This week we joined with our friends and partners from Butser Ancient Farm to present at TAG 2019 held at the Institute for Archaeology, UCL. The ‘Playing with the past, practising for the future’ session acted as a hands-on workshop for experimental community archaeology and was an ideal platform to present a paper based on our collaboration on the construction of a new Neolithic house at Butser.

Gareth Chaffey, Senior Project Manager, spoke alongside Butser’s archaeologist Claire Walton to explain the planning and subsequent implementation of a project to construct a structure which was excavated by Wessex Archaeology at Kingsmead Quarry, Horton, Berkshire. The talk touched on the thinking behind the collaboration and partnership and how it has shaped the project so far, from looking at the archaeological evidence right through to the construction design. Gareth also gave some information on the excavations themselves and how Wessex Archaeology have been involved in the construction.

Collaboration between Wessex Archaeology and Butser Ancient Farm at TAG 2019

We took a novel approach of asking the attendees of the session to interact with us throughout the talk by making cordage, the use of a natural string-like material to create cords which are used in thatching the reconstructions at Butser. Everyone was given a piece of raffia (a natural plant fibre) and shown how to begin to twist and bend the material to create a basic rope. The activity continued throughout the talk and one comment by the audience included that cordage was a good way to get the attendees to focus! At the end of the paper the audience were told that all of their efforts were going to be collected to be used in the thatching of the Neolithic house in the New Year, something which was both unexpected and appreciated!

Making cordage at TAG 2019 Making cordage at TAG 2019

Our talk also focussed on how the coming together of two organisations equally passionate about representing the archaeological record and in knowledge sharing, education and interaction has driven the project thus far. Through our collaboration we hope to maximise the opportunities for academic, public and community engagement, including schools, marginalised groups and those with special needs.

We are extremely excited to be involved in the project to reconstruct a Neolithic house which we excavated, and we are equally thrilled by the possibilities of the collaboration and the potential initiatives which will come out of working together, now and in the future.