Communicating archaeology: children’s activities

By Rikke Hammer (Master of Cultural Heritage Management student)

As part of the Port Festival 2011 public archaeology event in Port Adelaide a number of interactive  activities were run specifically aimed at children. The activities were themed around the analytical process in archaeological research and encouraged the children to observe, predict, record data and make conclusions.  On site, children were engaged with assembling broken ceramic vessels with tape.  Drawing the assembled object and completing an activity sheet, borrowed from “The Young Archaeologist’s Club” in Britain, the children were asked to touch, feel, observe and answer questions about their object.

In supplement to the above on-site activities I conceptualized and designed a take-home activity for distribution at the event aimed at children aged 6+ years old. The activity is also well-suited to families. The remainder of this blog post explains the ideas and principles that went into this work.

The activity, titled ”Jane Street Post-excavation Analysis”  is based on the principles of tiered communication and interactive presentation.  The activity focus on the site formation processes evident at the Jane Street site – which was also the location of the public archaeology stand – and tied in with other interpretive materials created for the event: a stratigraphy poster and a life-size reconstruction of a section of the Jane Street  excavation trench (excavated by Susan Briggs as part of her PhD). The intended sum effect of this strategy was to  create a greater sense of place and to add relevance to the learning by providing an opportunity for children and their parents to explore and puzzle-solve questions similar to those asked by the archaeologists about the site during the 2003 excavation.  A third intended purpose was to illustrate the importance of (and relationship between) stratigraphy, chronology and material remains in archaeological interpretation.

The activity is designed in a z-folded brochure format with three panels (six pages) and makes use of strong contrasting colours, varying font sizes and styles and alternating text colours to create a fun look.

The layout and content of the brochure is shown in Figures 1-4 and described below:

Figure 1 Kids activity brochure Z-folded (front)



Panel 1
Page 1



Panel 2
Page 2



Panel 3
Page 3

Figure 2 Kids activity brochure Z-folded (back)






Panel 1
Page 4



Panel 2
Page 5



Panel 3
Page 6

Figure 3 Kids activity brochure: Front (folded)

Figure 4 Kids activity brochure: Back (folded)


Page 1  provides a complete view of the Jane Street trench profile that forms the interpretive basis for the activity.

Page 4  forms that back side of the brochure and introduces and sets out the tasks of the activity. (See Figure 2 and 4)


Page 2  is both a key to the stratigraphic profile and an answer sheet.

Page 5  provides hints for helping to solve the puzzle of how the site formed and answering  the questions set out in the activity. The hints provided include the Law of Superposition, relevant historical information about the site and basic advice for solving questions of chronology.


Page 3  forms the front side of the brochure and contains the stratigraphic layers as puzzle pieces that can be cut out and used to understand how the site formed over time.  Only project and industry partner logos (displayed on the reverse side (page 6) will be compromised when the pieces are cut out.

Page 6  Project and industry partner logos

In summary, the main intended interpretive outcomes for the activity were:

  1. to introduce the children to key concepts and terminology used in archaeology;
  2. to equip the children to make their own interpretations of the past using some of the same methods as archaeologists; and
  3.  to convey the message that the past is like a puzzle that needs be connected by many different pieces of information before a picture can emerge.


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