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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tying together a network of friends

This was my third visit to LAM, having previously gone as a tourist in 2006 and as part of the DARC team in 2010. I had already done most of my "must-see" sightseeing, so this time I was quite content to spend every day at the site with my friends from Newfoundland and Ontario. Once again, they were the best part of my experience and I couldn't think of anything I would rather do than play with them.
My "job" in DARC has evolved into one involving string. On the last visit, I worked a bit on my fishing net but didn't get very far. It turned out that the knot I was using slipped (just fine for lacemaking, where I learned it, but less effective if you want sturdy nets to catch fish). Ragnarr and Bjorn each taught me their preferred netting knot last time out. I took great pleasure this time in stringing up the net, having Ragnarr come over on the first day to inspect my work, and give me a big smile because I was now doing it right. I was able to do a lot of work on the net, including repairs to older sections where there were mistakes. Making a fishing net is a very evocative activity in Newfoundland, where many of the visitors come from fishing families. They enjoy sharing memories of repairing nets or watching their dads do so. I love the personal connection, and seeing how the site goes from being a museum to a "real" place.
On the way back from LAM, we stopped at the Fortress of Louisbourg, where I learned something about how to preserve my hemp net and fishing line with pine pitch. I'll be experimenting, now that I have found a source of pine pitch (my local tack shop). I also got ideas for other things made of rope, such as ladders, monkey fists, and boat bumpers, and will be researching evidence of their use in the Viking Age.
Most of my other string experiments this time were with slyng (whipcording). I made some cord using two colours of wool I had dyed and spun. Eventually, it will be used for straps or decorative trim.
I also used slyng to make a hemp bowstring with Jorunn. We started the braid a few inches down our cords, then looped the top and spliced the loose ends into the slyng. This gave a very sturdy loop for the top of the bowstring. The bottom end was simply finished with a thin cord whipping, and tied to the bow with a bowyer's knot (timber hitch). The bowstring was round and just the right size for the arrow nocks, although it doesn't have much spring. It was fun to contribute to the site by leaving an artefact behind.
Based on the bowstring experience I have decided that my next attempt at a horsehair fishing line will involve slyng. Historically, fishing lines were often made of horsehair, which is both strong and long-lasting. I tried various ways of making a fishing line while at LAM. There is evidence of twisted horsehair fishing lines date from around the 1400's, and the short sections of line were somehow knotted together. Remember, about 30 feet of line is needed, and good horse tails are rarely much longer than about 25 inches. My first attempt with twisted line was a complete failure. The line was just too slippery to be knotted or hold a splice. The next attempt, joining short lines made from plain three-strand braids was equally impossible. Since simple knots didn't work, I tried making a loop and splicing the end bits into my braid. Although splicing a loop worked somewhat better, spliced loops could only be used on one end of the line (loosening the braid and stuffing the ends in didn't work) . I still needed to knot the other end. Splicing a continuous braid might be a little sturdier, but a slyng braid is much tighter than a three-strand braid, so that's what I will be trying next.
The other thing that I enjoyed at LAM was doing the hair of my friends each day. It wasn't exactly rope, but it did involve lots of braiding. I experimented with different braids, found ways to disguise modern hairstyles, and provided another connection point for visitors to relate their daily lives to those of the Viking Age Norse.
Diane, aka Auðr

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Bottle" Bead Furnace

For a number of reasons, Neil Peterson and I decided not to mount an iron smelt over Thanksgiving weekend, but concentrated on the VA glass bead making furnace research instead.

The initial experiments in this area were framed by the existing clay 'based plates' found at Ribe Denmark. It should be noted that although there is evidence of glass bead production at a couple of Norse trade / urban sites, there has not been a single complete furnace found. Experimental furnaces we have constructed using these artifact footprints have never been truly effective for actually making beads. There may be some other purpose for the clay slabs (?)

There were a number of continuing problems with the large oval furnaces, as suggested by the artifact bases :

1) Very short effective temperature cycles - in the range of 10 minutes
2) Side ports proved very difficult to work inside - limited space and heat onto hands
3) Top ports proved less than ideal - too large an area for effective control of glass
4) Continuing problems with ash coating surface of beads
5) Large internal volume required considerable charcoal expenditures to operate
6) The top ports were quite effected by any cross winds (operated outside)

Taking my experience with charcoal forge fires, and what we have learned from the much larger charcoal fired iron smelting furnaces, I had suggested this as a possible effective layout:

We tried out a couple of early versions of this system, back in 2009. These were abandoned, mainly because they do not conform to the known artifact 'bases'.
The concept here is that all the exhaust gasses are bottled up and forced out of a top vent hole, which in effect creates a working space much like a more modern torch flame.

