Many of us will once again find ourselves at home for the next four weeks. If you’ve got little ones to entertain, or you fancy getting creative yourself, we have collated all of our craft activities into one post!
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Early books and manuscripts were often made of parchment (also known as vellum), an organic material made from animal skin. To keep the pages safe, they were sandwiched between stiff wooden boards when not in use. It was necessary to keep the volume tightly closed to stop the pages curling and warping, so the covers were fastened using book clasps. This ensured the pages stayed flat and also kept everything in place should the volume fall off a desk or shelf. The clasps were attached to the cover boards and fastened with a leather strap or metal plate. These clasps were often decorated, highlighting the precious nature of the manuscripts contained inside. As well as clasps, the covers often featured other metal mounts, sometimes on the corners, sometimes elsewhere. These performed both a decorative and a protective function, preventing wear and tear to the volume.
Book clasps and other fittings are a common find when metal detecting and there are more than 2500 recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. To see all examples recorded click here.
Why not have a go at making your very own book clasp strap to keep your favourite book safe? You can use one of our examples from the database or you could have a go at designing your own! Simply download our activity sheet below to get started. You can share your results with us on Instagram by tagging @findsorguk, or on our PAS Craft Activities Board on Pinterest.
It’s time to bust out your craft materials and get creative! We’ve got two more fabulous activities for you to try, so grab a cup of tea and read on.
Make your own hoard container
We created this activity especially for our friends at the Young Archaeologists Club. It’s a fun and slightly messy activity to create your very own hoard container to keep your treasures in.
The full instructions are available on the Young Archaeologists Club website here. Whilst you’re over there, why not check out some of their other fabulous activities and resources?
Make your own artefact picture puzzle
Archaeology is all about piecing together the past so why not challenge yourself to do the same with our artefact picture puzzle?
You will need:
some pieces of cardboard
scissors (or an adult with a craft knife)
a picture of an artefact
Step 1: Take a piece of cardboard and cut out two squares of the same size. We have used an 8 inch square here.
Step 2: Take one of theses squares and cut out a smaller square. Put the smaller square safely to one side for later.
Steps 3-5: Put down some newspaper to protect your table. Then get your poster paint and paint the largest card square and the square with the cut-out. Leave to dry. These two pieces will form the frame of your puzzle.
Step 6: Print out a picture of your favourite object from the PAS database. You can use one of our templates at the bottom of this article, or you can choose your own object from the database. Whatever you choose make sure that it is the same size as your smallest cardboard square. Also make sure that one of your corners is completely blank. You can see that we have left the top right corner blank – all will become clear later!
Steps 7-8: Cut out your image and glue it to the smallest cardboard square. Leave to dry.
Steps 9-10: Once the paint on your frame pieces has dried, glue the cut-out square to the large square as shown below to create your finished frame. Leave to dry.
Steps 11-12: Take some scissors, or get an adult with a craft knife, and cut your artefact image into 9 equal squares. Our templates have handy gridlines printed on them to help you with this!
Step 13: Place your pieces into your frame in the correct order. You may need to trim them slightly to ensure they fit and are able to slide around.
Step 14: To play the puzzle, remove the blank square and jumble all the other squares up.
Step 15: Solve the puzzle! Slide the pieces around until they are in the correct order again.
There is more to a Roman coin than first meets the eye! As well as being used to buy things, coins were an important publicity tool for the emperor. They showed people what the emperor looked like and often celebrated important victories or other achievements.
Below you can see what emperor Hadrian (AD117-138) chose to put on his coin. What would you put on your coin if you were emperor?
Emperors used the reverse of the coin to say something about themselves. On this coin, Hadrian has chosen the figure of Pax who represents peace. Other emperors chose their favourite gods or goddesses. Some chose military or religious symbols, or something relating to one of their victories. The wolf and twins image was also popular because it represents the foundation of Rome, capital of the Roman Empire. What symbol would you choose to say something about you?
There are over 273,000 Roman coins recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. You can view them all here. Once you’ve had a look, why not download our activity sheet below and have a go at designing your own Roman coin? You can share your results with us on Instagram by tagging @findsorguk, or on our PAS Craft Activities Board on Pinterest.
