Teenagers completing their first level of the Jon Egging Trust’s Blue Skies Programme were recently treated to an Introduction to Archaeology Day at the Wessex Archaeology offices in Salisbury.
The day kicked off with an introduction to the concept of archaeology, and how and why we do it. An animated discussion, led by Project Manager Simon Cleggett, considered archaeological projects and teamwork.
Peta Knott and Maddie Fowler (Coastal & Marine) created an entertaining activity involving the young people kitting-up their friends in unwieldy diving gear – a task which needed a well-organised team!
Thanks to Alex Brown and the Geoarchaeology team, the students learnt how and why we gather environmental evidence (eg, seeds, pollen, snail shells) – and how it helps to paint a picture of past landscapes and environments; by viewing a sample through a microscope, they saw how amazing and varied pollen spores can be.
The finds activity with Sue Nelson and Erica Macey-Bracken allowed the students to see, handle and discuss the materials and objects used in the past, and contemplate how large tasks (such as digging a ditch) might have been achieved with the materials and technologies available. By stacking crates of artefacts from the earliest up to the most recent, the pupils were able to visualise how stratigraphy – one of the main principles of archaeology – works.
As archaeology is about people, a particularly tangible resource is their skeletal remains. Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy (Senior Osteoarchaeologist) talked about how we study human bone in order to find out about the health and lifestyles of past peoples. The students were fascinated to see how age, biological sex and various conditions affect the skeleton, and were helped to understand how essential ‘context’ is when interpreting any archaeological remains.
As always, Phil Harding’s session on flint knapping and tool use was enthralling. Sharpening a stake with a replica flint axe – attempted by most of the children – was one of the highlights of the day.
The day demonstrated the variety of ways in which archaeologists contribute to projects, and how each part of the team have valuable roles to play in order to achieve project and company aims. The Blue Skies Programme provides the students with credits towards a BTEC in Workskills, and the sessions at Wessex Archaeology help towards this.
We look forward to seeing the group at one of our excavations on Friday.