As part of the museum’s Living History Fortnight volunteers were invited in to an educational afternoon with the Ancient Wessex Network to try their hand at bronze casting and Bronze Age pottery techniques. Hear about the afternoon below:
On a bright but chilly Wednesday an eager band of volunteers arrived at the Museum to hear about Bronze Age metal casting and pottery. We were in for a real treat as this turned out to be a practical, hands-on session with craftsmen and experimental archaeologists Bill and Mark from the Ancient Wessex Network. Bill is a renowned potter whose work includes replicas and ceramics inspired by the materials and techniques used in the Iron and Bronze Ages. Mark is both a wood carver and skilled metalworker who uses authentic Bronze Age tools and techniques. Both Bill and Mark explained that knowledge on the materials, tools and techniques used is ongoing as archaeological digs and research continue to uncover artefacts and other evidence and that they have recreated these processes based on what is known so far.
I was part of the metal casting group (perhaps we should have come up with a tribal name for the afternoon?!). There was a bit of adaptation for modern times, making moulds out of plaster board, but it gave us a real insight into the skills and workmanship that would have been used during Bronze Age times. Once we had carved our designs, we headed to the outdoor fire to watch as Mark skilfully melted tin alloy on a charcoal fire and poured the molten metal into our moulds. The replica Bronze Age bellows made from leather proved harder to work than we imagined! We all waited with baited breath to see the results of our handiwork and, adding his skills to our ideas, Mark revealed shining rings and assorted figures, animals, fish and symbols.
The whole session was very enjoyable and informative and we all had something to take away too, to remind us of that afternoon.