9th Experimental Archaeology conference abstract – Sørensen
From data sets to public presentation: communicating experimental archaeology at the Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum Roskilde
Archaeological research generally involves the collection and analysis of large amounts of data concerning past peoples and technologies. This data is essential to us as researchers, but can present a challenge in terms of how we communicate the results of our work to a wider audience. Unless we wish to work in academic isolation, complex technical processes and conclusions must be transformed into understandable and engaging narratives; the leap
must be made from data set to public presentation.
How this process evolves during the course of an archaeological experiment is one of the key aspects that sets experimental archaeology apart from traditional methodologies. The physical processes involved in the execution of archaeological experiments, be they experiments concerning the sailing of ships, the production of flint tools or the reconstruction and use of dwellings, creates a dialogue between the participants and the audience which can serve to
elevate an archaeological experiment beyond raw data to a concept that is not just relatable but also interesting – a fundamental goal in the presentation of any research project.
Taking this dialogue as a starting point, this paper will explore the communication of experimental archaeology at the Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde, where more than fifty years of research with Viking ship finds, experimental reconstruction and analysis has resulted in massive volumes of data, which is successfully communicated to a wide audience via exhibitions, publications and, most importantly, encounters and interactions with sailing reconstructions of Viking ships. These encounters and interactions have in turn begun to create their own narratives, as the bodily encounters people have with ships such as Sea Stallion from Glendalough generate a sense of connection and ownership with a project, underlining the importance of experimental archaeology as a method of communicating the
stories of our past.