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Exploring (Ancient) Egypt

Lucy Maycock, Schools Learning Officer, tells us how exploring archaeological sites led to the reimagining of the Ancient Egypt workshop.

Over summer, I had the fantastic opportunity to travel to Egypt and spent a fortnight exploring both famous and lesser-known archaeological sites. Like many, I have always been fascinated by the Ancient Egyptians and was completely astonished by the wealth of ancient temples, tombs, and complexes open to tourists.

As a Schools Learning Officer, I spend most of my time using our Handling Collection to teach visiting school groups about a wide range of topics. One of our most popular workshops is ‘Ancient Egypt’, in which pupils handle real Ancient Egyptian objects. Despite its popularity, the session had remained largely unchanged for many years so, inspired by my visit, we decided it was time for a revamp.

Egyptologist Samir Abbass, my tour guide and owner of Real Egypt, kindly examined photographs of our handling objects and was able to provide us with more information about them: giving us a better idea of the people who may have used them; clarifying how they were used; and was even able to translate hieroglyphics for us.

With this in-depth knowledge, we were able to create a schools session that gives pupils the chance to actively examine objects, working in teams to solve questions about the former use and meaning of one or two artefacts. The teams then join together and have the opportunity to share their conclusions, using their objects and findings to safely send someone to the Afterlife.

It’s lovely to see the enthusiasm that the new session inspires in pupils. Objects are now hidden in boxes which the children unpack, creating a real sense of curiosity and awe. It brings a new found focus that was sometimes missing from the old version of the workshop.

We’ve had brilliant feedback from teachers and pupils about the new format. One teacher commented that "the session is so much more exciting for the children, it’s really involved and it helps them to make sense of the objects." We love teaching it too, and hope to inspire some archaeologists of the future!

We’re now looking at some of our other long-standing, popular sessions and thinking about how we can encourage pupils to investigate and explore objects in a similarly active and thoughtful way. Watch this space!