New exhibition: Dive In – join the maritime archaeologist at work

Viking Ship Museum shows a new exhibition on maritime archaeology and the exciting stories the seas around us contain, from the very first people and up to our own day.

Today, the rolling, hilly landscapes of the Ice Age lie submerged up to 30 m below the surface of the sea, and have done so, ever since the Stone Age seas washed in and inundated the dwelling places of the hunter-gatherers, thousands of years ago. The sea has sealed the ancient settlement sites under layers of sand and mud, so that today, maritime archaeologists can find well-preserved remains of Stone Age people’s meals and tools of wood and bone, which only rarely survive on land. People have sailed the seas for generations – with both peaceful and warlike intentions. They have left behind traces of jetties and defensive structures as well as countless shipwrecks from all time periods, which lie as little time capsules, hidden by the sea.

Dive into history

In the exhibition ‘Dive In – join the maritime archaeologist at work’ the sea floor’s treasure trove of artefacts and the stories they can tell us about cultural heritage from previous generations is recreated and brought to life, using interactive installations and film:

 “We can’t take museum guests under the sea in real life”, says project leader and maritime archaeologist, Andreas Kallmeyer Bloch, “But with this exhibition, it’s possible to virtually take our guests with us underwater where the work takes place. The public get an insight into the professional observations, questions and methods maritime archaeologists work with and the digital and interactive installations give the museum guests the chance to handle different artefacts and get a sense of the atmosphere on the sea floor”.

Development through collaboration

More than 100 students and a handful of researchers from Roskilde University have contributed creative ideas, knowledge and concrete installations to the exhibition. During the last two years, there has been a close collaboration focused on exploring various methods and technologies that can be used to shed light on maritime archaeology – something which is otherwise hidden from view for the majority.

“The original idea was that we should develop the individual elements of the exhibition together with smaller companies but the meeting with both the students and researchers gave a completely different dynamic. My ideas and thoughts were shaken up and new possibilities and technologies were presented. We’ve learned an incredible amount from that collaboration and it’s great to know that the students have also been awarded really good grades”, continues Andreas Kallmeyer Bloch.

In order to involve others and to see the exhibition with fresh eyes – and hereby make the result interesting and exciting for the public – the Viking Ship Museum invited four classes from Absalon’s School to act as test-users during the development phase. Both teachers and students have actively taken part in the evaluation process, which has led to both changes and improvements:

“The continuous evaluation of the exhibition which was carried out in collaboration with the students from Absalon’s School in Roskilde after they had tried the installations has given us incredibly valuable feedback on the exhibition. We really hope that we can continue with this collaboration in the future as children give merciless feedback”.

The exhibition is now open to the public but will be continually updated during the coming years, based on the feedback the Viking Ship Museum gets from schoolchildren, researchers, university students and last but not least, ordinary museum guests.

The exhibition has been supported by:
  • Slots- og Kulturstyrelsen
  • D/S Orients Fond
  • Brebøllfonden
  • Beckett-Fonden

  • Vangsgaard (floorgraphic)

Info:

Maritime archaeology at the Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum is responsible for maritime archaeology around Sjælland and its islands, and Bornholm, as well as the straits east of the Great Belt. The maritime archaeologists work together with developers and builders who may be planning expansion of harbours or establishing gas pipes or wind mills, which can present a threat to underwater antiquities. They examine and excavate finds from all historical periods – from Stone Age settlements to the Second World War.

Maritime archaeology – archaeology under the water

Stone Age settlements, shipwrecks, defensive structures, jetties, harbours and plane wrecks are all antiquities of great cultural value. They are therefore protected under Museum Law. Construction work such as the establishment of wind mill parks and the building of bridges as well as ferry and shipping traffic can present a threat to underwater antiquities. 

Stone Age settlements

10,000 years ago, the surface of the sea was 30 m lower than today. Large amounts of seawater were trapped in the thick ice cap that still lay over the northern hemisphere after the last Ice Age. Denmark was connected to both Sweden and England and the Baltic was a freshwater lake. Hunting and fishing were important elements of Stone Age life and their settlements were often located along coasts and river banks.

Around 7,000 years ago, the ice began to melt quickly, inundating the Stone Age settlements. With time, they became buried under protective layers of sand and mud. The oxygen-poor environment provides incredible conditions for preservation and maritime archaeologists find many well preserved objects of wood and bone which would rarely survive on land. The finds shed light on everyday life along the Danish coasts during the Stone Age. Maritime archaeologists estimate that there are traces of ca. 20,000 settlement sites dating from the Stone Age in the Danish waters.

Shipwrecks

The seas around Denmark can be treacherous to sail on, and over time, have led to the loss of many ships. Approximately 20,000 shipwrecks from the Stone Age to the present day are known of in Danish waters. Shipwrecks are an important source of information in terms of our understanding of historic seafaring and shipbuilding traditions.


By: Rikke Tørnsø Johansen