Friday, April 26, 2013

You Can Be an Archaeologist Detective!

My friend Dr. Hella Eckardt (no, that's not her) is a brilliant archaeologist. She knows that the graves of dead people from Roman times provide lots of clues about how they lived. Over the past few years, she and her clever colleagues have studied over 150 skeletons from Roman Britain (between 200-400 CE).

Recently Hella and a team from the University of Reading chose four of the 150 graves to investigate in detail. Together with webmasters from the Runnymede Trust, they have now designed a website that allows schoolchildren (and anybody else) to “look into” those graves and make their own deductions. You can look at the bones of four individuals, including a little girl. You can hear what experts have to say about what the bones, teeth and grave goods tell us.

Then you can make your own deductions and even write a story if you like. That’s what I did. I took the clues the experts gave me and made up a possible story for each of the four. I even got to help name them! We called the little girl Savariana. The young man is Brucco, the exotic and rich young woman from Africa is Julia Tertia and the man from the Black Sea region is Piscarius.

Yesterday a panel of experts spoke to over two hundred schoolchildren in year 3 (aged 8 and 9) at the Museum of London. The children came specially to help us “launch” the new Romans Revealed website.

The speakers were introduced by Dr. Nina Sprigge (far right in the picture below). Her job is to enthuse teachers and schoolkids about the museum's collections and she does a great job.

The children and their teachers got to hear Hella (in the middle) talk about how diverse Roman Britain was, with goods and people coming from all over the empire.

They got to hear Dr. Caroline McDonald (far left below) tell us about all the bones in the vaults of the Museum of London: they have over 17,000 skeletons!

Caroline McDonald, Hella Eckardt, Nina Sprigge & the Spitalfields Lady!

Debbie Weekes-Bernard from the Runnymede Trust brought some booklets with ideas for exciting lessons teachers can build around this new website.

Valentine Hansen & me
Valentine Hansen played the part of an ex-soldier in Britannia. He taught the children to say "hello" in Latin and what it meant to have three names.

I got to speak too! I briefly told the kids how I get ideas by playing with my replica Roman objects, including my infamous Roman bottom wiper: a sponge on a stick! (Learn more HERE!)

Dr. Helen Forte was there, too. She is a Latin teacher but also illustrates the Minimus Primary Latin course and some of my books. She did some of her marvellous drawings for the Romans Revealed website.

But the oldest guest by far was a woman from Rome. She was two thousand years old. You guessed it! She is the skeleton. Although visitors to the Romans Revealed website will only examine virtual bones on the Romans Revealed website, the Museum of London had brought out real bones!

Valentine examines a reconstruction of the Spitalfields Lady

The so-called Spitalfields Lady is probably the most famous of the 17,000 skeletons in the Museum of London vaults. We think she used to look like the bust in the picture up above.

Spitalfields Lady today
But today she looks like THIS! (right)

Dr. Becky Redfern, a researcher at the Museum of London, told us that we can tell by her teeth that she was born in Spain but then grew up in Rome! She then came to Londinium (the Roman name for London) where she sadly died. She was very rich and you can see the objects buried with her in the Museum of London Roman gallery.

You can't see a real skeleton like the Spitalfields Lady unless you visit the Museum of London, but you can visit four other skeletons by a click of the mouse. Have fun and tell me what you think of it!

Romans Revealed!

Caroline Lawrence writes historical fiction for children with kid detectives. She has written over twenty books set in first century Rome including The Roman Mystery Scrolls series – illustrated by Helen Forte – which would be perfect for kids in year 3 or up studying the Romans! 
Carrying on from the Roman Mysteries, the Roman Quests series set in Roman Britain launched in May 2016 with Escape from Rome.

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