Sunday, July 01, 2007

"Archaeology" in my backyard

Martin Rundqvist of Aardvarchaeology has challenged bloggers with appropriate interests to take and post pictures of their nearest archaeological site.

I'm not sure this qualifies but I think someone, somewhere, maybe New Mexico, maybe Yakutia, will be interested in this.

Every Labour Day long weekend for over a decade I've had a crowd of people camping in my back field for an event under the auspices of the Society for Creative Anachronism. A lot of the usual SCA things happen there, but because we've got a lot of space, a fair amount of time (long weekend) and something like a guarantee that the site will be available for a number of years, some more than usually ambitious and serious projects have been launched.

The archaeological connection is illustrated by the first two pictures. Darrell Markewitz, historical re-creationist, metalworker, and independent scholar, is fascinated by the process of making metals, especially the documented-only-by-archaeology methods used by the Vikings and other northern Europeans in the "Dark Ages" (you know, before they turned on the lights). Darrell knows the L'Anse aux Meadows site in Newfoundland well, and has for a long time been thinking about the smelting of iron that apparently took place at this small, temporary settlement. When he first camped here lo these many years ago, he dug a basement or "booth" like the one found at the real site, to see what the postulate metal workshop may have been like. Then, last year, with a host of collaborators, some long-term and dedicated, plus many more who willing to do a bit of hard labor for a laugh, he made a great big lump of decent-quality iron using no electricity to stoke the fire, just human muscle power and a double bellows he'd designed himself.

(Any errors in this summary are mine.)

So here is the booth or depression where the work was done. Real booths have superstructures, tents or huts.

Here's a closer shot showing the clay furnace after use (picture from today, in fact), propped up by some stones. The hole on the front is where the bellows was inserted.

A couple of other pieces of "above ground archaeology" on the same site. A monument to the local ravens, carved by a gentleman named "Foote," some years back, and painted by me last year.
And here's the biggest project, though it remains unfinished, a "meadhall" made of pieces from an old barn, recreating roughly imported English vernacular wood architecture as found at Jamestown, Va.
I hope Martin agrees that this is an appropriate entry for the "archaeological site nearest you."
Can't get much nearer, and if it's not old enough, only time can help that.

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Anonymous said...

That is really cool!
There have been iron smelting experiments done by some of the guys in Lochac (AUS) too. Done at Rowany Festival, held at Crossroads Medieval Co-operative. I have no idea of the details, except that like the one done at your site there was no electricity used. There is also a Tudor style guild hall, and various small things like bridges and fireplaces. Sorry, I don't have any photos, if you want some let me know and I'll find some links for you.

9:46 PM  

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