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Transferring Science from University to Museum

Wednesday, 18 July, 2012 to Wednesday, 25 July, 2012
Dr Rüdiger Kelm
Tosca Friedrich MA
Birte Meller MA
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 
21 students, 3 teachers and around 600 visitors

During the summer 2012 27 students from the University Hamburg, Archaeological Studies, participated in a practical week at the Steinzeitdorf Albersdorf from the 18th-25th July 2012.

The students attended a seminar at the University of Hamburg before the practical week. Focussing on the basics of Experimental Archaeology (theory and skills), museal didactics (guided tours hands on) and archaeological background (time span, archaeological cultures and findings).
During the seminar the students divided themselves in different task groups by their own interest. The aim of the various groups was to formulate either museal didactical program and/or an experiment to the given topic. Important factors for the lectures (T.Friedrich and B.Meller) were also to provide a framework for students to gain experience in archeo-techniques and to develop a greater understanding of the prehistoric life and materials.
The performance, experiments etc. were then realised at the practical week in Albersdorf, where the students were working during the day at the Steinzeitdorf and slept at a school nearby. Even when work time was over and the public audience had left, some students stayed at the Steinzeitdorf to resume. To be visible for the visitors and for various other reasons all members of the practical week – students and teachers – were dressed in linen, wooden or leather wear. The patterns were taken and transferred from Neolithic and Bronze Age idols / figurines / illustrations and burial finds from Middle European Context. As in the years before lot of visitors from the surrounding area, but also from far away visited the Steinzeitdorf during the practical week and participated on the students work. Having changed the appearance to a complete weekend in 2012 the Sunday (22th July 2012) showed record attendance. Here the participants could give information to the public about the OpenArch-project and the tasks of the WP´s 4 and 5 of OpenArch.

The topic of 2012 was “cult, ritus and religion” – which was for different groups not easy to find relating archaeological finds. Archaeological evidence and confirmation was and is essential for all groups and topics. Altogether the students firmed twelve groups focussing mainly on the different raw materials available in Neolithic times:

1) Stone / Flint. The students were slowly introduced to the skill necessary to perform flint knapping and producing their first flakes, scrapers and borer which were used by the other groups to perform their tasks. This year the Swedish archeo-technician Ernst Kügler visited the Stone-Age-Village and showed more than the basics to the students, which happily participated.

2) Bone / Antler. The group focused on two projects. The major one dealt with the comparison between the manufacture of needles made out either bone or horn. The second project was the remodeling of the headdress of the so called ‘Shaman of Bad Dürrenberg’. Daily task was to provide the bones for craftsmanship, like defleshing, cutting bone and extracting sinew.

3) Clay / Pottery. Using various types of clay and different tempering material typical for Neolithic times the clay-mix was manufactured for the later daily use within the village. Pottery done by students during the seminar was fired using “pit fire pottery”-methods (Gruben- und Feldbrand).

4) Wood(en construction), an ongoing project from the year 2011 the layout of the wooden construction was followed up. By using oak and pine planks as layout room to sit, sleep and storage was created and immediately used. Further construction work regarding the interior design of the Flintbek and Rastorf houses is planned for the years 2013 and 2014.

5) Leather. The group finished a project from the year before, which was a leather shield regarding an Irish/British find from the late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age, and started a new one. Different types of hides were tanned, using also different methods of tanning eg material like grease and urine and ash for removal of the fur. For microanalyses the flint tools were collected for use traces und to be confirmed with archaeological finds in an ongoing PhD-thesis.

6) Bronze. The group concentrated on building an oven/kiln to produce bronze and using different pipes for the bellows given by the archaeological record also different crucibles and casting moulds were tried out. Main focus therefore was not the product, but the various objects used for bronze casting. This project started in 2011 and will be continued in 2013.

7) Colors. Using the common mineral colors this one-woman group was in charge of the ornamentation of the so called Neolithic cult house of Tustrup (Denmark). Minor product was the creation of various color shades, like firing, mixing or binding material. Also the colors were used for body-painting due to ornamentation or sun blocker. The wide feedback as well as in the student group but also within the public audience the use of color and ornamentation will be the main focus of the following seminar and the next practical week in 2013.

8) Textile. This group wanted to accomplish different workflows like the production of spindle whorl out of wood and potter's clay, the spinning of wool strands with the help of the spindle whorl and finally the creation of a belt on a Neolithic weaving loom.

9) Food. Using seasonal and archaeological verified food this group was responsible for everyday lunch and the midweek festival. Cooked, grilled etc. was with fire, but due to the group size the main pot used was a metal one (in the years before reconstructed ceramic pots like TBK pottery were used, put did not survive the daily routine or the cold winters in the house). The cooking was open for the public so they could join in cutting vegetables and herbs with flint knives or try self-made food like butter or soups.

10) Bread. Having built another oven at the museum of Albersdorf in 2011/2012 this oven was mainly used for bread baking experiments during the practical week 2012. The bread experiment was part of a master thesis about Neolithic bread and was focused on different kinds of yeast possible in Neolithic. Also the evolving of temperature and abrasion during use was documented for research. Bread was baked every day also for public display and group lunch time.

11) Fishing gears. The Fishing group dealt with fishing in the Mesolithic and Neolithic, which focussed on two projects, one being the crafting of a fish trap with a round opening based on the Danish find from Maglemosegårds Vænge, the other of the making of a leister for eel fishing.

12) Boat. Relating to the archaeological find of a processed reindeer antler at the watergate of Husum (Schleswig-Holstein), that has been interpreted as a rib of a fur boat by Dr. Detlef Ellmers, the aim was to build a canoe model, consisting of a wooden framework which is provided with tree bark as the outer skin that is sewn with spruce roots and sealed with birch pitch. In 2013 a boat full-sized is planned.

Altogether the students, “women in charge” and the museum staff had a great time during the practical week. For the beginning of the year 2013 some of the left-overs and preparing are planned to be fulfilled, like repair of oven, wooden construction in the Flintbek house and hands-on for different subjects.
In summer-term 2013 a further lecture will be given focusing on the theme of variation and ornamentation in the Neolithic.

The results of the practical weeks are communicated by the OpenArch-Homepage, by seminars at the universities in Hamburg and Kiel and by the planned publication of the OpenArch-Conference-proceedings in 2013/2014.


Worktable in the Stone Age
Cleaning birch bark
Stretching skin
burning ceramics in the open fire
OpenArch seminar - fireplace
Students spinning
Weaving loom in the Stone Age Village
The Stone Age Village, Summer 2012