(Re)constructing early medieval buildings does not mean reproducing accurate copies of excavated structures but dealing with important gaps in our understanding of the past. The archaeological record generally provides only fragmentary information on the context, shape, appearance, duration and use of these buildings. At the same time, there are risk to fill these gaps with interpretations based on written sources that are not considered critically or biased historiography.
Physical reconstructions of buildings from the past shift the interpretation of archaeological evidence from an abstract and ideological level to a more comprehensive discourse that considers materiality and everyday life. People who undertake a (re)construction have to deal with the resources, timing and labour that are necessary to build the structure. Also, when faced with uncertainty, they must choose solutions that guarantee the soundness of the building.
Once the buildings are (re)constructed, their uses and durability can be tested, and they can be scientifically analysed to gain data on structural or multisensorial properties. It is fundamental to consider the limits of (re)constructions. For instance, the necessity to make univocal choices tend to overshadow valid alternative hypotheses. When critically considered, experimental buildings facilitate the de-mystification of archaeology in favour of materiality for a better understanding of non-elite and elite contexts in the past.
The three (re)constructed buildings and early medieval Northumbria | Five languages | Local groups | The past in the present | Anglo-Saxonism | The three buildings and their significance | The sites of the (re)constructed buildings | “Germanic” vs “Romano-British” | Early medieval timber buildings in Britain | (Ex)perimental reconstructions