Archaeology in a Box

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As usual the school half-term break has been anything but that for the Heritage Education Team of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust: it has been a hectic week, preparing for all the school visits booked in between now and the end of term – just under a thousand children will be coming, most of them to take part in our living history sessions – as well frantically trying to get together the resources needed for the children’s special events and the summer holiday activities.

Top of my ‘to do’ list was to prepare the boxes of ‘archaeological residues’ that the children coming in for the hands-on archaeological experience can explore.

So – I have asked everyone I know to save me their apple pips, cherry stones, grape seeds, orange and lemon pips, date stones, nut shells and chicken bones but, as I have discovered, it is very hard to find seeded grapes these days, and when you do they are just not the nicest grapes! No need for me to ask for eggshells as I can get these from our own hens, although a visit from the fox at the weekend has stopped the ones he didn’t kill from laying as many eggs as they usually do at this time of year.

I have also collected a box of broken historical replica pottery from a friendly potter so that the shards can be ‘found’ and pieced together again. The potter came up trumps by giving me pieces of pots from different times and ages, so the children will be able to discover and recreate Roman, Tudor and Victorian bowls and plates.

Yesterday I was given by a bemused fishmonger and butcher at a local farm shop bags of fish and meat bones that, no, I did not want for stock but instead wanted to boil until only the bones remained: these I would keep and then bury them in the interests of archaeological discovery. The liquor, I am sorry to say, would be thrown away but imagine the excitement of being able to discover the jawbone of a salmon or a sheep’s rib!

And finally I found in the ‘Reduced to Clear’ tray in a village shop a dusty packet of nuts in their shells, a sadly abandoned leftover from last Christmas. These are just perfect for my purposes! Ready-shelled nuts from health food shops are no good – it’s the shells of native nuts that need to be discovered – never mind that the kernels are almost certainly dust by now!

Have you been to the Dig at Nash’s House yet – what did you see there?

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