Returning to this operating system, Neil constructed a new prototype, based some new observations and suggestions from me, back in mid September. This furnace had been air drying for several weeks. Sunday's workshop saw it fired and operated through several charging cycles:

Layout of the Furnace : about 30 cm OD. Annealing pot to left.
Lid removed, filling with charcoal. Electric blower used for this test series.
Fresh charcoal vents off combustible gasses for about 5 minutes.
Stable working flame, working a simple glass bead in the 'stack'
End of a working cycle, charcoal has burned away from centre to base.
 There was no doubt that this new furnace was a massive improvement:
1) Effective operating cycle in the range of 75 minutes (!)
2) Higher working temperatures at the upper port
3) Narrow flame created more effective control of the glass itself
4) Ash greatly reduced (mostly absent)
5) Significantly lower charcoal consumption
6) 'Time per bead' rate greatly reduced

This all creates one of the classic problems in experimental archaeology : 'If you can't get the same results, you can't be doing the same thing they did' vs 'That certainly works - but it does not match the available artifact evidence'.

In the actual absence of any complete furnaces (or even upper fragments) from VA sites, my gut feeling is that the few surviving 'bases' may be from some other process entirely. Annealing pans is one possibility.

Our research and experimentation continues...

(duplicated from 'Hammered Out Bits')

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bead Furnace at Bonfield

 (Cross posted from Hammered Out Bits )

These images are all by Vandy Simpson, taken at the Bonfield Battle event run each Labour Day by my old friend Steve Muhlberger.

As a continuation of the ongoing experimental research under Neil Peterson, DARC mounted a combination demonstration and hands on session with a possible Viking Age bead working furnace. The furnaces are clay & horse manure construction, fire charcoal, and are based on 'possible' footprints suggested by the archaeology primarily from Ribe Denmark. For a more complete background, see Neil's published research.

Overall view of the set up - inside the 'forge' duggout area
Working in the stack, heating new rod to apply decoration
Streaks are small pieces of burning charcoal in the vent

Two primary problems are plaguing us with this specific design, which is based on the size of one of the uncovered 'base plates' :
1) Although high enough temperatures can be produced to effectively work the glass, the actual effective time is quite short. Our skill levels are mid level at best, and typically only one semi complex (base plus two colour patterning) can be created in one charcoal fill cycle.
2) Marred surfaces, from flying ash and small particles of burning charcoal are common, almost universal. Artifact beads do not show these effects as common. This strongly suggests we are doing something 'wrong'.

Our next prototype furnace is abandoning the profiles suggested by the artifact bases. Instead I have suggested a design based more on the dynamics of burning charcoal, gathered from experience working with charcoal forges. The concept is to contain the hot gasses to produce an effect more like a torch - then work inside that blast. (An earlier post describes this system.)

There will be a workshop this weekend at Wareham where a few of us will be working with a new prototype. Hopefully there will be a field report with some images later in the week describing the results...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Memories of LAM 2012 - Rob and Keiran

Memories of LAM 2012
This year's trip out to L'ans aux Meadows was very different from the first time. I knew what to expect this time and, best of all, I had my family with me. While the children didn't have quite the enthusiasm to work on all of the projects we had planned, I enjoyed having Keiran there to help me wind balls of thread and watching him play tafl and nine-man's-morris with the others.
For myself, I reaffirmed that you can never get projects completed when interacting with the public. My bow got to the point where I could draw it, but it still needs more work to be functional. The knotwork band I was tablet weaving involved frequent repair of errors and ever more frustrating repairs to broken warp threads. Yet it is the interaction with the public that I enjoy most. You never know who will be fascinated by the work, what sort of questions they will ask, or what information they can provide.

