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The life cycle of structures in experimental archaeology: an object biography approach

Date: 
Thursday, 24 March, 2016
Responsible: 
Dr Linda Hurcombe
Dr Penny Cunningham
Leena Lethingen
Quantity of Products: 
book, to be published by Sidestone press, leiden as paper copy, e-book and readable online for free

ABSTRACT
The focus of Archaeological Open-Air Museums (AOAMs) is to present both the tangible and intangible past to the public. The tangible parts of AOAMs are the archaeological remains and the reconstructions. The intangible and, in some respects the most interesting part of an AOAM, is the story of the people the museum represents. This volume explores the research and visitor agendas of structures and their life cycles as they are experienced by experimental archaeology projects and AOAMs. The papers presented include research undertaken by both academics and craft specialists and demonstrate the value of experiential and experimental research to enhance both the visitor experience and research agendas. The papers were brought together as part of the OpenArch Project’s Dialogue with Science Work Package. OpenArch is a five year project with eleven international partners funded with support from the European Commission.

Structures include houses, boats, forges, and other diverse constructions. The structures are not static entities but change through time going through a life cycle. Key themes are the birth, life and death of structures. To explore these key themes papers in this volume consider the planning phase, the assembling of materials, the construction period and then the maintenance and repair needs and the change of use of structures as they age. For some structures this also includes issues surrounding decay, dilapidation, dismantling and destruction of these experimental structures. Understanding of these biographies not only contribute to our understanding of the archaeological record they also enable a consideration of the intangible aspects of structures whilst enhancing the visitor experience.

Table of Content:
Preface: Penny Cunningham, Linda Hurcombe, and Leena Lehtinen

Chapter 1:Linda Hurcombe & Penny Cunningham: Introduction: The object biography approach to structures

Planning Structures
Chapter 2:Richard Brunning: Hands on Heritage: experimental and experiential archaeology in the Avalon Marshes, Somerset, UK.

Chapter 3: Kati Caruso and Claudia Speciale:“U Pagghiaru”: studies of traditional shepherd’s huts and their relevance to a Bronze Age hut-rebuilding project in Sicily

Thinking through structures

Chapter 4: Theresa Emmerich Kamper and Linda Hurcombe: Plant materials, hides and skins as structural components: perishable material culture and archaeological invisibility

Chapter 5: Penny Cunningham: Saving it for later: gathering, processing and food storage structures

Chapter 6: Linda Hurcombe & Brian Cumby: Boats as structures

Chapter 7: Werner Pfeifer: Experiments on possible Stone Age glue types

Construction

Chapter 8: Inga Nieminen: Experiences of thatching at Kierikki Stone Age Village, Finland

Chapter 9: Wolfgang Lobisser: A gateway to the Bronze Age: Experimenting with woodworking methods of the Terramara culture in Montale in Italy

Chapter 10: Joni-Pekka Karjalainen and Juuso Vattulainen: “From Earth I Rose” Experimenting stone slab furnaces of the Finnish Early Iron Age

Chapter 11: José Miguel Gallego Cañamero, Manel Gómez Gutiérrez and Josep Pou I Vallès: Polvus eris et in polvus reverteris: Experimental production of Iberian iron and post-processing approach to the furnace structures

Structures

Chapter 12: Jannie Marie Christensen: Testing the indoor environment and personal health in an inhabited reconstructed Viking Age house during winter

Chapter 13:Eero Muurimäki: Experiences concerning Stone age building constructions in Finland

Decline of structures

Chapter 14: Bruce Bradley: Blackhand Kiva: biography of a replica ancestral Pueblo subterranean masonry-lined structure, Montezuma County, Colorado, USA

Chapter 15: Tríona Sørensen: The day the house sat down: the deterioration and collapse of the Ferrycarrig roundhouses

Preface
OpenArch aims to build a permanent partnership of archaeological open-air museums, raise standards among participants and improve the visitor experiences across Europe.The focus of archaeological open-air museums is to present both the tangible and intangible past to the public. The tangible parts of archaeological open-air museums are the archaeological remains and the reconstructions of these (i.e. houses, ships, log boats). The intangible and, in some respects the most interesting part of an archaeological open-air museum, is the story of the people that once lived there. One of the strongest themes across the partnership is the role of structures: what kinds of houses, storage facilities, kilns, boats and boundaries did people use; how were they made and maintained? Scientific evidence from artefacts and sites provides the basis for the reconstructions, but these need testing and critical reflection as they are made and used. In this way, the structures became part of the dialogue with science.

