The Constructed Past: Experimental Archaeology, Education, and the Public

The Constructed Past: Experimental Archaeology, Education, and the Public

The Constructed Past: Experimental Archaeology, Education, and the Public

The Constructed Past: Experimental Archaeology, Education, and the Public

Synopsis

The Constructed Past presents group of powerful images of the past, termed in the book construction sites. At these sites, full scale, three-dimensional images of the past have been created for a variety of reasons including archaeological experimentation, tourism and education.Using various case studies, the contributors frankly discuss the aims, problems and mistakes experienced with reconstruction. They encourage the need for on-going experimentation and examine the various uses of the sites; political, economical and educational.

Excerpt

The idea for this book was first suggested during a weekend course held in 1992 at the Ancient Technology Centre, Cranborne, UK (see Keen, Chapter 16). The course offered those interested in ancient technology the opportunity to meet and learn from each other during a weekend of mainly practical activity and experimentation. A number of course members were school teachers—there either to develop ideas for their own teaching or for their own interest. It was an extremely successful course and everyone left hoping to return for similar events in the future. However, during general discussion it became clear that a number of participants were concerned about the proliferation of ‘reconstructed’ sites (see Introduction) and their educational and presentational philosophies and values. Much of this concern was rooted in the conscious—and perhaps sub-conscious—messages that participants felt were being presented by such sites. Were some sites perhaps somehow ‘failing’ or misinforming both visiting formal education groups and more general visitors by presenting stereotyped images of a past well understood and fixed in a specified position, some distance behind the contemporary world along a linear path of progress? After all, so the discussion went, the very basis of experimental archaeology is that it is experimental and that we will never know with 100 per cent certainty that ‘this is what it was like’. Discussion also focused on the specifically formal educational uses of such sites and how—if at all—the methodology of archaeological experimentation matched, elaborated and extended current teaching methodology and practice. A few participants raised concerns regarding the political uses of such sites. Similar discussions took place—and concerns aired—at a second meeting on experimental archaeology and reconstruction sites held at Aubechies, Belgium in 1993.

As a result of these meetings we agreed to organise a sub-theme on The multifaceted aims of reconstruction sites: archaeological evidence, reconstruction of sites, education and public awareness at the World Archaeological Congress 3 (WAC) held in New Delhi in December 1994. The theme brought together colleagues from both the previous meetings as well as many

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