When we talk about the Medieval period, we are referring to the time from the Norman Conquest in AD 1066 to the rise of the House of Tudor in AD 1485. During this period, the standard unit of currency was the penny – not a penny as we would know it today, but a larger coin made of silver. A full penny was therefore rather valuable. If small change were needed, a penny was simply cut into halves or quarters.
The coins were made in a workshop known as a mint. Today all coins are produced by one mint; the Royal Mint in Llantrisant, Wales. Thanks to modern technology, this one mint can produce all the coins required – almost 90 million a week! However, in the Medieval period there were no machines and the process of making a coin was far more laborious. To meet the demand for coinage, there were multiple mints based all over the country. For example, during the reigns of William the Conqueror and his son William II, there were more than 70 mints operating in England.
The person in charge of producing coins at the mint was the moneyer. The moneyer was responsible for making sure the coins produced were of the correct weight and fineness of silver. The penalty for producing inferior coins (without the state’s permission) was severe – mutilation or in some cases execution. This was to discourage moneyers from making profit by producing underweight coins or by lowering the content of silver in each coin to make it stretch further (known as debasement). However, there were times when this was encouraged, and even official policy. For example, Henry VIII was known as “Old Copper Nose” because his coins had so little silver in them! There were several times during the Medieval period when coinage became so debased that the king was forced to reform the coinage completely.
The early coins of the Medieval period were not much different to the Anglo-Saxon coins that preceded them but eventually they developed into the classic form that is characteristic of Medieval coins: the front-facing portrait of the monarch on the obverse (“heads”) and a cross with pellets on the reverse (“tails”). In fact, some of the coins are so similar that it is difficult to tell which king is on them!
The coins have the same basic layout, shown below:
The obverse shows the portrait of the monarch, around which is writing known as the legend. The legend contains the name and titles of the monarch. The initial mark shows you where to begin when reading the legend. The legend on the reverse of the coin tells you where the coin was minted. On earlier coins, you get the name of the moneyer as well as the mint. However, in AD 1279 Edward I ruled that the names of individual moneyers would no longer appear on the coins, so coins produced after this period have the name of the city or town in which the coin was minted on them instead. The legend will either begin with CIVI (for city) or VILL (for town).
There are more than 71,000 Medieval coins recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. You can view coins from each ruler here. Once you’ve had a look, why not download our activity sheet below and have a go at designing your own Medieval penny? You can share your results with us on Instagram by tagging @findsorguk, or on our PAS Craft Activities Board on Pinterest.
This half term, we took some inspiration from the many heraldic harness pendants recorded on the database and invited the children of Dorset to make their own coat of arms.
People have always found various ways of identifying and distinguishing themselves from others. They often use symbols and other devices to represent themselves. In the medieval period, these developed into a formal system which became known as heraldry. Only one person could use each combination of colours and symbols, so it was easy to identify them at a tournament or on the battlefield.
Heraldry is a great subject to build a craft activity around because it is colourful, it is creative and it has a rich vocabulary to explore. It is also surprisingly complicated! So the first challenge was to work out what was feasible to include in a drop-in activity session.
We decided to focus on tinctures (colours), divisions, and basic charges (symbols), leaving the likes of ordinaries, furs, attitudes, supports and crests for another day!
We provided ready-made shields in six heraldic colours: Gules (red), Vert (green), Azure (blue), Purpure (purple), Sable (black), and Or (gold/yellow). These could then be supplemented with a pre-cut division and then finished off with one or more charges. We provided a selection of ready-made charges for colouring-in but there was also the option to design your own charge. An information sheet with instructions, further information and handy hints was also provided and Dorset Finds Liaison Officer Ciorstaidh also brought along her excellent Ladybird Book of Heraldry!
Armed with glue and colouring pencils, the kids (and some of the adults too) let their imaginations go wild. We had shields with everything from unicorns and dragons, to dinosaurs and even a chicken nugget!
As mentioned above, this activity was simplified for use in a drop-in session. For a longer session or even an extended project, more detail and discussion could be added. For example, as well as divisions, you could introduce the concept of ordinaries to vary the background field. You could also add more examples of charges and talk about the different attitudes (poses) of the creatures. For older children and adult groups, there are also discussions to be had around the concepts of identity and how we choose to represent ourselves.
With thanks to our Dorset Finds Liaison Officer Ciorstaidh and her PASt Explorers volunteers for facilitating the activities, and to our hosts at Priest’s House Museum and Sherborne Museum.