Other memories include:
- Having a viking girl guide show up on our steps one day to sell us cookies. (My brother actually saved them for the trip home - and ate one in each province.)
- Hiking along many beautiful trails (the best being the roller coaster of an abandoned boardwalk)
- Being chased off by some caribou who became tired of having their picture taken
- Spending time in and out of personae with my friends from near and afar
- taunting Ragnar and Thora with wasabi peanuts and odd flavoured chips
- munchkin chthulu
- holding a Thing in the ocean
- heckling Ragnar soft-hands with lots of assistance from Kadja and many others
- and of course just spending time in a place that just feels right - the spring of the soil beneath your shoes, the smell of the ocean winds, and the serenity of leaning against a cool earthen wall

Rob's son - Keiran's trip to L'ans aux Meadows aka memories of a 6 year old viking
I remember:
• weaving with daddy
• being a viking
• playing games - tafl, 9 man morris,
• cold weather
• playing games with friends - viking friends
• eating the flat bread
• the helmet, sword and shield in the longhouse

favourite parts
• weaving
• helping people out - showing people around and telling them that they were allowed in the buildings
• being with Liam (his cousin)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Presenting Experiments

Darrell and Neil are headed out to the Reconstructive and Experimental Archaeology Conference in North Carolina the weekend of Oct 18th.

Saturday will see two presentations:

Glass on Fire: A review of 5 years of experiments in the reproduction of Viking Era Glass Bead Furnaces
Glass beads were a widely used form of Viking era Norse personal ornamentation. Seven production sites have been found archaeologically, although only Ribe has well-documented traces of furnaces. Using data from the excavations, and experimental archaeology, various possible charcoal fired clay cob furnace reconstructions were constructed and tested. The as yet unrealized goal is to produce a furnace that matches the archaeological remains and is capable of producing beads that match the artifact samples. This paper reviews the archaeological material and the experimental sequences undertaken over the last five years. 

Early Iron in North America
Since the late 1990's there has been increasing interest in the direct reduction bloomery process in both Europe and North America. The 'Early Iron' movement in North America is driven not by archaeologists, but by working blacksmiths. In this way, practical metalworking experience has been brought to bear on what is largely unknown technical processes. Although the focus is on iron production, there are clear links to the first iron smelting furnaces built historically on this continent. This presentation will focus on some of the discoveries made and lessons learned over hundreds of iron smelts by a core group of experimenters.

 Sunday will hopefully see two practical sessions

The Aristotle Furnace
Working from clues by Aristotle and the descriptions of Ole Evanstad, combined with practical insights from a decade of bloomery iron smelting, a small re-melting furnace has been developed. About the size of a standard water pail, this furnace will produce a 500 - 750 gram 'puck' of carbon steel in roughly 25 minutes. This makes the system ideal for smaller scale demonstrations, or for those wanting to work with a bloomery type metal.
Viking Era Bead Production
Watch as a replica glass bead furnace is heated and glass is worked to produce beads similar to those loved by the Vikings. The furnace used is the result of 5 years of experimental archaeology, and is still a work in progress. Join the conversation on alternate interpretations of the material and furnace designs.

Join us if you have a chance

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Katla's Blog of the trip

My Viking Travels

By Katla Þorgeirrsdottir
(But really Kate Burnham!)        

Hi! A short history lesson about myself: my dad is Þorgeirr Mikjállson.  He grew up on his family farm north of the Wirral in the Kingdom of Jórvík.  Until we had to leave, he, my mother, Jorrun Roidatter, and my siblings Eskil, Oli, and Gyða worked the farm with my uncles and their families and traded leatherwork, woodwork, cloth, and cheese in the city.  Last spring, we fled to Dublin and thence to Iceland in pursuit of a new land and a freer life.  When we arrived, my father said that there was no good land to be had and was persuaded that Greenland held greater promise. We were conned: Greenland is nothing but ice, grass and bugs. This is how I find myself in Vinland after we moved on, again, or so the story goes, and this is what happened when I got there.

Day 1 (Wednesday)

Today was very long and tiring. We were setting up camp at the L’Anse aux Meadows site. It was very rainy, so my mother, Jo, Kari, Paul and I went back to the cabins where we were dry. Since I didn’t really have anything to do, I went to the cabin next door to chill out with Elizabeth and Bronwyn. In the meantime, my dad didn’t know that I was at the cabins so he was looking frantically all over site for me. Eventually, when he came home, he found me in Elizabeth’s cabin. There’s not much else to say, so I’ll see you later!

Day 2 (Thursday)

Today was the first day of re-enactment. We spent the majority of the day entertaining the little boys playing things like “hunter and prey” (a form of tag: the hunter is something big like a bear that chases everyone, there is one that is both hunter and prey, like a fox and prey ,like a bunny)and “1 caribou” (like sardines or all-for-1 hide and seek). We climbed on the roof for a little bit, but then we got in trouble. We also went out to pick some bakeapples (cloudberries) and partridgeberries (lingonberries), but they weren’t ripe. Then we had lunch which was soup. The rest of the day was pretty much the same as the morning.

