What do archaeologists do, how do they work and what is the science of archaeology? In the Schorndorf City Museum’s summer holiday program, twelve young researchers between the ages of six and twelve learned from museum educator Britta Ullrich what it means to be an archaeologist.
The program starts in the basement of the City Museum. Here, Britta Ullrich first leads the children through the new hands-on exhibition, which after many years of planning could be visited for the first time this summer.
This was designed and implemented by Nina Raczek and Nadja Bühler. As the name suggests, as participants walk through this exhibition, they learn not only by watching and listening, but also by participating. The children can participate in the interactive learning stations, which convey the presented topics again. “We try to make the exhibition as interactive as possible,” explains Stephan Lawall, intern at the Stadtmuseum. “It’s more interesting for the kids that way.”
In addition to the basics of archaeology, the exhibition shows the various finds that archaeologists had excavated in Schorndorf. In the exhibition, they are arranged by age, so that when you go through them, you embark on a “journey through time from young to old”, as Lawall describes it. The time journey begins with the Romans and ends with the Mesolithic of the Stone Age, where the oldest find, a mammoth tusk, can be found.
“Archaeology in the Box”
Between the Romans and the Mesolithic, the Celts are also represented with their “rainbow coins” and the Alemanni with jewelry of a young Alemanni girl. If you want your own rainbow coin, you can mint one at the coin station. And if you want to know what the Alemann girl looked like with her jewelry, you can help complete her puzzle.
After half an hour we go to the restoration workshop. Here, the children participate in the program “Archaeology in the box”, which is provided by the Kultur-Social campaign. For an hour and a half they can work here as archaeologists and restorers.
Conservators work closely with archaeologists and are responsible for restoring finds. A ceramic vessel is being restored, the shards of which must be gathered and glued together. “It teaches the kids the recovery mindset that comes with restoration,” Lawall explains.
Without documentation: “Science of Destruction”
But before anything can be restored, it must first be dug out of the ground, which the archaeologists are responsible for. The documentation of the finds is very important, since without them archeology would be a pure “science of destruction”. This aspect is also conveyed to the children by documenting all the finds they make that day as precisely as possible on a find sheet and recording them in the form of a sketch. “Documentation is the core of archaeological work. This is the only way to preserve the essence of a find that you pull out of the ground.”
The children go in search of their own finds, all of which are thoroughly documented and sketched. Each is given a box of dirt, designed to represent a planum of a fake burial site. “With a lot of love, carefully and precisely”, as Ullrich orders, the children use the archaeologists’ tools to dig for what is hidden in the ground.
Great is the joy of every find. “I found a gem!” or even “I found a bracelet!” shouted eagerly from every corner minutes after the digging began. If you found more pearls, you could combine them into a pearl chain and thus recreate an artifact. Each find, washed clean, documented, sketched and possibly restored, goes into a bag.
Lawall cites the correct transfer of science to the next generation as the purpose of the program. Action-packed films like those about the fictional archaeologist Indiana Jones would have distorted society’s perception of archeology quite a bit. Programs like Archeology in a Box are designed to teach children real archaeology, which is not about treasure hunting, but about exploring cultural history. “Archaeology in a box is very popular with the kids,” Lawall notes.
Archeology in a box was first offered by the Stadtmuseum in July, where children spent an entire Sunday digging for artifacts. The children would have had fun again this time, concludes Ullrich.