On Thursday 22nd September, Marc Barkman-Astles (archaeologist, historian, film maker, lecturer, owner and manager of http://archaeosoup.com …and oh a man of so many other roles…) held an afternoon workshop for Y3 on prehistorical eras.
First he took us to the Palaeolithic era – ‘Old Stone Age’ – 20,000 BC.
It was very cold then – colder than the Arctic Circle! Palaeolithic people could not get sticks into the frozen ground, so they used mammoth bones to build the frames of their circle houses. Interestingly, they were clever enough to make clothing warmer than mountaineering clothing today! Archaeologists have dug into the earth and uncovered many bone needles from this era.
They hunted mammoths annually and dried out their meat to store. We tried dried out meat… mmmm… not very tasty… but at least we’d survive!
They used stone tools like this 20,000 year old one:
Next we visited the Mesolithic era – ‘Middle Stone Age’ – 10,000 BC.
The climate was much warmer and there was a huge amount of choice now in food – deer, geese, wild boar (hunters got this food) nuts, berries (gatherers got this food).
Mesolithic people used branches for their round huts now and microliths (small tools made from flakes of stone). They got to be a little more comfortable – using moss for bandages and for sitting on, as well as for the fire.
This is Dan hunting a deer as a Mesolithic man.
Ah, the poor deer!
Next, we looked at the Neolithic era – ‘New Stone Age’ – 7,000 BC. THIS IS WHEN THE MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE IN ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY OCCURRED – FARMING!
Neolithic people farmed crops and ground wheat to make flour. They farmed animals like sheep (no chickens yet – these were brought to England by the Romans) and kept dogs as domestic pets. Houses were built in a rectangular shape, so their homes had corners.
Neolithic people started to think like we do today – that it is safe inside their fenced village and danger is kept outside. Ancestors (well one of their bones at least!) are buried in mounds. There is a real sense of belonging to their village and having history there.
Stone tools from this era are heavy:
Next we went to Bronze Age – 2,500 BC.
Bronze tools are made using copper. It was probably discovered when a copper inside a rock in the fire melted and oozed out. Bronze Age people could weave wool into cloth and create clothing that made statements. There’s a gold cape from this era in the British Museum in London: What sort of person do you think would have owned a cape like this?
People in the Bronze Age definitely started to stand out and try to be different to everyone else!
Finally, we went to the Iron Age – 800 BC.
By the end of the Bronze Age, the weather in Britain became a lot colder and wetter. Changes in the weather can change what the land can be used for. For example, historians think that Darmoor was fertile land until it became too cold and wet to farm there anymore in the Iron Age. About this time, at places all over Britain, people started throwing bronze axes and swords into local streams and rivers. Archaeologists think that this was done as an offering to the water spirits and gods – they threw their valuable things into the water in exchange for good weather. By the Iron Age, people had started fighting over who had the best land. They lived in tribes in hillforts. If you belonged to a big, strong tribe, you could protect everything you owned.
Nowadays, we mix a material called carbon with iron to make steel. But in the Iron Age no-one is quite sure why people started making tools and weapons out of iron, rather than bronze, because iron on its own isn’t any stronger than bronze. It could be that there was a shortage of bronze, so people started using iron instead and then found ways of making better, stronger items from iron.
One of the most interesting facts we learned is that for over 96% of all of human history, we have relied on stone! WOW! Thank you Marc, for giving us a fun-filled overview of Prehistoric times in one afternoon! You have given us a fantastic introduction to our ‘From Stone Age to Iron Age’ Creative Curriculum Topic!