Day 3 (Friday)

Today I proved my literacy in runes by teaching them perfectly to some tourists. I wonder if I could be a skald one day. Of course, only if there are female ones. A skald is a singer of songs, a teller of tales, a reciter of poetry, etc. Rig is one. He sings a lot. I guess that’s part of being a skald. We had soup again for lunch today. Speaking of food, I’ve got to go to dinner now. See ya!

Day 4 (Saturday)

Today wasn’t much different from any other day. We got in trouble for climbing on the roofs again. I don’t know why we do: they’re 6 feet tall & 6 feet thick and so there’s this big flat bit, so it’s not like we’re on the actual roof or anything. I still don’t know why we get in trouble. We had soup again.

Day 5 (Sunday)

Today I was the only kid there. It was terrible. I had to help with the cooking, the story telling, the trading and the smithing. At least I got to make clay pots with Kadja. All of mine survived the fire: YAY!!!!!!! I made one coil pot that was the right size for a drinking cup, one coil pot that you can only fit your pinky finger into and a bead with various designs such as sea coral, seaweed, ring dots and leaves. Lunch today was soup. Again.

Day 6 (Monday)

I think lunch is getting a little too repetitive: soup yet again. I don’t know why mum hasn’t come up with anything better. Have you noticed yet? Day 1: soup. Day 2: soup. Day 3: soup. Day 4: soup. Day 5: soup. Day 6: soup. Days 7-10: most likely soup. SO REPETITIVE!!!!!!! If I were cook, I’d make something more interesting like roast Elche or flat cakes. I am so glad we get to escape to Northern Delight in the evening to eat mussels, home fries, and ice-cream floats. Hope you have something interesting.

Day 7 (Tuesday)

Today was the same thing but we went swimming in the ocean. It was so cold!!!! My dad practically dragged me out into the water. I wore my thick-ish linen tunic so my (modern) yellow panties wouldn’t show. After my very cold and salty swim, I rinsed myself off in the brook. After that, I got changed right there on the beach with my dad. Thankfully, no one was looking. If some one was, oh, I don’t even dare think about it! Bronwyn (i.e., Emma) and the little boys went too, but the boys didn’t actually swim. They just played with their little wooden boat. Lucky them.

Day 8 (Wednesday)

Today, like most days, my mum wanted me to sew. I was hiding all day to avoid it and other work. Eventually, they got some work out of me though. And by some, I mean lots. Their excuse is “you have to be a good housewife so that we can marry you off”. Huff.

Day 9 (Thursday)

Today was our day off. Totally unrelated to D.A.R.C., so tune in later.

Day 10 (Friday)

Today was so sad!!! I had to say goodbye. I am absolutely terrible with goodbyes, you should know. Although D.A.R.C. is amazing, I’ll still miss my friends and the people who work at the L.A.M. site.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Thorgeir's Favorite Things

Turning a bowl from start to finish on a lathe that I had built - it was great being able to use Richard's lathe during the last trip, but nothing can compare to seeing the whole process through.  This applies equally to designing and building a new lathe, using my experiences with Richard's to guide my choices, as it does to starting with a tree trunk on Day 2 or 3 and turning it into a finished bowl by Day 6.  This bowl is also the largest piece that I have done on a pole lathe, giving me further satisfaction.

Discussing peat maturation with a gentleman from Ireland who remembers cutting it as a boy - although the fellow's ideas of how peat turns to coal were a little off, it was fantastic to talk to someone for whom peat cutting and use had been a way of life and who could look at the walls inside the furnace hut and describe exactly the depth from which the pieces had come and the strengths and weaknesses of the kind of peat that was used.

Wandering over to Norstead, the sister site to Parks Canada's, on the other side of L'Anse aux Meadows village, to see if I could help them to get their lathe working better - I arrived carrying a bundle of turning tools slung on a shoulder strap and felt like a true itinerant "journeyman" turner.  The day was spent doing what could best be described as "Norse junkyard wars in the boatshed", as the resident interpreter (Sveinn) and I sought out what we could from the various wood piles, pieces of antler hanging around, and odds and ends in my tool chest to build a new foot pedal, to support and stabilize one of the centres, and to move the lathe so that there was enough light and space for the public (and the turner) to see what was happening during use.  It was also a fantastic experience being up close to Snorri, the reproduction knarr that is now housed at Norstead, hearing the tales of its journey(s) to Vinland, and seeing how everything fits together.  Having failed to accompany my wife and daughter to the Ship's Museum in Roskilde a few years ago, this was my first opportunity to get a hands-on look at a full-sized Norse vessel.  The experience was enhanced the following day, when we returned as visitors and talked to Lambi, the other interpreter in that area.  I had many questions that needed further information that he willingly provided.

