A night in the Iron Age
On June 17th 2017, 15 intrepid explorers from Southampton Young Archaeologists' Club spent the night in an Iron Age roundhouse to find out what life was really like in Britain over 2,000 years ago. We were incredibly fortunate to be given the keys to Butser Ancient Farm and as the public left for the day, the Young Archaeologists started to arrive...
Custard cream challenge!
Organising a sleepover for our young archaeologists was no mean feat – we were taking responsibility for some young people who had not stayed away from home before, and some for whom this was a huge and hugely different experience. We usually meet for just three short hours a month and some of our members hadn’t yet formed firm friendships, so the leaders were very keen to make sure that everyone found their tribe and enjoyed the evening. We also faced the challenging question of just how many custard creams our 8-16 year olds could eat in 24 hours.
To break the ice we played games so that the members could find out more about each other and begin to bond together into friendship groups for the night. Afterwards we set off on a site tour from the Neolithic house in the Stone Age village, through the Iron Age roundhouses, past the Roman Villa and into the Anglo-Saxon period. Amongst the Hampshire downland, away from the roar of traffic and with the smell of woodsmoke in the air, our urban young archaeologists were really able to imagine what life in ancient Britain was like.
Swallows in the roof
As the sun began to sink, our optimistic leaders corralled 15 bright-eyed and buzzing explorers into their sleeping bags in the roundhouse to play some games (I went to camp and I took....), solve some riddles, and to listen to a story. By 10pm a hush descended and the only sound in the roundhouse was the rustling of feathers from the swallows nesting in the roof. "We’ve done it – they’re asleep!" thought our naive leaders...until one of the young archaeologists sneezed and literally every other member shouted "bless you!" So they weren’t as asleep as we thought, but they were lying quietly in the dark, and had all remembered their manners!
Eventually they must have fallen asleep because we didn’t hear a peep until dawn broke and the sun began creeping through the cracks in the roundhouse door. The swallows woke, and gradually so did our young archaeologists. As the leaders provided the BBQ for dinner, we thought it reasonable to make the members cook their own breakfast – toast made over an open fire in the roundhouse. Revived by smoky warm bread we sent the young archaeologists off around the farm to complete a photo challenge and to feed the animals before their parents arrived to collect them.
For our leaders and our YAs this was a truly incredible experience and one that we hope that our young people will remember for the rest of their lives – that one hot night in June when they slept under the smoky dome of Butser Ancient Farm’s largest Iron Age roundhouse.
Blog by Gemma Ingason, Southampton YAC leader
Dig deeper into our blog by clicking on one of the words above, or search using this box.