We’ve been running several education workshops at the Neolithic Houses – you can read more about them on our page on Schools Workshops
Here, Katherine Snell, English Heritage education co-ordinator, describes the latest of these workshops:
We had our first day of our Neolithic Activities session yesterday where five activities took place; these included plaiting with rush, fence building, bartering, fire making and cooking bread took place. The school groups had the opportunity to undertake 3 of the activities in an hour long session.
Plaiting with rush
The pupils learnt about bull rushes and how they were used in the Neolithic period at Durrington Walls and they undertook two tasks. The first task was to strengthen the rush by pairing up and holding the dampened rush at each end, twisting it in opposite directions. This twisted rush is then halved while maintaining the tension and allowed to twist around its self to form a braid.
The next task to perform was plaiting of bull rushes. Three of the dampened rush stems were tied at one end by a pupil using an overhand knot. Another pupil then starts plaiting the bull rush until reaching half way, where the children would then swap over.
Below are some of the children plaiting the bull rushes!
Two children finishing off plaiting their rush.
Working in pairs to plait rush.
Hazel weaving which was undertaken in the house building session is a great opportunity to get hands on and practical in the art of weaving. Below are a group of pupils starting of the weaving process.
The children starting to hazel weave.
This activity explores the usefulness of materials and possessions in the Neolithic period and seeks to give children a greater understanding of the true “value” of everyday objects.
The pupils were given a Neolithic object from a basket and in groups decided which would be the most important object when living in the Stone Age. These objects were:
• A bronze knife blade
• A flint axe
• A small bag of wheat
• A Cows model
• A sheep model
• A pair of Leather Shoes
• A piece of Salted Meat
• A figurine (Gods)
Though each child had a different opinion as to which was most important, but the most popular choice was wheat; being a good source of food and allowing the Neolithic settlers to grow food on land by cultivating crops.
Paul showing the children how to light the kindling with flint and pyrite.
A pupil blowing on the embers to light the kindling.
In this session Paul gave a demonstration of how to use flint and pyrite to start a fire. It was explained how hard it was to use these tools but the benefits were tremendous and essential to the survival of settlers in the Neolithic period. To get an idea of what materials are used to start a fire in this way the materials were passed out amongst the pupils such as flint, pyrite, fungus and charcloth.
The next stage was to light a fire; as time was short Paul explained that the tools he used were iron and pyrite but Neolithic people didn’t have such luxury. All the pupils had a go at blowing long steady breaths onto the embers to light the kindling.
A teacher explained “Sometimes being told something in the classroom means nothing, when they come and do it for themselves they learn how it’s done…”
This activity explores the process of taking wheat from a field to the table. The pupils learnt the different stages of processing from the standing wheat stalk, through harvesting, threshing, winnowing, grinding, mixing and baking.
The children having a go at grinding the grains into flour.
Children tasting some flat bread.
The pupils were given three tasks; firstly, separate the grain from the chaff, when this is done the next task in grinding. The grains are grinded into flour using two stone querns. The final task was to shape pre-prepared dough into flat bread. The dough was then baked on a flat heated stone, once done the children got to taste what they had made. With a pupil commenting “I’m eating Neolithic bread! It could have been made 4000 years ago!”
Pupils warming their hands up by the fire.
At the end of a rainy day, pupils are warming their hands up by the fire, while a teacher says “This is fantastic, they learnt so much in a short space of time”.