Category Archives: Education

VM_365 Day 10 Give it a Swirl!

Only three days left to go until Archaeology for You on Saturday the 12th July at the Powell-Cotton Museum. One of our activities on Saturday will be ‘Give it a Swirl’ where you can find out how archaeologists find out about evidence for ancient environments and diets from soil samples taken at dig sites.

Today’s picture is of some charred grain, seeds, charcoal and tiny shells that were found in a soil sample taken from a Medieval ditch near Manston.

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The process we use to retrieve this evidence is called flotation. This is where soil samples are swirled in water in a tank over a fine mesh. The light artefacts such as charred seeds and grain, charcoal and small bones float to the top and are retrieved for identification by pouring the water off through a fine seive.  Heavy artefacts such as the odd stone, piece of pot or larger bone sink and are retained by the fine mesh and the soil particles sink right to the bottom of the tank.

We will be using a simplified version of this process on Saturday using buckets and plenty of water, so come along, get your hands dirty and Give it a Swirl!



VM_365 Day 8 Taking the mystery out of pottery dating

Pottery dating game
Pottery dating game

Today’s image is of the Pottery Dating game, a simple introduction to understanding how ceramics are used in archaeological investigation to generate knowledge about people and culture in the past. The pottery dating game is one of the activities we have developed to help people understand the basics of archaeological investigation and analysis, which you can try out at our Archaeology for You event.

Developing the ability to make ceramics was one of the most significant inventions of prehistoric people. Everyday pottery vessels, familiar in form and uses to our own, link us in a long chain to first Neolithic potters, with almost every step of the journey marked with innovations in form, fabric and technological advances and retreats.

Studying ceramics in the archaeological record can grow to a full time occupation, with a whole body of subtle detail that a ceramic specialist needs to become familiar with. The scope of interest in ceramic material ranges from the variety of vessels and fabrics present in the archaeological record, to observing how modern potters manipulate clay and construct objects from it. Piecing together the sequence of the potters craft involves tracing  cultural cross references, short lived fads and long lived styles that defy the creative urges of the moment in favour of utility, familiarity and tradition.

From the earliest days of archaeological research there has been a recognition that an archaeologist should be familiar with the range of ceramics that are common in their area of research, in the period they study and the geographical regions they focus on. Indexing and sequencing the ceramic types associated with a field of study is a basic building block in establishing regional time lines and tracing common ways of life.

How does the pottery dating game work?

To become familiar with the methods used to analyse ceramics, there’s no substitute for hands on experience. But, as in many unfamiliar activities. people are not confident of their own abilities and are nervous about making mistakes.  The pottery dating game is a confidence building exercise which shows that we all have the skills of reasoning and observation that form the foundation of the systems used to analyse and classify ceramics.

The dating game box contains a set of sherds of pottery ranging in date from the early prehistoric to the modern era, all with distinctive characteristics. We invite you, without any previous experience of archaeological pottery, to place the sherds in the order from earliest to latest according to your own ideas and experience. Before we compare the sequence you decide on with the order and dating given by an expert in archaeological ceramics, we ask you to explain the observations and decisions you made in ordering the sherds.

How close do you think you might get to the actual sequence on the first go? How do your observations fit with those of experienced ceramic archaeologists? Perhaps you know more about the technology and craft of the past than you think you do…

VM_365 Day 6 Buildings are archaeology too!

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You might think that this pair of Grade II Iisted brick and flint cottages with their Flemish style gables are tucked away in the Kent countryside. These lovely buildings are in fact hidden away behind the shops of Queen Street in Ramsgate. Accessed through a narrow passage called Queens Court they are a hidden gem of the townscape and a window through which we can see something of 17th century Ramsgate.



VM_365 Day 3

Fragment of Romano-British mosaic
Fragment of Romano-British mosaic from Minster in Thanet

The image for our VM_365 project today is of a fragment of Roman Mosaic with part of a guilloche pattern that was found in the excavation of a Roman Villa at Minster in Thanet.

One of the most impressive Roman buildings to have been discovered on the Isle of Thanet to date and almost certainly on of the most important places in the area in the Roman period.

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Mosaic fragment in its storage container

Several of these small fragments of Mosaic from the excavation are in storage, but there were no floors of any size surviving in the excavated remains of the villa. The pieces we have survived because they had been broken up and had fallen into a deep chamber within the northern apse of the building.

This architectural model is one of our attempts to show what the building was like in one of its major periods of use.

It is useful to try to reconstruct the shape and size of the Villa building with its main range, wings and detached bath house building, which was served by its own piped water supply.

With only the ground plan visible from the robbed remains of walls it is difficult to know exactly what the structure of the building was like, but with the few mosaic fragments we have, we can at least assume that like other buildings of the period it had several of these grand decorative surfaces. The full history of the building and the details of exactly who may have lived in and around it will probably remain unknown.


Re-Living Ancient Life at Archaeology for You

Re-creating the lifestyles of the past is one of the ways that we study the objects discovered by archaeological investigation. Objects and personal items that have been found together in well dated layers on archaeological sites have been carefully recorded and studied to build a picture of all the things that were used or worn at a specific time.

