What does a Stone Age village or Stone Age
house look like? (Almost) everyone we meet can answer this question
with (subjective) certainty. Since 19th century research, the knowledge
people assume to have is based mostly on images – or “projections” in psychological terms.
These are, through ethnology, through the types of archaeology that are in the media,
and through the standard method of comparing ethnological examples, available in our cultural
memory [to our modern minds]. These images are even somewhat encouraged
these days by audience-oriented, economic interests. An important role of our museum and pedagogic work is to critically assess and to check
the validity of these images through practical experiments and trials within the framework
of the model “Stone Age village” at the Steinzeitpark Dithmarschen.
But first, here’s some basic information about the Stone Age Park in Albersdorf.
The Steinzeitpark Dithmarschen in Albersdorf, in the county of Dithmarschen, is an
archaeological, open-air museum that integrates the surrounding landscape. Since 1997
the park has been developed on a plot of land over 40 hectares large. With the
help of a scientific committee an experience-oriented, educational concept was
worked out for the expansion of the outdoor park area. This was realized in stages from
the end of 2009 to the end of 2012. Two newly built Stone Age house models (in
original dimensions according to the dig discoveries in Schleswig-Holstein) were erected in cooperation
with the Archaeologists of Schleswig-Holstein. In order to furnish the Stone Age house, an array
of quintessential models were chosen and developed from the spectrum of high
probability options. The models built include: Neolithic walls,
floors, separating walls, seating, looms, ovens, millstones, doors, interior furnishings,
stoves, storage spaces for food and supplies, and doorsteps. The results included
an area dedicated to sacrifices with a boardwalk, and a wooden
platform by a newly created pond. The pond area also has an erosion simulation where this
provable phenomenon of the Neolithic period and of the Middle Ages can be seen.
The purpose is to convey archaeological research results. The Steinzeitpark aims to teach the
public about the relationship between the natural environment and
the development of the land. It also wishes to gain public support for
the protection of our natural and cultural inheritance, which is less abundant today.
The Steinzeitpark Dithmarschen attempts to teach people in a way that integrates theory,
practice, intellect, and feelings. The Park has nine original archaeological monuments
under the mission statement in relation to cultural landscape. The Stone Age Park is part of the
Archaeological-Ecological Centre Albersdorf (AÖZA),
a beneficiary Limited Organisation, which also consists of the Museum of Archaeology
and Ecology in Dithmarschen, which has original, on-site artifacts.
The park regularly supports archaeological and historical research of the countryside.
Examples of this are: historical countryside research of the Institute of Ecosystem Research
at the University of Kiel (among others Reiß 2005), pollen analyses (Dörfler 2004), and
excavations of large stone graves in the region and of earthworks at Dieksknöll near Albersdorf
in cooperation with the Institute for Ancient and Early History of the University of Kiel,
within the framework of the multi-year project called “Early Monumentality,” sponsored
by the DFG (Müller 2009; Dibbern and Hage 2010). Landscape development. This is
an attempt to develop and design a Neolithic landscape, taking into consideration
the species, population and density of plants and of course the use of the landscape from about 5,000 years ago. Of course, this is a long-term and ongoing process. The Steinzeitpark Dithmarschen strives to
make it possible for groups of people, whether it be adults, children, or school groups, to
have direct contact with ancient monuments and their proper Stone Age” cultural landscapes.
These include old forms of living and settlement, old breeds of domesticated animals, and much more,
which can offer perspectives into past ways of life. Old breeds of domesticated animals graze the meadows of the Park.
In the medium-term a new exhibitory/educational center is being planned for the entrance area
of the Stone Age Park. This will replace the current museum
rooms housing the permanent exhibit. The Steinzeitpark in Albersdorf has implemented
a practical and methodical program called, “Education for Sustainable Development”.
It can result in elevated respect for physical work and takes timely dimensions into consideration.
In combination with ethnology, this imparting of archaeological themes allows new access
to the meaningful, basic questions of existence, which are also significant to modern mankind.
