Classical Statues

On Saturday YAC visited the Museum of Classical Archaeology. It is an amazing museum full of casts of statues from all around the Ancient Greek world.


YAC members had a good look around and decided that the early statues looked quite Egyptian and were very formal and straight but the later statues were much more ‘natural’ looking. sarah explained that there was some evidence that statues were originally painted which surprised a lot of us!

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Yac members investigating statues

We are planning to build a model temple at a later meeting so the YAC members spent some time looking at statues of Gods and Goddesses and taking notes so they can make a case for their favourite to have the temple dedicated to them.

We also looked at just how clever the sculptors had been designing statues to fit into difficult spaces and had a go at recreating a scene from a pediment (the triangular bit on the roof)

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Creating a pose to fit into a pediment

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Creating a pose to fit into a pediment

Many thanks to the museum for being so welcoming – we had a great visit and the members were really enthused.


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Flint tools and Mesolithic Houses

We were very lucky at our last meeting to have a visitor- Don Henson. Don works at the University of York but before that, he worked for the Council, for British Archaeology as their head of Education and he used to run YAC nationally! Don has worked at Star Carr, a Mesolithic  (Middle stone age) site in Yorkshire and wrote a schools pack to help children learn about the site and the  Mesolithic.

We started off by looking at flint and Don helped us to work out how you can tell the difference between flint that has been knapped (hit) by a human and a piece of flint that is just a natural bit of stone.

How to spot flint flakes made by people

Then Don talked to the group about life in the Mesolithic. People then didn’t farm so they had to hunt, fish and pick any food that they wanted. Apparently, they were very clever as they ate a lot of limpets! We don’t eat them today but scientists have found that they are more nutritious than any of the seafood we do eat.

Thinking about the food we eat today compared to food in the Mesolithic

We saw some slides about Star Carr and what archaeologists found there-including deer skulls made into headdresses. We saw some pictures of what Mesolithic houses might have looked like and then went outside to look at how big a house would have been.

Don told us that the houses were oval shaped and were 5m long by 3m wide so we laid out some rope to see what this looked like.

Learning about Mesolithic houses

They were pretty small and about 5 people would have lived in them!

The YAC members had a great time and learnt a lot about the Mesolithic and Star Carr. We are visiting an exhibition about the site next month so they are well prepared!

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Digging Test Pits

We were very lucky to be invited to the Histon and Impington ‘Big Dig’ on May 12th. Cambridge YACs were allocated three pits to dig around the village.

It was part of a bigger project and you can read more about the Histon and Impington Archaeology Group  here

We split into three groups and found our pits which had already been started the day before so luckily we didn’t have to de- turf (the YAC leaders were very pleased about that- it is hard work!)

We started by measuring how far down it was to the top of the layer we were going to dig and drawing what we could see. We then took it in turns to carefully dig into the layers using trowels and hand shovels.

Two of the YAC members digging a test pit


Every bit of soil that was dug out had to be sieved carefully so all of the tiny pieces of evidence could be found.

Careful sieving took a long time

Everything we found was washed and put into a tray to dry along with a label so that the Archaeology Groups would know where it had been found.

We found animal bones, potsherds (quite a lot of blue and white willow pattern) charcoal, burnt patches and clay. Hopefully, our work will help to tell the story of Histon and Impington!

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Bartlow Hills

Today we visited Bartlow Hills- these are Roman burial mounds and are the largest Roman burial mounds in Western Europe.  Sarah and Helen were leading the meeting today and told us about them.

Sarah showing the group what some of the finds would have looked like

The mounds were excavated between 1815 and 1840 and some very impressive Roman finds were removed including large wooden chests, decorated vessels made of glass and bronze and beautiful pottery. These were all stored in a Country House which burnt down so the finds were all lost!

One of the mounds has steps up allowing us to climb up to the top

YAC members on top of one of the Roman burial mounds

After looking at Roman burial mounds we carried on thinking about memorials by visiting the church which is very close. Helen talked to us about the church and mentioned that lots of churches were built near to older sacred sites and we wondered whether the church builders chose the spot because it was close to the Roman mounds. We looked at the outside and talked about the different shaped windows and their dates.

Looking at one of the windows

Then we went inside and worked out how old different parts of the church were using some information Helen gave us.

Helen helping YAC members to date different parts of the church

There are some amazing wall paintings inside!

One of the wall paintings

To finish a great visit one of the people who looks after the church came and asked if YAC members would like to ring the bells- we all had a go and I hope the villagers weren’t too worried.

Waiting to ring one of the church bells

If you would like to visit Bartlow Hills there is a great day coming up on May 6th where you can go on walks of different lengths and find out lots more about the area.

Thanks to Finn who was the photographer today

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For the last few meetings, we have been learning about Ancient Egypt-some of the members know more about this than some leaders so it’s been interesting for everyone finding out more!

In January, David showed us some slides from his visit to Egypt and we were amazed to work out how big the temple at Karnak was. We went outside and measured the size of some of the columns.


We then mummified some oranges by scooping out the insides and packing them with salt and baking power- members took these home to keep in a warm, dry place. We also had a go at writing using hieroglyphics.


In February we went to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and visited their Egyptian galleries to look at the artefacts there.

This month (March) we made Shabtis, collars and canopic jars and wrote curses in hieroglyphics for anyone daring to disturb a mummy! We also unwrapped the oranges we mummified in January to see what they looked like now.


One member brought along a tomato he’d mummified three years ago!


At the end of the meeting, we laid out all of our shabtis, jars, amulets, jewellery and curses around the mummified oranges


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