You mean Archaeology isn’t about cavemen and dinosaurs?!

We’re very lucky at The Manchester Museum to have some really enthusiastic curators who enjoy working with the public and teaching young people about their specialist subjects. In light of that, here is a special ‘guest’ blog post by Bryan, our Curator of Archaeology, and his experience of working with a Primary school gorup.

People often think that collections curators spend all their time in the store looking at objects. In fact there are opportunities to go out and visit schools as I found earlier this week when I was invited back to Flixton Junior School to talk to some Year 3 children about archaeology. Janice East is one of the teachers there and she has asked me to talk to the children several times over the last couple of years.

Pupil from Flixton examining an archaeological flint tool

So it was that last Monday morning I found myself in the school hall standing in front of two classes of 7-8 year olds. We talked about what archaeology is and after fending off the common misunderstanding that archaeology is in some way related to dinosaurs we looked at some prehistoric flint tools from The Manchester Museum collection. We divided the children into smaller groups and asked them to come up with a story to account for the flint artefacts I had put out on the tables for them.  

I encouraged the children to think of themselves as detectives looking at clues and to try and come up with a story to account for the finds that they had before them. The children quickly grasped the idea that the flint arrowhead and the flint axehead were all that remained of a bow-and-arrow and an axe and that the organic materials had rotted away in the ground.  

It was interesting that the children thought the flint scrapers were buttons even though they didn’t have holes in the middle. What was even more fascinating was the way the children talked about the artefacts as having been used by cavemen. It just shows how pervasive is the association between prehistoric stone tools and caves amongst the public even in the minds of quite young schoolchildren. It’s always great to work with the school because the children’s enthusiasm is infectious.   

I believe Janice brought in some broken pottery from home and seeded the school flower beds before asking the children to search for ‘archaeology’.  This turned the soil over a treat ready for the autumn. Now I wonder if I could try that in my own garden at home?

Bryan Sitch, Curator of Archaeology

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