Have you ever wondered how we know about the dinosaurs?
Or what the walls of an ancient building can tell us about the people who lived there? Or what an archaeologist does apart from dig?
Well this year, the British Festival of Archaeology, which runs from Saturday 13th to Saturday 28th July 2019, is your chance to find out.
The Festival is coordinated by the Council for British Archaeology, a UK-wide archaeology charity whose aim is to enable people to protect and celebrate their archaeological heritage. The aim is to showcase the very best of archaeology for everyone, with special events right across the UK, organised and hosted by museums, heritage organisations, national and countryside parks, universities, local societies, community archaeologists, Young Archaeologist’s Clubs and youth groups.
The aim of the Festival is “to make archaeology as accessible as possible, by providing hundreds of opportunities, to people of all ages and abilities.”
Holding an annual festival helps the charity to:
- create a higher profile for archaeology
- promote a better understanding of the past
- increase public engagement with archaeology and history
- diversify and increase visitor numbers to relevant sites
The organisers say they want everyone to “understand, appreciate, and celebrate archaeology in the UK”. Whether you’re interested in fossils or castles; ancient ruins or ancient battles, there’s plenty for everyone to get excited about. The theme for this year is “archaeology, science and technology” or #ArchaeoTech, so why not get out into your local, or not-so-local area and discover the history that is all around you?
Some of the events taking place around the country include the chance to:
- explore the local archaeology of your area and watch the experts at work
- experience the excitement and thrill of being on an archaeological dig and take part in mini-excavations
- learn about the technology behind archaeology and have a go at some of the geophysical and/or technical aspects
- experience life in the past with living history, warfare demonstrations, food tasting & mosaic making
- visit historic industrial sites
listen to different talks and practical demonstrations such as Viking cookery
- watch a battle re-enactment
- enjoy farm and woodland-themed activities, talks and tours on the latest discoveries and expert-led walks
It is entirely up to you to decide how you would like to get people involved and thinking about archaeology and the wider historic environment. In recent years, there were over 1,000 events put on around the country by over 300 different organisers under the banner of the Festival, and the promoters are keen to exceed these numbers this year. There is a full list of events on the Festival website, which you can access at: festival.archaeologyuk.org.
However, the fun does not stop there, and the charity is also keen to hear from people, clubs and event-organisers all over the country with ideas for holding their own celebrations. And you don’t have to live in a castle to get involved either. You could organise a historical dressing-up day to promote the ideas behind the Festival and be part of the fun that way.
There is a leaflet of event ideas that you can download here giving you plenty to think about when planning your own events.
Whilst many events are aimed at families, some are more suited for older children, however you can still promote the Festival by getting into the spirit of history and archaeology in your own setting. You could consider some of the following activities which can be done in your own nursery:
Themed, historical days
Why not decide on a period of history that you want to explore? The ancient Greeks, Romans in Britain, medieval, Tudor times, or the industrial revolution are just a few that you could choose from. Tell stories about people from that time and encourage children to dress up to reflect that period. Remember to include people from all ranks and walks of life too. It’s great fun to be ‘king’ for a day, but most of the work was done by the peasants and the ordinary people, so get the children to think about what life might have been like for those people too.
Create your own archaeological dig
If you have access to a sand pit or garden area, you could bury some objects or artefacts and ask the children to carefully explore and dig them up. You could combine this with a small treasure hunt, getting the children to follow a simple map, for example. Once you have dug up your ‘treasure’, get the children to wash the objects and then attempt to tell you what they are, or what they are used for. You can be quite inventive here burying different things from either history or the present day.
Get hands-on with some historic crafts
Everyone loves modelling clay and you could use this activity to explain to the children about how people used to make pots and cook with them. There’s a great (if implausible) myth about how the Romans lined their roads with clay, but the local people would steal handfuls of it to make their own pots – hence the term ‘pothole!’ You could also do some simple weaving or spinning to link in with traditional cottage industries.
Have some historical fun and games
How about playing a game of quoits, or trying to get a hoop to run along the ground using a stick, or play marbles or use a spinning top? Traditional games like these have been played by children for hundreds of years, and not one of them needs an internet connection or a battery! Have fun in your setting by making your own games too. And who knows, ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ might be seen as an old-fashioned game nowadays so maybe there’s a place for that in historic games too!