Some of the 3D prints of the Hunebedcentrum'...
Sabine showing Wendy and Theresa the 3D...
Linda viewing and discussing the 3D prints.
After dark Hunebed Hunting!!