Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, Anglo-Saxon Period, Archaeology, Britain, Dark Age, Dark Ages, Digital archaeology, England, Experimental archaeology, Funerary Archaeology, Germanic, Medieval Period, Middle Ages, Migration Period, North Sea Region, reconstruction, Settlement Archaeology, the Dark Ages
I am quite a nerd. I always have been, and after spending a good deal of my life trying to hide it, I now no longer care. Video games have been a passion of mine for years and I love how they are becoming more accepted, mainstream and ‘cool’.
EQN Landmark is a new game that prides itself on offering the player an unprecedented level of creative freedom. Using the toolset, you are able to effectively build what you like. In this sense, it is like a 3D modelling programme for people who can’t do 3D modelling. The power for archaeological reconstruction, then, is pretty awesome.
My first reconstructive project was the humble Grubenhäuser. These buildings are found frequently in early Anglo-Saxon settlement sites and, because of their partially-subterranean structure, are generally known as sunken-featured buildings (SFBs). The project I am attached to, for example, has found plenty. They are distinctly Germanic, with parallels in Northern Germany and Southern Scandinavia, and are a new introduction to England in the 5th century.
When they were first discovered in the 1920s, E.T. Leeds interpreted them as dwellings. The subsequent discovery of associated timber halls has allowed more recent scholarship to view them as subsidiary structures, though. In this sense, they are seen as craft/storage buildings. The ‘house’ argument still rages, but most people fall in the latter camp. Accordingly, I have chosen to reconstruct a craft/storage Grubenhäuser.
The pit not only reduces the amount of timber needed, but also makes the structure warmer and less exposed to the wind. The postholes in the centre allow for the frame of the structure to be placed over the pit.
By the time I managed to do this it was night-time (in game), but you can see the basic form. The postholes house the substantial ‘pillars’ of the structure, from which the ridge-roof and main rafters are affixed. At this stage the ingenuity of the building form is clear: we are effectively only building a roof but getting a complete structure. The next step is adding the front and back walls.
This would have been achieved using criss-crossing timbers and wattle-and-daub. Note that the door is a placeholder object in the game: I very much doubt that doors of this period would have had metal braces! The roof would be again constructed from overlapping timbers and then thatched or shingled. A few objects were placed inside it, such as a work bench and water bucket.
And thus, the structure was complete!
It should be remembered, of course, that this is a visual reconstruction built with a voxel-based engine (i.e. everything was made of small cubes and smoothed to look real). It should also be remembered that it is an interpretation of how a Grubenhäuser was probably built. We don’t know the specifics, and all we can really do is make sensible inferences.
Still, it is clear that EQN Landmark has immense potential for archaeological reconstruction. I made this in a short amount of time with only a basic knowledge of the tool set. The creation of interactive models of the past is a pretty interesting way to understand it. Simply put, EQN Landmark offers a fun and easy means in which to create visual reconstructions of archaeological structures, which is pretty damn cool!
More information about EQN Landmark can be found here, or you can follow the incredibly active developers here and here. It is currently in a buy-in alpha state, but the eventual release client will be free to download and play.