9th Experimental Archaeology Conference poster – Fox
Performing A Bowyer’s Craft: Reflections on Craft & Community Through Living History at the Chieftain’s Longhouse at Borg
Living-History is often considered a valuable means for members of the public or the individual to experience what life may have been like in the past. Although it is often confined to the realms of re-enactment and public education, the atmosphere created at the Lofotr Viking Museum has demonstrated to me the potential that Living-History has, when examining themes of craft and skill in experimental archaeology. This paper will demonstrate how engagement with Living-History at Lofotr, has enriched my approach to experimental archaeology, and in particular, my understanding of craft and community in the Viking-Age. Typically, I use bowmaking as a valuable way of understanding craft and skill in the Viking- Age.
This approach has allowed me to explore themes of cognition and tool-use and the dynamic relationships between craftsmen and their woodland environments. Crafts in the Viking-Age however, were communal and not the solitary processes our experiments tend to be. I was therefore previously unable to explore for example, the effect a ‘group-dynamic’ has on an individual craft. The environment in the longhouse at Borg however, provided this communal
knowledge and interaction. Working alongside life-long blacksmiths, woodcarvers, wool-dyers and ship-builders, has revealed to me how the engagement with Living History can be utilized as a tool for accessing dynamics within a crafting community and how these interactions shape the individual’s craft and skill, thereby removing them from isolation. By offering my experience as a bowmaker in the Chieftain’s longhouse at Borg, this paper aims to demonstrate where Living-History can and should be taken advantage of in the field of Experimental Archaeology.