The great thing about archaeology is that there are so many different aspects to it, so it can fit in to almost all subjects in the National Curriculum! Below are just a few ways archaeology can be incorporated in to primary subjects.
This is most obvious area where archaeology can supplement the curriculum. Artefacts can be introduced as sources of primary evidence and maps and reports could be examined as secondary evidence. Using artefacts pupils can learn about what life was like living in the past during different time periods. If you would like any suggestions for your Local History Study, or ideas for any of the topics, please email the Community Archaeologist at firstname.lastname@example.org
Archaeology can be used to stimulate speaking, listening and writing. For example examining an artefact from one of our loan boxes might form the inspiration for a piece of creative writing, a poem or a story. Where did the object come from, who used it, how old is it, what stories would it tell if it could speak? This can be very helpful in developing a child’s composition when writing. You can also then discuss these ideas with a group, often in archaeology this is how we develop theories about how people were living in the past.
Perhaps a visit to an archaeological site could be used as the starting point for role-play or story-telling, imagining what the lives were like of people who lived or used the site in the past, and again this might lead on to creative writing. Another suggestion is for the children to play the part of an archaeologist. What would they put in their site or finds report? Are the assumptions made about the object the same as the person next to them? This can promote interesting discussions, improving spoken language and comprehension skills.
There are many examples of archaeologically based maths investigations that could be used. Perhaps tessellation could be explored by looking at Roman mosaics, or Roman numerals could be introduced to demonstrate another way of writing numbers. Percentages are another area that might be explored. Archaeologists very rarely dig an entire site, more often they dig part of a site. If an archaeologist finds 20 kilograms of Tudor brick after digging 10% of the site, how much might he expect to find if he dug the whole site? We often also find medieval floor tiles that are symmetrical, so why not use the Valencian tiles at Woking Palace as an examples and get the children to design their own? We also measure and weigh all our finds, and create scale drawings, so why not introduce this in to your lessons to?
Pupils can start to look at the plants that were around in the past and how they were used; nettles for example were used to make string. They can also look at what types of crops were being farmed and what people were eating. A good activity to do here is Crop Marks – Why won’t it Grow?. This experiment shows that if there is archaeology under where a plant is trying to grow, the roots do not get as much water so cannot grow as well.
Animals, including Humans
Archaeologists find both animal and human bones, so must be able to look at skeletons and tell what type of animal it is and, if possible, how old it is. A good activity for this is our Anglo-Saxon Source Pack – What can we learn from Graves?. Looking at the teeth of humans in the past, we can also learn not only about what they were eating, but also where they grew up.
When we are excavating, the artefacts we find can be made out of lots of different materials. Wood, glass, metal and rock are all common so an archaeologist must be able to differentiate between these when filling in a finds recording sheet, but also know why that object was made out of that material. Why not get your class to fill in their own finds recording sheet to help learn this? Further on the science of archaeology could be brought in, such as the processes of survival and decay or looking at different soils and how well artefacts survive in these (gold survives well but organic materials not, why is this?).
People in the past were very reliant on the seasons. The length of days and the time of year had a huge impact on what people were spending their time doing.
Art and Design
People in the past used a range of materials to create art, using the world around them for inspiration. Why not use art from the past to inspire pupils to create something a little different?
Design and Technology
A discussion and investigation of past technologies might prove fruitful in an examination of modern technologies. For example roofs, how they were made in the past and their various advantages and disadvantages, and what makes the strongest shape. You can also discuss the changing technologies in prehistory, from using flint, to the advantages of bronze, and finally to the use of iron, but also point out that there is an overlap between all these phases. In regards to cooking and nutrition, you can look at how food was grown in the past and how people could only eat what was available during that season unless it had been preserved.
Maps are always used in archaeological investigations. Looking at old maps and new maps can show how the area has developed over time and identify key features such as rivers and forests. Trade routes and looking at where people came from in the past (the Saxons for example) could also be beneficial. Archaeologists often use aerial photos to identify sites and mark plans with compass directions, so this could be incorporated in to this section of the curriculum.
If you would like any advice on how to incorporate archaeology in to your teaching, or would like to share some ideas, please contact the Community Archaeologist at email@example.com