Moving my lathe to the beach side of the site, from where I could see and hear the sea - working in the area between the smithy and storage/slave's hut was great for meeting and interacting with people and for being out of the wind on the first couple of days, but it was out of the wind and disconnected from the ocean.  One of my best experiences during our previous visit was working by the ocean and coming to work each day to the view across Epaves Bay.  When the winds dropped on Day 3, I therefore moved over to the seaward side of the site to work on the lathe, initially working with my back to the sea so that I would be facing visitors, but eventually turning to face the water after I worked out that I could not work adequately with the pole coming over my shoulder.

Finally, daily swims (at 2 pm).  I must thank Audr for the loan of Norse "shorts" for the 2nd and 3rd times in water.  I got a few interesting comments after the first swim, when I went without them.  At all times, the North Atlantic was cold, but bearable and a great relief after being outside in the sun for much of the day.  The shallowness of the bay did allow the sun to warm the water a little, but trying to keep the whole of one's body within 2" of the surface was an interesting maneuver.

There were too many good experiences off site or on the way to or from LAM to go into details. The scenery of the drive up the west coast of Newfoundland, the copious quantities of excellent mussels consumed at Northern Delight, and seeing porpoises swimming past the ferry on the way home were great, but perhaps the best thing was the company of good friends on another foray to the start/end of the new world.   Thanks to everyone for making it fun.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Rig's Favorite Things

My French was really put to the test -- especially with all the technical terms that I never needed in school, but I got better at talking around the subject and waiting for the visitors to clue in and give me the word I needed.  Generally the visitors with the greatest interest had at least a smattering of English.  The one exception was a boy about 12 years old who stayed to learn how to play Hnefatafl with me while his parents went on to look at the weaving.  I explained the rules as best I could and I thought I had done fairly well.  He was playing the king, and although he lost men rapidly, he got his king out and moving and was doing well.  In fact, there were two points where he had me beat, but then didn't make the move to the corner to finish me off.  It wasn't until his mother returned that I found out that my instructions had lost something in translation -- instead of the king needing to move to the corner, he had thought the king was not allowed to move to the corner.  I have no idea what he thought the goal of the game was previously, but with the correct instructions, he did go on to win the game.

It was really great that we had so many children along this time. My four year old son Emundr spent most of his time running around with his cousin, but every day he would come over to where I was working on my shaving bench and ask for some songs and stories.  His favorite was "the Norse Kings sagas", my adaptation of chapters 16 to 25 of Snorre Sturlasson's Ynglinga Saga.  He'd curl up on my lap to listen and criticize me if I didn't sing the song or tell the accompanying stories in just the "right" way.

Before letting the younger visitors try using the drawknife on the shaving bench, they always got a quick lecture on how to handle knives so I could explain how a drawknife was different.  "Always cut away from you," I'd tell them, "and make sure the knife is pointed away from you palm when you pass a knife handle first to someone else."  On our second day, those instructions got a laugh from the parent -- the boy had spent the day before at the hospital having stabbed himself in the leg while whittling towards himself.  A few days later one of the fathers showed off an ugly scar on his hand from handing a knife to his brother the wrong way.  It's always great getting more anecdotes to add to my cautionary tool kit.

It was always interesting when I got challenging questions from visitors. Twice I had people come up to me and say, "Tell me what you know about norse music", and then actually stick around for the hour or more it took me to summarize my research from the last 15 years.  Last time out in 2010 I stuck to the 3-4 pieces of music that could be argued as being period;  this time I branched out to include a few of my own compositions that I had created based on texts from the sagas using melodies that closely resembled the old examples.  I'm still working on my pronunciation, but I had the one compliment of a Norweigian gentleman who said he actually understood some of what I was singing.

Monday, July 30, 2012

CBC reviews DARC!

Hey all, We got a great review by the CBC visiting L'Anse aux Meadows while we were there. Check it out! We are featured just after the 1:15 mark. Karen

Sunday, July 29, 2012

My favourite things

I'm hoping this theme will be picked up by some of the others in DARC and over the next few days you'll see more of this sort of thing.

Like I think many others will say - there is clearly more than one favorite moment for me, and I'm sure I'll think of more of them as I see others posting.

