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Exeter Dialogue With Science Roadshow: La Ciutadella Ibérica de Calafell

Thursday, 8 October, 2015 to Monday, 12 October, 2015
Linda Hurcombe
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
11 from the University of Exeter, 4 Calafell staff, 1 reenactor associated with the site; 4 staff from our partners Archeon and Hunebedcentrum also visited Calafell on the Friday.

In October 2015 a group of post graduate students from the University of Exeter visited La Ciutadella Ibérica de Calafell. This was the 8th stop for the Dialogue with Science Roadshow. The aim of which was to promote cultural exchange and to promote a better understanding of experimental archaeology and make craft elements of this accessible to the public. The students observed, presented, and participated in open air museum activities surrounding craft production and public interaction. At the same time, scientific experiments surrounding the production of use wear on flint tools were being conducted.

The observations of the school visits and the enthusiastic participation of the children was a key strength of the visit to la Ciutadella. The sequence of a first visit to introduce the site, followed by work in their classrooms to get ready for a repeat visit, followed by their second visit, allowed some fantastic interactions on their second visit. This approach is really distinctive and our Exeter students were only allowed entrance to the site after they had been challenged to state their name by the children acting as ‘guards’, with many other activities such as practicing spear throwing, and mudbrick making showing the same kind of commitment from the children. This was impressive and it was good to see Jasna who came to Exeter for the basketry workshop and Anna and others, who participated in a staff exchange at Foteviken in their roles with the children. Two of the students taking part had previously benefitted from attending Openarch workshops in Exeter and were able to take a leading role in the activities since many of the others had only started their postgraduate courses a few weeks earlier. This was their introduction to the Openarch project. These exchanges and interactions have benefitted from developing over time.

For the dialogue with science roadshow there was a range of materials and activities as well as some ongoing experiments. Following discoveries of glass beads at the site, experimental demonstrations using traditional craft techniques from the Roman and Viking periods were carried out. The public were especially interested in the techniques used to make glass beads.

Members of the public were actively encouraged to participate in a number of craft activities which included:

• Cordage production from flax and Esparto grass. The public were encouraged to collaborate with demonstrators in making their own cordage and to gain an understanding of sequence from raw material, through the refinement process to the end product. They learned some of the uses for cordage and were introduce to some types of textile artefacts recovered from regional archaeological sites, such as La Cueva del Murcielagos.
Jasna had also prepared a whole set of samples of esparto and hemp as part of the scientific cordage experimental programme. This interaction began when Jasna took part in the Basketry and related plant management workshop in Exeter and area of La Ciutadella of the There was exchange of knowledge, materials and techniques between the Exeter and Calafell partners which will be followed up by another workshop.

• Palaeolithic art replication. The visitors were shown different photos of cave and mobile (transportable) art from Iberia and encouraged to create their own art on pieces of slate and pebbles. They could make their own paintbrushes or use ones made by the students. The public’s experimenting with paint led to examples which resembled early rock art as well as Azillian pebbles.

• The public were also offered the opportunity to sample cooked fish produced by the students. The fish had been butchered, defleshed and cooked in one of the museums replica ovens. The stone tools used for all stages of the process were added to a use wear analysis collection at the University of Exeter.

• Interaction with skins and hides. Animal skins (including reindeer, roe deer and salmon) were presented to visitors in various stages of the tanning process. The public were shown how differences in the final product could result from both the skin choice and the tanning procedure used (such as fat tanning as opposed to bark tanning). Visitors were also encouraged to explore the different textures of the various hides for themselves. The skins from the fish being cooked were also put through some stages of the tanning process

• Experiments involving grass cutting and shell drilling were also carried out, and the stone tools used were added to the use wear reference collection.

There were some interesting points to note concerning public interaction and good practice in public demonstrating. Visitors to the site were very enthusiastic to engage with the students running the demonstrations, and were eager to share their own experiences, memories and knowledge of materials and techniques being used. There was a noticeable two-way exchange of language and culture between the public and demonstrating students, and a willingness to share knowledge collectively. The education model used by staff and school teachers was of particular interest. It had a very organic approach to learning with children teaching both adults and each other. The public were surprisingly interested in seeing the entire process and were sometime shocked that the initial material could be used to create the finished product; the flax plant to woven textiles or finished fish skin to leather. The children on site enjoyed making something that they were proud of and could then take home, encouraging adults to join in and help. Some of the material has been developed over the course of the other dialogue with science roadshow events over the summer and some reflected the specific interaction between la Ciutadella and Exeter but as the public event formed part of a European Cultural heritage event it was especially good to have our EU project officer visit this interactive event.

Many thanks to the staff of la Ciutadella especially, Manel who also took a group round the Castello, Jasna, and Anna, who all provided wonderful support throughout the visit.


Cordage and fibre crafts.
Fibre crafts from the touch project with Tom...
Teaching cordage to visitors, with Serena...
Brushes and supples for Paleolithic art...
Paleolithic art examples, with Pete Clarke.
Cooking preperation, with Serena Avery.
Leaf wrapped fish cooking in clay ovens.
Leaf wrapped bundles of cooked fish.
Salmon butchery with stone tools.
Salmon skinning with stone tools.
Salmon skins, with Alice La Porta.
Defleshing salmon skin with a stone tool.
Salmon butcher, with Linda Hurcombe, Alice...
Interacting with hides and skins.
Interacting with hides and skins.
Rubbing ochre on skin to produce use wear,...
Cutting grass with stone tools for the use...
Taking casts of used stone tools, with Alice...
Glass bead making, with Alan Burchell.
Glass bead making.
Glass bead making, with Alan Burchell,...