Experimental archaeology is a practical, hands-on method of interpreting archaeological discoveries. It is used to recreate a wide range of objects including buildings and tools as authentically as possible and serves to test theories about their use and people in past societies.
Archaeological evidence stimulates many questions about these people. How did they make and use their tools? How did they build their houses, boats and other structures? How did they make their clothes? How did they cultivate their fields, look after their animals, develop methods of processing and cooking their food? The stand-alone evidence from archaeological sites normally cannot provide the answers to such questions, so experiments are undertaken to test theories.
Underwater Archaeology is a particularly good starting point for providing the evidence on which to base experiments due to the remarkable state of preservation of organic remains found on submerged sites. Similar remains do not usually survive as well in dry land sites, if at all.
Parts of major structural elements of the house and the platform that make up a crannog, for example, as well as other material remains are often still preserved underwater, providing us with insight into the way of life of the people who lived there. Even microscopic evidence can be found in laboratory analysis of the organic samples and objects from the site.
The wealth of material preserved and discovered at Oakbank Crannog inspired the STUA to build a crannog in Loch Tay directly based on their excavation and research evidence. Using the same timber species and no modern fastening, the experiment was designed to answer many questions relating to the building techniques used and how the house would withstand the elements. Please go to Building a Crannog for further information.