Recently I’ve been doing some work with Hannah-Lee Chalk in the engagement team to develop a session for school children using objects from the archaeology collection. Here you can see children from Bury Grammar School puzzling over stone objects. It was a year 1 class, 17 pupils, and they were piloting a new session (name still to be confirmed) for Key Stage 1 classes that we hope to offer next school year.
Some of the objects are natural; some are natural but were thought to be the earliest stone tools worked by human hand, called eoliths; others may look like artefacts but are not; others are Palaeolithic stone tools perhaps hundreds of thousands of years old.
The idea was to encourage the children to look at the objects and to work out whether they were natural or whether they were man-made. These were the kinds of questions asked by William Boyd Dawkins and Wilfrid Jackson at the Manchester Museum in the first half of the 20th century. They built up collections of stone objects as reference material and for teaching purposes. Some of the objects given to the children had holes in them, but some were natural holes and some had been made deliberately by human hand.
What might they have been used for? In some cases one might speculate the perforated stones were net sinkers used in fishing or perhaps to weight down roofing materials. Some can be identified with some confidence as perforated stone mace heads or counter weights for digging sticks. Some stones looked like knives or spearheads but the bedding planes of the rock showed that they wouldn’t have made very effective tools or weapons. We have three boxes of such material. Perhaps there’s a case for disposal?
Class Teacher, Rachel Hankinson, said that the children had a wonderful time, seeing and being able to touch objects associated with prehistoric man rather than looking at powerpoints in the classroom. She said the children were absolutely enthralled and could not stop talking about the trip all the way home. Even today in school they are looking for axe head shapes!