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Jan 2015 Dublin Experimental Archaeology conference

Wednesday, 14 January, 2015 to Monday, 19 January, 2015
Linda Hurcombe
Magdalena Zielinska
Theresa Kamper
Kristoffer Brink
Steve Burrow
Roeland Paardekooper
Björn M Buttler Jakobsen
Leena Lehtinen
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
240 participants

With 240 participants and papers from across the globe this was a ‘grand’ meeting as the Irish might say. There was a lot of Openarch representation, Calafell, EXARC, Exeter, Foteviken, Kierikki, St Fagans all had staff and students there. Although not all were present in an official Openarch capacity, it was a good chance to catch up with plans and take forward some of the ideas for our work together in the coming summer. Many individuals and institutions were members of EXARC and the EXARC desk had promotional literature of the organisation and OpenARCH, with the conference providing a rich context for increasing the reach of both. Exeter presented the pop up exhibition on the Touching the Past project which has used crafted replicas alongside replicas using modern technologies such as 3D printing and Linda Hurcombe and Sabine Martin both presented papers. Bill Schindler, vice-president of EXARC, gave an inspirational keynote speech on the concept of soul authorship. As a University lecturer this made one think again about experiential learning and how to get the best out of students, and at the same time, use material on ‘the past’ to deliver messages on sustainability and other modern agendas.

The pre-conference meetings brought research and interpretation together by discussions from archaeological open-air museum and academic perspectives. There is rich diversity here and though all of us work in different contexts and need to do the best we can within our own parameters, knowing small details about each other’s constraints helps both and strengthens the whole ‘experimental archaeology’ sector. The EXARC Annual General Meeting was usefully placed on the shoulder of the conference and there was a final optional visit to the National Heritage Centre, where cooking using hot stones, many different kinds of buildings and activities were demonstrated.

Sandwiched in between was the main event, the conference itself – a veritable feast of presentations and demonstrations. The topics covered ranged from South American textiles, partly researched using image enhancement drawn from rock art research, to the flight of projectiles using an atlatl, to usewear on stone and metal tools; to the collective experience of several decades of building roundhouses in the UK, to trying to build something a little different at St Fagans; from the dynamic presentation of cultural heritage issues from a Viking interest group and exhibition in Canada, to seeing for ourselves the last Irish tinker working metal into jugs and mugs, hearing a replica Bronze Age Lur produce trumpet-like cadences but then emit didgeridoo-like rhythmic sounds – and all this diversity was provided in just a few short days. The method that draws these diverse fields together is experimental archaeology and the conference was a wonderful demonstration of the power of this approach whether for primary research or public engagement.