Good Newfoundland food at Northern Delight - cod tongues, scallops, those amazing mussels, wonderful fish and chips, friendly waitresses - and especially the last night dinner with all of us still in costume.

Good times with good friends - both on site playing games with new friends like Luta my tafl partner for the week, or in the evenings unwinding with Zombie dice.  Beer and chats about this or that viking topic or even more fun - viking idea.

Talking to tourists - trying to sell gently used necklaces, arrange marriages, and whatnot in first person. Getting into heavier conversation on the deep background of artefacts, or cultural elements in third person.  Swapping tales of visits to Iceland or Sweden (usually in third person).  That special moment of having fun with someone in first person when they just "get it" and spend a few minutes working with you in first person to tease their daughter about getting married, or their husband for not carrying enough silver - then having a question from them and dropping to third person to get into more background.  So much fun.

"Swimming" in the north atlantic at the end of a hot day (ok so the water is only knee deep).  Then wading over to the river outflow to rinse your feet in the fresh water before putting the viking shoes back on to go back to the houses.

Single most chuckle worthy moment?  Meeting a fellow who bought a Tafl game in England and got home to find the instructions missing.  He did a lot of web work and playing with his kids to try and figure it out.  We were getting pretty deep into some of the rule sets and variations when his eyes opened and he said "You're that guy! Can we play a game?"  Turns out most of what he read came back to my original article from the 90s on reconstructing the rules.

Sitting up in the visitor's center - making beads and talking about the history of the beads. 


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

LAM is alive (with a lot more Vikings)

As the following images make obvious the site at L'Anse aux Meadows has been positively teeming with Vikings for the past week. As an outside observer (I'm the one taking the pictures) it is just great to see the expressions on the faces of visitors as they walk through the entrance in the fence and see Viking *life* every which way they turn.

Of course it is also the kind of thing that makes someone who is an enthusiast (of history and the values of live interpretation) wish that they could have these special events every other week (of course this world exists in the same one where all the interpreters get to quit their jobs and do this stuff full time).

Three more days before the LAM experience comes to an end. Book your charter flight now!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Life signs

DARC's experience at LAM continues. Due to a level of intense exhaustion on the part of many members (and more importantly this Blog poster) we simply present a couple of pictures of vikings 'in situ'.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I suggested the title 'The Three Wise Men' and then they said 'That is not the adjective I would use'.

DARC on the ground

Just a quick update for the moment to point out that DARC is currently in the midst of their nine days of interpretive activities at the L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC. They were greeted by true Viking weather with blustery winds and blattery rain and then a mix of sun (little) and cloud (lots). Yesterday saw waves of visitors and pretty much non-stop activity.

Snorri opted to stay warm by the fire.

Kettil held forth by the forge hut.
 Thorgeir talked woodworking
with curious visitors.

More to come...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Return To Vinland!

D. I. the Viking Age comes to LIFE
July 19 - 25, L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC


The Dark Ages Re-creation Company has been asked by Parks Canada to mount a major presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC again this year. The 10 days of living history is to help mark the 'Presenting Norway' special event this summer.

Major physical demonstrations in the Norse Encampment area will include:

Rig on Music - Thorgeir  on the Spring Pole Lathe

Ka∂lin (or more likely Gudrin) on the Warp Weighted Loom

Ragnarr attempting to make a deal..

Kettil attempting to appear wise
 Living History - What does it look like?

DARC focuses on daily life in the Viking Age. The presentation will centre on a 'camp', with costumed interpreters surrounded by a collection of replica objects consisting of domestic goods, tools, and storage. At the rehearsal, simple overhead covers and tents will mimic the buildings which we will use at L'Anse aux Meadows. Individuals will be outfitted with the tools of their various trades and arts, all representing our real interests and skills. (We really are weavers and cooks, blacksmiths and carvers.) All of the objects seen, from clothing to tents, are based on specific artifact prototypes.
To the public, the members of DARC present themselves as actual voices from the past, with shared experiences as a group and direct personal histories. Individual members of DARC have prepared detailed characterizations based on their personal research into the Viking Age, developing considerable expertise in specialized areas. These characters are the 'common man': artisans, merchants or farmers typical of the Norse of the North Atlantic circa 1000 AD. Any conversation is likely to begin at this 'role playing' level of historic interpretation. The interpretive level used is then shifted to suit the needs of individual visitors. Some people delight in talking to a character from 1000 years ago, others are more comfortable with more of a modern commentary. These experienced interpreters are able to handle a wide range of topics and level of detail.

