EXPERIMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY AND FIELD SCHOOL EXCAVATION - IMPLEMENTING EDUCATIONAL PATHS AT UNIVERSITIES. CASE STUDY OF THE WISŁOUJŚCIE FORTRESS (2018)
Studying archaeology at the University of Gdańsk, Poland, is a very demanding process directed to improve knowledge and skills necessary in further professional career. Thus, the educational offer for young people must be attractive and must include high quality lectures and excavations, also those taken in interesting locations. Furthermore, it is very important for future archaeologists to find themselves on commercial or different non-academic job markets. For these reasons, universities cooperate on various projects with private companies, museums, communities or government partners. It is an excellent chance for students to practice their skills.
Excavation held at the Wisłoujście Fortress, Poland, during the year 2018 is a good example of such proceedings aiming at implementing efficient educational paths.
The Wisłoujście Fortress is an eclectic military architecture monument designed and rebuilt during several ages. Today it is managed by the Museum of Gdansk and protected as a National History Monument. Archaeological excavation performed in 2018 is a joint project of the University of Gdansk and the Museum of Gdansk designed to examine architectural remains located within the Eastern Sconce, which is part of the fortification. Excavation was held as an open field school that joined archaeology students and volunteer high school pupils. It was designed as open for tourists. During the research works, participants were improving professional skills while doing field works, measuring, and documenting excavated structures, features and raw material. Moreover, the team was constantly working in the field of social archaeology by explaining the aims of the project and touring visitors. The project also included elements of education focused on engaging the team in the research of the object. To gain this effect, activities from the realm of experimental archaeology were used. Most of the finds collected during the excavation were military artifacts. Project leaders decided to make the educational course wider by recreating the melting process of gun shots and reconstructing the historical shooting conditions to research the damages of bullets. These actions were taken to explain traces on artefacts. Therefore, all participants were presented with historical and iconographical data. Afterwards the melting process of bullets with historical tools and in historical conditions was performed. Final actions taken under the project included shooting historical weapons to different targets: wood, wall and water melon. Because of safety reasons, these actions were taken at the shooting range. The event was very successful and different damages, depending on targets, were described by the students.
The main educational aim of the actions taken under the project was to improve field skills, deepen the knowledge of the military object and learn how to support the interpretation of artefact traces with the use of experimental archaeology. These are the bases in the profession of an archaeologist. The cooperation of the Museum and the University proved also to be effective thanks to engaging the team and tourists in excavation actions focused on protecting the Monument.