On the 21st November, both year four classes went on a class trip to Butser ancient farm in Hampshire. Butser is an experimental archaeological site which recreates and experiments with housing, tools and techniques from the Stone Age, Iron age and Roman times in Britain. Year four are currently studying the Bronze and Iron ages, so, our visit was based in the Iron Age village and focused on Iron Age techniques.
As soon as we arrived at Butser, the children found themselves transported to prehistoric times. They were astounded by the ram’s skull placed above the entrance to the village.
They saw several examples of Roundhouses dotted around the village and were led to their own roundhouse for the day. Little Woodbury is a replica of a real Iron age roundhouse from Salisbury. The children were shepherded into the roundhouses and invited to sit on animal skins or logs, much as their Iron age predecessors would have done. The roundhouse had a central hearth (an open fire), Wattle and Daub walls and a dirt floor. The children began to experience how it must have felt and smelt in the Iron ages.
During the day, the children participated in 4 different practical activities, where they used Iron age tools to learn how things were made during the Iron age.
The children were given a talk about different quern stones used for grinding wheat. They were shown how to use three types of rotary quern stone as well as the older saddle stones. The children worked well together to work the heavier rotary quern stones and ended up producing some of their own flour. They worked hard using the saddle quern and learnt that archaeologist know that it was the women who usually spent long hours grinding flour from foot injuries found on Iron age skeletons.
Another activity was Iron age bread making. The children were given a pre mixed dough, which had been made from the kind of flour which they ground using the various querns. They rolled the dough into long sausage like shapes and wound them onto a stick. The children had to be careful to wind the dough onto the end of the stick which had been stripped of bark unless the wanted bark flavoured bread. Once they had wound their bread onto sticks they were shown how to crouch safely in front of the fire and they cooked their bread on the hot embers. It was much quicker to cook bread this way than in the oven and the bread was ready to eat in a few minutes. The children ravenously ate the hot bread with butter and honey, just like children would have in the Iron Age.
The third morning activity was cordage. Cordage is an ancient technique for rope making using dried grass. The children took a long strand of dried grass and looped it in half, tying a knot at the ends. They twisted the loop around one finger until it was taught. Then, using their teeth, they folded it in half and gave it a magic flick, further twisting the rope around itself. We tied wooden beads onto the end and the children could take their piece of rope home. It is surprisingly strong and was used to make clothes, shoes and bags in the iron age.
After an exhausting morning jam packed with activities, the children congregated in the roundhouse to eat their lunch. Even with the door open it was quite dark as the sun had moved from in front of the door and it was quite a different experience than eating their lunch in the Khalsa Primary School hall.
In the afternoon the children split into their groups and where given a block of chalk, a piece of sharp flint and a dock leaf. They scraped one of the faces of the chalk with a flint to make it smooth and then scrunched up the dock leaf and rubbed it against the chalk. This gave the chalk a strong green colour. Then they used a sharp point from one of the flints to engrave their own sculpture onto the piece of flint.
Before they went home the children were given a tour of the site and shown an Iron age toilet and some of the other activities happening around the site. Did you know that Iron age people used moss as toilet paper and ash as air freshener?
Have a look at the gallery below to see more pictures from our fantastic trip to Butser Ancient Farm.