Using the evidence recovered from excavations, authentic objects and costumes from a particular time in history can be reconstructed. By recreating the costumes, household items and clothing of the past and using them to re-enact processes and encounters that were experienced in the past, archaeologists gain an insight into life as it was lived.

Changes in the styles and functions of the objects let us trace changes in fashion and style, but also point out sharp breaks and changes in ways of life, which are important to our understanding of history.


De Bello Canzio are a re-enactment group that explore the changing world of the Cantiaci, the people Julius Caesar records as living in Kent in the Iron Age. One of the significant changes to the life of  the Cantiaci came when the Roman armies invaded and occupied the Island of Britain in 43 AD.  DB1DB3

Many of familiar patterns of dress and objects that were used by the Cantiaci before the Roman invasion lived on for a time, but the range of costumes, equipment and household items changed significantly after the Roman invasion.

Through their displays and costumes De Bello Canzio bring a glimpse of the life of the Iron Age and Roman Cantiaci to the re-living ancient life area at Archaeology for You.

VM 365 Day 2

Welcome to Day 2 of the Virtual Museum 365 project.

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Today’s picture is of archaeological ceramics specialist Nigel Macpherson-Grant working in our store, sorting through boxes of prehistoric pottery from past sites. Nigel is creating  an exemplary collection of Thanet’s ceramic material which we will use  in the Virtual Museum for teaching, display and handling collections. You will be able to see and handle some of it at Archaeology for You on 12th July.

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The two sherds of pottery shown above were in one of the boxes Nigel was looking at. They date to the Early to Middle Iron Age, between 550-400 BC and are known as rusticated coarsewares, because of the treatment of their surfaces. They were found in the Fort Hill area of Margate.

VM_365 Starts Here

An Image a day from the Virtual Museum of Thanet’s Archaeology

Our VM_365 project will present one image a day, each day for the next year, on themes Virtual-Museum-Logorelated to our Virtual Museum of Thanet’s Archaeology.

As archaeologists we often have a camera handy to record those unexpected moments when something new emerges from the ground, or from our collection of artefacts. Whether its capturing an image outdoors on a site, or in one of the darker recesses of the museum storage boxes or having the opportunity to take a fresh look at something we take for granted, we will post an in image in our project each day.

Choosing the image we post each day will be a chance to stretch our imagination in  illustrating the world of archaeology and our important local heritage. Over the course of the year we may develop themes with a series of pictures, or just take a one off chance to explore a subject.

We have some ideas in mind already of images we want to show, others will come to us as the project goes on. Some of our images may be taken quickly, capturing a valuable moment as the opportunity arises and some will use the rich resources of images we have in our archives. Whatever the circumstances the project will present something interesting, fun and thought provoking each day.

Check in through our Twitter and FaceBook pages, or here on our journal where you will find more notes or detailed background to the images.

We would love to have your feedback and comments on the images over the duration of VM_365, we start today!

The first image we would like you to see is the new VM_365 logo which will accompany the images over the year. Like it?

VM_356 project logo
Our first image, the new VM_356 Logo

Archaeology for You – 12th July 2014

Logo for Archaeology for You

Archaeological activities for all ages for the National Festival of Archaeology

Archaeology for You is the Trust’s annual event to celebrate the National Festival of Archaeology, which is organised each year by the Council for British Archaeology. Once again in 2014 Archaeology for You will be held in the Gardens of the Powell-Cotton Museum,  on Saturday the 12th of July from 10am to 5pm.

Teaching skelton display

If you ever wonder how archaeologists can say what they do about the past, you can find out at Archaeology for You. There are many hands on activities demonstrating the principles and methods of archaeological investigation, exploring  digging methods, site recording and the process of reading the evidence of the finds from a site, giving you the basics of archaeological investigation.

De Bello Canzio stand at A4U 2013
De Bello Canzio stand at A4U 2013

To bring to life the people of the past  re-enactors from De Bello Canzio, a group specialising in Iron Age and Roman life, will show how archaeological evidence is used to explore costumes, tools, weapons to reconstruct the way of life of the Iron Age and Roman people.

There are no age limits to learning at Archaeology for You, there’s something for everyone in each of the activities from the youngest to the oldest.

The Trust for Thanet Archaeology is an education charity, with the mission to explore and explain archaeology. At Archaeology for You we bring together our experience as professional archaeologists with our education role, to demonstrate how archaeologists explore the world around them and use the evidence they gather to create historical stories by using archaeological techniques to investigate things and places.

Teachers exploring archaeology at school will find many ideas and resources at Archaeology for You that can be used in the classroom to help children understand how archaeologists investigate the world and reveal history from things and places.


Flyer and poster

Archaeology for You Flyer
Archaeology for You Flyer

Download a Flyer or an A3 sized poster for Archaeology for You

Download the guide to archaeological activities for all ages


We would love to see you at Archaeology for You