Re-Enactments of Historical Seafaring Between Experimental Archaeology and Constructions of Identity

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  • J.F. Dittmar , Malmö University


The paper discusses re-enactments of historical sea-journeys as connecting history of seafaring to the discussion of collective memory. Also, the role of lay-persons and experts on history and the role of re-enactments for communicating history are negotiated.
The paper looks on various re-enactments and their focus in execution and in presentation, and how these try to bind in to current discussions of history and its meaning for society.
For the discussion re-enactments are differentiated into re-building ships (and boats), retraveling historical journeys, experimenting with historical forms and ways of navigation, handling the vessel or even liven on board. The paper concludes that as long as the participants understand about the unbridgeable gap between the past and the present, they can learn and tell a lot about how things most likely worked in the past and how this relates to the present, as one can understand, how people connect to the past, how sense is made of practices and artefacts from the past. The references in each choice of events to be re-enacted inform us on the construction of continuities and dis-continuities. The same is given in each choice of ship to be re-built. It is crucial to analyse the underlying canon of references: specific periods appeal more than others, they are attributed with importance in re-telling the past. The choices and amissions help to understand the current construction of historic developments that shaped the present.

Article Details

Archaeology, Naval Constructions