An interpretive team with proven experience!

Members of DARC are drawn from throughout Central Ontario, and are serious amateur living history enthusiasts, most with decades of experience. DARC has provided skilled and well equipped interpreters for special programs for all of the major events and exhibitions that marked the 'Viking Millennium' in Canada. No other group of Canadian re-enactors has as much accumulated museum experience. As a group and as individuals, members have worked both throughout Canada and the USA. Personal research has taken members to museums and archaeological sites across Iceland, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia. This will be the third major group presentation mounted at 'Vinland'. Individual members have been cornerstone to the 'Norse Encampment at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC since its first inception in 1996.

On the Web :

Images by Paul Halasz , used with permission

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Return to Iceland - IRON SMELT

Sorry for the extremely short notice here. (Life, the Universe, you know...)

Iron Smelt at Wareham
Saturday May 26
Return to Iceland

Directions -
(that's roughly 2 1/2 hours NW of Toronto, 45 minutes N of Orangeville, just off highway 10)

In 2007, the DARC team had started working on developing a working system based on the archaeology by Kevin Smith at Hals in Iceland :
We got side tracked from the Hals / Icelandic series when we concentrated on the LAM / Vinland series, then preparing for CanIRON 8.
We had run four experiments in the Iceland series, testing use of stone slabs, general work arrangements, use of the bellows plate and blow hole system.
Theoretical Hals working layout

The next point in the series would be to construct another earth fast furnace, but this time with thin (3 cm) clay walls. It will use a ceramic insert tuyere, we have enough DD1 bog ore analog prepared for a smaller sized smelt.

I also want to use the smelting bellows for enough time to at least get 'in line' air volumes recorded. Bulk of the smelt will be with the electric blower (!)

I'm a bit pressed for time this week, but will attempt to get the furnace constructed over the next two days. There may be a bit more discussion before starting the pre-heat cycle than normal

8 A : start equipment set up
9 - 10 A : start pre-heat
11 A : estimated start for main sequence
11 - 11:30 A : bellows volume tests
12 N : estimated first ore addition
3:30 - 4 P : estimated start for extraction
4:30 - 5 P : estimated consolidation
5:30 P : pack down

For those new to Wareham:
1) Bring a lunch if you plan a day of it (its a 15 minute drive to the nearest town)
2) Park along the north side road (less traffic, they just laid fresh gravel here!)

There is always some dirty work to help with! Those wanting to get directly involved should dress for work, I will have extra safety glasses on hand.

Hope some of you will be able to make it up


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ROM's Eye View...

Maybe not quite what really happened - but how one person saw our demonstration at the Royal Ontario Museum last weekend:

We also explored “experimental archaeology” this weekend, where Viking reenactors came in to show off how vikings would have lived. Here, a family explores and uses a loom. Elsewhere, our Vikings walked around the museum, engaging the public, showing off viking dress, life and other awesome things.

Just beside the dig we set up a metal working station, where everyone had the opportunity to see how swords, coins and all things metal were created in the past.

Photos by Gabriel Broderick, digital edits by Kiron. Gabriel is a @ROMKids assistant and is currently wrapping up grade 12

Copied directly from the ROMKids web site

The first image shows Anne in conversation at the warp weighted loom. Daughter Elizabeth cards wool in the foreground. (This was Elizabeth's first time as a costumed demonstrator with DARC!)

The second image shows Darrell demonstrating pewter casting. Sorry, I was not actually talking about sword making!

Key to DARC was that our presentation was well received by all the ROM staff I talked to - including the current Director. Dr Robert Mason, our initial contact, was also quite pleased with the whole group performance. We were able to re-new old contacts with a number of key department heads and staff members
This all adds up to a excellent first working contact to the ROM, with many decision making individuals quite eager to see us return for future (hopefully more complex) demonstrations.

The blend of living history with modern displays of experimental archaeology appeared to work extremely well. Those in costume did end up with more commentary that our usual character portrayals, but this certainly was what the audience was most interested in.

'Family Day' at the ROM does present a different audience that what most of DARC is used to. Typically the visitors were young families, with parents in the late 20's to early thirties having between one to three children. Typical ages of the children was between 4 - 8 years old. For future presentations, we will be better prepared to offer both physical samples and physical activities more in keeping with this younger age spread.

