Replica Objects and Reconstructing the Past presented by Prof. Henry Chapman

Professor Henry Chapman opened our new series of Objects in Focus talks on Wednesday 16th October 2019. The talks are intended to introduce the hidden treasures in our Archaeology Collection to new audiences and to showcase the range of expertise in the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology. The new 2019/20 group of CAHA Archaeology Collection Volunteers were at the talk, and they have written a short blog about their experience.

Prof. Henry Chapman’s talk was about his experiences excavating and replicating the Hatfield Neolithic Trackway  During this project, volunteers from across the local community were recruited to assist in creating a full-scale replica of the ancient trackway.Prof. Henry Chapman presenting the first Objects in Focus talk.

During the talk, Prof. Chapman illustrated the various roles replicas have in heritage management and museums. This talk made us think about how replicas of ancient objects can benefit archaeological study and encourage researchers to think about the practicalities of using stone tools.  For the Hatfield Neolithic Trackway project, Prof. Chapman highlighted some of the questions the project wanted to address by reconstructing the trackway including the labour hours and tools needed to make the trackway, the practicalities concerning the construction of the ancient monument (e.g. where to source trees), as well as sourcing workers to complete the project from the local community.

Replica Neolithic Beaker pot on display in CAHA’s Archaeology Collection.We found it really interesting how the project had encouraged involvement from the local community, and how people with different skills and backgrounds brought great insight to the project. For example, there were several woodworkers and a tree surgeon who really helped them solve problems they encountered fitting the tree trunks together. The talk was really successful in showing how collaboration between the volunteers helped build the trackway.

The project was also really useful in showing how experimental archaeology can teach us about how objects were used in the past. For example, Prof. Chapman’s experiences in using a stone-age axe helped the team realise that marks they initially thought to be signs of rot were in fact ancient tool markings, based on similarities to the marks left by the replica axe heads.

At the end of the talk, audience members asked questions about the talk, and it was particularly interesting to hear what others thought about the project. For us, the talk illustrated that learning is a constant process, and there is always something new to be discovered. We were particularly excited to learn that the group are now planning to build a Neolithic house in the near future!

CAHA Archaeology Volunteers