My buddy from the Swedish Skeptics, author Peter Olausson, reports on a recent visit to the Ekehagen prehistoric reenactment centre in Västergötland.


Ekehagen Prehistoric Village
By Peter Olausson

In Åsarp near Falköping, in a landscape littered with passage tombs, you’ll find Ekehagen. Founded in 1983, the centre has a number of houses built to show what Prehistoric life was like in Scandinavia, from huts of the Mesolithic to a farm of the Middle Iron Age (no Vikings).

Note: This is not a museum. Walking around on one’s own and studying the buildings etc. might work for people who already know what it’s about, but would be comparably pointless for the rest of us; the main point is hands-on experience. You can book guides with which you participate in flint knapping, leather working, cooking, archery, trapping (they have a nice path with a couple of period game traps) and so on. Or you can arrive during one of the theme weeks they arrange every year. (Or book stays for several days, including sleep-overs in a period of choice.) There is also a restaurant and a modest shop.

There is plenty of space here: some of the “attractions” are several hundred meters apart. Bring good shoes, and don’t forget your mobile phone! In my opinion, this improves the atmosphere and general experience no end compared to what a crowded “Stone Age Disneyland” would have been like. The “home base” assigned to our group, a Mesolithic house, wasn’t surrounded by noisy school classes — they were elsewhere — but by tranquil forest (with period tree species, I was told).

As for the scientific correctness regarding the many details, I really can’t tell (that is, if there are any flaws, I couldn’t spot them). But the staff sure loves to discuss the finer points of recreating history.

Comments

  1. #1 Art
    May 4, 2009

    Pardon me if I’m missing something blindingly obvious, it is Monday morning, but how can one ‘reenact prehistoric’ life?

    Seeing as that if something is prehistoric there is no history to use as a guide? That as soon as science recovers a record of something previously ‘prehistoric’ it falls under the purview of history and out of ‘prehistory’.

  2. #2 DianaGainer
    May 4, 2009

    This sounds fantastic. In England, we saw a very minor version of this at West Stowe Anglo-Saxon village. The village was reconstructed and just one time it was brought to life with the reenactment of a Viking raid, during which my son (not quite 2 years old) managed to get in the way of the oncoming “Vikings” and nearly got mowed down, much to the delight of the spectators. But the daily life of the village was not covered in detail, which would have been the interesting part to me. This is much better! In the U.S., the only things I know of are Jamestown, the colonial settlement (very nice), and those Civil War battle reenactments (which seem pointless to me — isn’t it time we stopped fighting that war??).

  3. #3 Sam C
    May 4, 2009

    Art:

    That as soon as science recovers a record of something previously ‘prehistoric’ it falls under the purview of history and out of ‘prehistory’.

    My understanding was that “history” was the stuff which we had stories (preferably written or recorded in some way). So we know the names of Egyptian pharoahs and have lots of dates, that’s (ancient) history. But we don’t know any whos or whens or whys of Stone Age leaders or tribes or societies (apart from what is inferred from physical evidence).

    In French (and similarly in other Romance languages), the same word “histoire” means both history and story. That’s probably a useful guide!

    Perhaps other people think differently? I haven’t wikipediaed it…

  4. #4 Martin R
    May 4, 2009

    Art and Sam: in academe, history is the study of the past through texts and images from the textual part of the past. Prehistory is the period before the first texts and ends at different dates in different areas.

    Archaeology is the study of the past through material remains. Archaeologists working with the time before the first texts are called prehistorians.

    History is a good way to learn about the past. But it is not the only way. And for most centuries and areas in the world, it is not an available road to knowledge.

    Rule of thumb: historians dig for paper in archives, archaeologists dig for pottery in the ground.

  5. #5 Howard Williams
    May 4, 2009

    My wife and I visited Ekehagen in 2006. Superb site.

    We arrived at the end of the season and therefore escaped a ‘guided tour’. They seemed surprised to see us and we got to go around at our own pace and noone else was there. This made it a fantastic experience, as we explored the detailed attention to reenactment but also the ‘traces’ of recent activities, presumably group-visits and school groups.

    Overall far superior in every way to UK sites of a similar nature I have visited. Most of all, I liked the ‘prehistoric’ pigs.

    Not meant as a criticism, but I also liked the incongruities of fantastic reconstructions and modern heath-and-safety legislation. So you have a convincing Bronze Age house with fire extinguishers and Mesolithic dug-out boats housed with modern inflatable life preservers. Fair enough, needs to be done, but it still tickled me.

  6. #6 Art
    May 4, 2009

    Thanks for clearing that up for me.

    “Rule of thumb: historians dig for paper in archives, archaeologists dig for pottery in the ground.”

    A handy guide for future reference.

  7. It is definitely my kind of place. We have visited many of the living history sites in the U.S. Of course, these are of the most recent variety, such as a working mid-1800′s farm in Kentucky, a 1860 era teamsters inn and tavern. It’s so interesting

    I have yet to find any prehistoric living history sites in the U.S. My own ancestors were Seminole Indians deep in the swamps of Florida, living in Chickees and maintaining the community fire in a most ingenious way.

    - Suzanne

  8. #8 Dunc
    May 5, 2009

    Anyone interested in this sort of thing who happens to be visiting Scotland could do a lot worse than to visit the Scottish Crannog Centre on Loch Tay.

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