Since the beginning of the project, various programs, press releases, and events for different
target groups have taken place. The museum aims to be dynamic, by regularly
expanding or newly equipping exhibits, ensuring variety and attractiveness of program activities
that can be booked at any time, and offering special events. Additionally we offer
around 2 or 3 new educational programs for various interest groups per year.
To make room for these, we remove attractions which were less successful or popular.
Through a – when possible – institutionalized exchange of information with external partners,
the connection to research, for themes relevant to the museum, should be always guaranteed.
Research on a museum’s own collection or on local and regional topics is desirable
to enhance the museum’s profile. At the Steinzeitpark there are, for example,
cooperations with various institutions at the universities of Kiel and Hamburg
that have existed for years. These are also very helpful for the evaluation and
improvement of the educational and scientific work of our institution. Each educational
event consists of a hands-on and an experience oriented part.
These offers take place at the mostly authentic “problem-oriented learning environment”
of the Stone Age village and include an instructive introduction by
the “Stone Age curator” and a practical, constructive experience for the participant.
Through these programs at the Steinzeitpark, which deal with specifically conceived themes,
the participants are meant to improve their personal competencies in
professional skills, method competency, social competency, as well as self-confidence. All these competencies are key competencies
for the “Education for Sustainable Development” theme. With different types of tools and raw materials that were typical of the time, the Steinzeitpark
Dithmarschen presents the daily work of Stone Age people (in terms of labor and production)
in the most authentic way possible. Pedagogically acceptable copies of
tools and equipment are also made. All of which can make the historical relationships
of life and nature more easily understood. Grasping and understanding are some of the primary concepts in terms of information transfer. All of the sessions are practical and hands-on and are tailored to age-appropriate difficulty levels to suit children of all ages. By offering the right kind of motivation before
the start of a session children will most likely feel
that they succeeded during the programs.
The learning is meant to be cooperative, participatory, and as self-organized as possible. The personnel of the museum (both fulltime and voluntary) are always the “face of the institution to the outside world” and need to be trained and motivated as such. Training should be
based on specialized knowledge in the subject area and this should regularly
include current research results, as well as competencies in dealing with visitors (e.g. conflict
management, communications, or security exercises). As well as the museum personnel organizing seminars for themselves, external subject
knowledge should be added, and requests for further education or training should also
be taken into consideration in order to be able to meet these standards.
This newly learned subject knowledge combined with efficient and all-encompassing communication
within the institution can increase the general motivation of the entire museum staff and
can also help to generate new ideas. To secure an ongoing quality of content and
attractiveness to visitors in the future, regular evaluations of work and educational
programs at the Steinzeitpark are carried out by way of dialogues between
the visitors and staff. The Steinzeitpark has obtained several certificates
or seals of quality which are also highly significant, as they guarantee standards and
validity of performance for the visitor. The standards for receiving particular certificates
can serve as corrective feedback and as a source of ideas for the staff. Every museum
offers something “special”, either through its collection, its own theme and/or
through its connection to the region. It is the museum’s objective, in both its exhibit and
in the PR work, to enable the visitor to discover and recognize how special and unique the museum
actually is. Additionally, this also means that on particular occasions something unexpected should be offered
(this should be something that the stakeholders and operators of the institution initiate themselves). In the future
museums will have a great potential to serve as, not only museums, but for example as
forums for (societal) discussions or social meeting places for older people in rural areas. The principle of “quality service” is connected to the different work areas in the institution
and is the all-around motto in everything we do. The individual areas achieve this through a structurally conceptualized basis, the
“liveliness” and variety of how we convey information, and the way the employees are
integrated into the development of the museum. In conclusion, we can say that the most important
“ingredients” for the success of the Albersdorfer Steinzeitpark are: the clear and scientifically
based foundation, persistence during the plan realization, cooperation with others, an openness
to try innovative approaches, and the enthusiasm and commitment of those involved: both for
the topic in general and our institution in particular.