It is already a year since the successful ancient Greek shields meeting at Manchester Museum. We always planned a session looking at Roman soldiers so January’s Young Archaeologists Club meeting focused on Roman shields. I took along the Museum’s replica Roman shield, helmet and sword-and-scabbard as well as my hand painted Roman Republican legion to show the children. After explaining how the Roman soldiers were equipped and looking at the organization of the army using the painted figurines, we got the children making shields out of cardboard and old yoghurt cartons from the recycling cupboard. You always know when a session is popular because the children really concentrate on what they are doing and there is low background hum of activity. At the end of the session the children proudly showed-off their legionary shields.
It is a long-cherished dream of mine and Andy Fear in Classics and Ancient History to set up a University Wargames Club with the intention of engaging schoolchildren and students in the subjects of ancient history and archaeology. The availability of relatively cheap but historically accurate plastic figurines representing a wide range of historical periods makes it possible to explore ancient military history in a visual way that enhances students’ understanding of this aspect of the ancient world.
In fact only last Friday Cat Lumb from the Education team at the Museum and I met two teachers from Walkden School who were interested in using the Museum’s Classical archaeology collection to help teach ancient history, particularly Alexander the Great and the War with Hannibal. Being able to show visually what the Macedonian phalanx looked like using scale figurines was especially interesting for the teachers.
It would be great if we could get young people painting the figures and wargaming battles from the ancient world. At a time when concern has been expressed about young people not socialising because of electronic media it would provide a way for meaningful face-to-face interaction in a creative setting, Using hundreds of painted plastic scale figurines there is a real opportunity to demonstrate what happened in ancient battles and inject a sense of fun by role-playing the different commanders. It would also create a sense of spectacle that might well be of interest to visitors to the Museum (see below).