Boredom Busters 2.0

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!

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with our activities and resources. And feel free to share and tag us in your marvellous creations – we are @findsorguk on both Twitter and Instagram.

Stay At Home Activities: Book Clasps
Getting Crafty With PAS
Stay At Home Activities: Roman Coins
Stay At Home Activities: Medieval Coins
Boredom Busters!
Festive Finds Activity

Stay At Home Activities: Book Clasps

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.

Getting Crafty With PAS

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.

A finished container full of chocolate treasures. What will you keep in yours?

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
  • poster paint
  • glue
  • 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.

Download our templates here:

Stay At Home Activities: Roman Coins

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.

Stay At Home Activities: Medieval Coins

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.

Minting coins in the Medieval period required a strong arm! A metal disc, known as a blank, was placed between an upper and lower die. The die is what contained the image that would appear on the final coin – a different design for either side. The upper die was hit (very hard) with a hammer and the force of the blow would stamp the design from the dies onto the blank. This is why we describe Medieval coins as being “struck” or “hammered”.

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.

Agents of Shield – The Return Of Half-term Heraldry

We were recently invited to repeat our heraldry-themed PAS activity at the University of Nottingham Museum of Archaeology. So, during the May half-term we packed up our craft supplies and headed to beautiful surroundings of the Lakeside Arts Centre for some heraldic half-term fun.

Image of a volunteer named Jasmine standing to the left of a long table. A variety of coloured shield shapes are laid out on the table top ready for use in a craft activity.
PASt Explorers volunteer Jasmine ready to go at the University of Nottingham Museum of Archaeology at the Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham. Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY.

Armed with brightly coloured paper (in the seven heraldic colours), glue and a whole menagerie of heraldic beasties, our participants set about creating their very own Coat of Arms. Here are the results!

Eight brightly coloured paper shields arranged in two rows of four, one above the other. Each shield has the image of a plant or animal on it.

As well as the opportunity to get creative, this activity also introduces participants to the language of heraldry and concepts around identity and how people represented themselves in the past. 

For more information about this activity, please contact Why not have a go at creating your own shield? Share it with us on Twitter or Instagram (@findsorguk on both platforms).