Stoke-on-Trent YAC

What we did in 2019

 

January: The mystery of the Leekfrith Iron Age Torcs

At the first meeting of the year Stoke-on-Trent Young Archaeologists’ Club investigated the mysteries surrounding the four items of gold jewellery found by metal detectorists in a North Staffordshire field. These torcs, comprising three necklaces and one bracelet, are believed to be the oldest Iron Age gold items found in Britain so far. After examining the real objects in detail members created their own versions of the torcs but had to be happy with gold card, sequins and pipecleaners rather than precious metal.

February: Behind the Scenes at the Museum

In February members welcomed the Museum of Cannock Chase YAC to join them in finding out more about what happens to an object when it arrives at the museum. The first challenge was to pack delicate items, in this case eggs, safely and securely in archival packaging. After throwing the boxes around and 'accidentally' dropping them, amazingly all the eggs survived intact! Taking on the role of curators the group then examined real objects, completed the necessary paperwork and selected the most suitable gallery space in the Potteries Museum in which they might be displayed. It was great to get together and meet another YAC group.

March: Identifying pottery sherds

In March the Club had expert guidance in pottery identification from Stoke-on-Trent's City Archaeologist. Using examples of pottery sherds found on archaeological sites across Staffordshire he set the challenge of creating a timeline of pottery types from the Roman to the Victorian era. Members also learnt how to recognise different methods and stages of pottery production by examining the sherds for marks left by, for example, throwing or slip-casting. After considering what objects were represented by the pieces left behind members then used the evidence and their imaginations to draw the sherds re-creating what they might have looked like when complete.

April: Visit to Etruria Industrial Museum.

In April the Club toured Etruria Industrial Museum on one of it's steaming weekends. Members learnt about the bone & flint mill that used to grind materials for local potbanks. Did you know what bone china is made from 50% bone ash?! After lookig at some raw materials we looked around the mill, the saw boiler being fired up, and met 'Princess', the almost 200 year old beam engine that runs the machinery.

May: Historic building recording part 1: research.

In May the club explored some of the research methods used in archaeological building recording through looking at the changing landscape of Hanley from the late 19th Century up until the mid-20th Century. Members tested their knowledge of the local towns using modern satellite imagery to pinpoint their location when compared to old ordinance survey maps. Later, we investigated a series of historic and modern maps and placed them in chronological order by drawing inferences from the landmarks of Hanley, such as the decreasing number of pot banks, the appearance of war memorials and car parks! Using these inferences, we created a story for the changes in Hanley from the late 19th Century up until the middle of the 20th Century. After this we used some of the ordinance survey tools to see the changes through the last century in the areas that are important to us.

June: Historic building recording part 2: survey

In June the club welcomed Zoe Sutherland one of the city’s archaeologist to help lead this month’s practical session. Using an activity sheet, similar to what is used in the field, the club began surveying the former school adjacent to the Bethesda chapel (now the Stoke-on-Trent Sentinel offices). Members investigated the key architectural features of the building such as what type of materials were used; what style of roofing was used and what decorative elements are present on the building. Using clues from the building, members were also able to identify when the building was constructed, what the building was originally used for and also spotted various alterations that had occurred to the building over time. On the second half of the day, members sketched various elevations of the school, trying to record the building as one might do in the field for historic building recording!

July: Festival of Archaeology

In July, the club attended the Hanley museum’s festival of archaeology, with many of the themes focusing on the anniversary of the discovery of the Saxon hoard! In the morning, members tried their hands at metal detecting led by Kris Wisniewski, Helen Malbon and Mark Grodner from Keele University. After this the club split into two groups, with the first of the two groups learning about excavation techniques and having a go at excavating a faux Anglo-Saxon burial, led by city archaeologists Jon Goodwin and Zoe Sutherland. Whilst one group was in the hands of our city archaeologists, the other half of the club learned about zooarchaeology from Dr. Ashleigh Haruda, who showed the club how to identify and differentiate between various animal bones, how to spot cut marks and much more! After this, members tried to spot various animals present in iconography within the Saxon hoard! Later the club met with the Stoke-on-Trent Museum archaeological society and learned about various objects and projects undertaken in Stoke-on-Trent. After this the two groups switched and tried out all of the activities above. The Stoke-On-Trent YAC would like to thanks all of those involved in the festival of archaeology for helping to make a insightful and fun session!

August: Hulton Abbey Trip

This month the club visited the 13th Century site of Hulton Abbey, putting some of the skills they had learned in the previous sessions into practice – such as building recording and their interpretation skills! The club followed a treasure-trail activity, answering questions based upon the clues hidden around the abbey. To begin their trail the club had to record what section of the abbey was still visible. Afterwards the club placed key events from the abbey’s history into a chronological order to help widen their understanding of the archaeological significance of the site. Using an archaeological grid system – adapted from that used by the archaeologists that excavated the sites, the club would use grid references as clues to measure certain features and to also find the hidden mason marks dotted around the site. The club also tried their hands at section drawing and planning some of the key structural features of the abbey, including recording measurements of these features (walls, pillar bases etc.). To round off the day, the club tried to interpret some of the various artefacts found at Hulton abbey – including  a papal bulla, a wax seal depicting a squirrel and some decorative lead stars. After interpreting some of the artefacts from the site, the club  then had to try to interpret a burial based upon a report of the skeletal evidence!

September: Coins through time.

In September, the club tried their hands at being numismatists and explored the ways in which coins have changed through time. Looking at a series of coins ranging from 400BC-1967AD members were challenged to identify the coins and place them into order along our coin-timeline. Members were quick to note the differences in iconography, shape and style of the coins over time and used this to help in the identification process! Drawing inspiration from the collection of coins, and other coin reference materials, members then had a go at constructing their own coinage out of clay which yielded some fantastic results. Whilst these coins were setting, members explored the not-so distant past of the UK’s pre-decimal coin system – specifically 1950-60s. Members looked at the cost of everyday living during the 1960s and even tried to do a basic grocery shop using the pre-decimalised currency. After exploring the 1960s members then finalised their own currencies by painting and decorating their coins.  

 

 

 

 

 

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