Have you ever tried digging a hole with a stick? Or chopping down a tree with a stone axe? How about living on porridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month? Reading about the way people lived in Stone Age and Mesolithic (10000-5000 BC) times gives only a very limited understanding of how things were in the distant past. Actually recreating everyday life introduces a sense of empathy and other dimensions which paint a far more detailed picture: the essence of experimental archaeology.
Let’s begin with a clarification. Experimental archaeology should not be confused with reconstruction. Those involved don’t dress up as cavemen and women for the sake of an audience. They are using certain tools and techniques common in different time periods to try and learn more about the variables which affected hunter gatherer life while also exposing some of the misunderstandings that have become accepted truths.
The University College Dublin experimental archaeology department is currently building a Mesolithic structure based on the only surviving example on this island: Mount Sandel in Co Derry, which dates from 7800 BC.