This volume is the result of this sharing of research and experience. Its aim is to benefit both the science and visitor experience across the archaeological spectrum. Archaeological experiments help us to understand how objects were made, how structures were constructed and perhaps what they looked like and how they were used, and not the least, how people used these structures in the past.

Experiments within OpenArch and the Dialogue with Science work package have been defined in cooperation with craftspeople, archaeologists, experimental archaeology experts and universities, so that the experiments of this project add value to visitor experience and archaeology. Broad experimental themes include structures for different purposes, as dwellings, as pyrotechnical aids for the production of metals and wood tar and pitch, for storage, and for water transport.

The papers in this proceeding result from two very successful Dialogue with Science Work Package events: a workshop held in May 2013 at the University of Exeter, UK, and a conference at Kierikki Stone Age Museum, Finland, in June 2014. Participants from the UK, Finland, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Serbia, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, who are either working on experimental research projects or at archaeological open-air museums met to discuss the birth, life and death of various structures and to discuss the value and scale of the experimental archaeology approach in studying and presenting the past to the public.

The May 2013 workshop explored the research and visitor agendas of structures and their lifecycles as they are experienced by experimental archaeology projects and archaeological open-air museums. Key themes considered were the birth, life and death of structures explored through the planning phase, the assembling of materials, the construction period and then the maintenance and repair needs and the change of use of structures as they age. Followed, ultimately, by some combination of the decay, dilapidation, dismantling and destruction of these experimental structures. The conference also considered the structure’s lifecycle as performance where the visitor is drawn into a dynamic interaction and relationship with the lifecycle of a structure.

During the May 2013 workshop it became clear from discussions that there was a wealth of knowledge and experience represented. Furthermore a number of common problems surrounding the creation and upkeep of archaeological structures experienced by both experimental archaeologists and archaeological open-air museums were identified and through discussions some solutions or key issues were established. The wide range of papers presented at the conference highlighted the diversity of experimental structures - these are not just houses but also include boats, furnaces, and other diverse constructions. The structures are not static entities but change through time going through a lifecycle.

Following on from the May 2013 workshop a conference was held in June 2014 at Kierikki Stone Age Village, Finland, and this conference developed some of the themes further. Papers focused on house constructions, ceramics, iron smelting, reconstructing Bronze Age tools as the means to make structures, and pitch and glue making experiments. These were followed by a series of papers relating to house reconstructions at archaeological open-air museums developing issues relating to compromises that need to be considered when designing a new reconstruction in light of large visitor numbers, the knowledge and skills required for successful thatching and insights concerning health and safety issues (for staff and visitors) whilst also trying to create and maintain the ‘right’ ambiance for visitors at archaeological open-air museum.

The Kierikki conference highlighted the scope of experimental work being undertaken by OpenArch partners and how these are not only contributing to our understanding of the past and the archaeological record but also really enhancing the visitor experience. Both the conference and the workshop demonstrated the wealth of experience and knowledge that has been created through an understanding of the lifecycle of structures in a variety of formats. The aim of this volume is to share the insights and experiences of those who are working in the fields of experimental archaeology and open-air museums. Although a lifecycle approach may appear subjective through accounts of individual experiences of designing, planning and constructing structures these insights are also highly relevant to experimental archaeology as they are related to solving problems as they arise, testing ideas and seeing what works. The whole is a dynamic entity showing the value of integrating research and practice in the dialogue with science.

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