Research in Action: Burying the Middens

Some of the Midden Students with Cat and Sam from the Museum

Some of the Midden students with Cat and Sam from the Museum

On Friday 8th November Year 9 students from Matthew Moss High School invovled in our Midden Project created their own ‘archaeological rubbish heaps’ on school grounds. Our Senior Conservator, Sam Sportun, and I went into school to help them create their own middens. They had chosen four different materials for their middens to be made from: gravel, sand, compost and mulch. These were chosen to represent various environments and to vary the results that the students will get from their chosen objects.

Each student had identified at least one object that they were placing in one of the four middens. Before depositing them they each made a visual record of their object through drawings, took a photograph and hypothesised about what might happen to each object based on the material of both the object itself and the midden it was to be placed within.

Matthew Moss' budding photographer recording the creation of the middens for the school record.

Matthew Moss’ budding photographer recording the creation of the middens for the school record.

There were discussions about what might happen differently in each of the middens – how the mulch would be decomposing itself and thus provide heat and how the gravel would allow rain to seep through. In addition, students questioned how their own objects might change over the course of their time in the midden (around 6-8months) and theorised what might happen to each substance their objects were made from.

I think the students would all agree that the best part of the session was actually burying their objects in the middens themselves. Over the next few months we’ll be investigating in more detail what happens to objects underground using the Museum’s archaeological collection and updating the students’ hypotheses in anticipation of excavating their middens in 2014!

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