So the net result was an excellent presentation package, with good work undertaken by all. Our status increases, our reputation with the ROM proven and increased.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

DARC at the ROM

Archaeology Weekend

Royal Ontario Museum

Bloor at Queen's Park - Toronto

Saturday, April 14 and Sunday April 15

Come and find out what archaeologists do to make their discoveries! Meet archaeologists showing things they’ve dug up and explaining why they are important. Get up close to objects usually hidden in the museum’s vaults. Try your hand at being an archaeologist as you learn some of the skills they use in the field and labs. Then meet people who do "experimental" archaeology by trying to do things the way they were done in the past, and "living history" re-enactors of the Viking era who try to understand the past by living it!

Pewter Casting
Canada Court (Level 1)
Watch the process of how pewter is cast in a traditional method.

Living History
(Third Floor Heritage Block, Level 3)

The Viking Age
Experience the Viking Age with the help of the Dark Ages Re-creation Company. See how people worked and lived, and displays of experimental archaeology where people figure out how things found in the archaeological record were made and used.

(text from the ROM web site)

DARC's presentation will include:

Iron Smelting - experimental archaeology, passive display
Glass Bead Making - experimental archaeology, passive display
Cloth to Clothing - experimental archaeology, passive display.
Tablet Weaving - living history / craft presentation
Domestic Life - living history / 'sea chest'
Sheep to Shawl (Warp Weighted Loom) - living history / craft presentation

See the rest of the programming available on the ROM web site

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Boat Burning - 2012

An artist's view:

By Scott Caple - An old, old friend, kindred spirit, and witness to many a burning.

(Scott has also done the lion's share of boat construction over the last several years!)

Monday, January 30, 2012

DARC published in EXARC!

Our Readers may be interested in this.
The journal 'EuroREA' has shifted from hard copy to a new on line format and name. In the most current issue, there are *two* submissions by DARC members! Neil' Peterson's piece describes the group's 2010 presentation at L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC. There is also a longer article by Darrell Markewitz on mounting an effective iron smelting presentation.

EXARC JOURNAL Issue 2012/1 published!

Since it started in 2004, EuroREA has grown both in terms of content and readership. After sending you a month ago our printed EXARC Journal Digest 2011, we are now proud to present the first online issue of the EXARC Journal. We expect to publish this EXARC Journal three times a year.

Following the 2011 Digest which was published for our members by early December, we have now published the first issue of the online EXARC Journal. It contains 11 articles on archaeological open-air museums and experimental archaeology. These articles are access to members only.
The third category, mixed matters is open access and contains a total of 23 articles, some of which are conference reviews or book reviews, some other refer to people and events. We hope our readers are happy with the results and wish you happy reading.
There will be two more online issues of our EXARC Journal this year.

Below, an example of two of the total of 34 new articles in our EXARC Journal Issue 2012/1.

Below is one of a total of 23 (!) articles available free on line:

50th Anniversary of L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Canada
Neil Peterson (CA)

The summer of 2010 saw the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Viking Era site at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland Canada. To celebrate this milestone Parks Canada arranged a number of special events, including an August visit from the Dark Ages Re-creation Company (DARC).

You will require a paid subscription to access the eleven Member only articles:

"But if you don't get any IRON..."

Darrell Markewitz (CA) Issue 2012/1 Experimental Archaeology

Publishing Archaeological Experiments: a quick guide for the uninitiated Few ancient processes are as mysterious as smelting ore into metallic iron. Just how, exactly, is this done? The exact processes used by the ancients are unknown, but modern experiments can suggest some possibilities... Read more

EXARC newsletter

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DARC returns to LAM in 2012!

The Dark Ages Re-Creation Company
will be returning to
L'Anse aux Meadows NHSC!
July 19 - 27, 2012

At this point the exact interpretive program has not been established. The specific physical demonstrations will depend largely on what additional members of DARC chose to enlarge the core team.
What you can certainly expect to see:

Green Woodworking - including a spring pole lathe
(Grimmi roughing out, Thorgir on the lathe)
Weaving on the Warp Weighted Loom
(Ka∂lin preparing the warp)
Small Textiles - Spinning, Naelbinding, Tablet Weaving
(Jorin working in the sunshine.)
Domestic Tasks, including food preparation
(Kadja - 'A woman's work is never done - especially when she is a slave.')
Trade and Gaming
(Ragnar - ' Would you buy a used longship from this man?')

Some Other Guy who also seems to talk a LOT.
(Kettil ponders a question)
Daily Life in the Viking Age
(Snorri looking on)

First Image by D. Markewitz
Other images by P. Halasz
All taken during the August 2010 presenation