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Community Archaeology

Make and Break: New (or old?) acoustical sensations experienced at Tinkinswood

This last week sees St Nicholas Primary school in the Vale of Glamorgan embarking on a journey back in time to explore and learn about the Neolithic period at Tinkinswood chambered tomb, but with a twist…. They had a chance to get into the mindset of a Neolithic tomb builder and re-create their own interpretation of a ritual ceremony at the site –  a real magical experience for us all! Read on to see what we got up to….

The week started at the National Museum Wales, where the children of Class 4 (Key Stage 2), got a chance to see the real bones and artefacts excavated from Tinkinswood back in 1914 by John Ward, the Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum Wales at the time. We also dressed their teacher up in a Neolithic costume! In the afternoon, we went for a visit to explore the archaeology of Tinkinswood itself. The children had a chance to reflect on what they had learnt in the museum:

The second day, the children worked on the music side of their performance, and got a chance to re-create their own Neolithic pot – designing and making a coil pot:

We discussed the value of things in the modern world, and asked what were their most treasured possessions? Lots of computers, footballs, football boots in there, but also some poignant examples of objects passed down through the family. We talked about why people in the Neolithic broke and gave away their most treasured possessions, and the children responded well and gave revealing answers. Scroll down to find out what some of the children said!

On the last day we were to perform at Tinkinswood. It was very exciting, and lots of parents came to watch. I felt privileged to be there really, watching as the younger generation embraced the past with such enthusiasm…

I worked with Dylan Adams on the project, a sound artist and primary school music teacher, who shared his experience on his own blog, which can be found here http://wp.me/s26AYB-232

“Working with St Nicholas Primary school in the Vale of Glamorgan has been a revelatory experience this week! Dr. Ffion Reynolds and myself have embarked on what I feel is the start of an extremely exciting journey. Thanks to Ffion’s insight, foresight and Cadw’s support we were able to recreate a Neolithic style ceremony at the 6000 year old site. I have been lucky enough to take other school groups for musical performances at the site, but nothing on the scale of what was achieved last Thursday (the day after the Spring equinox).

One of the big differences was the number of drums used (it seems I need to purchase even more!). This coupled with the positioning of the performance in the forecourt meant that we experienced new acoustical sensations outside the ancient burial site.

Vibrations were reverberating off the walls and the outside of the chamber. In the words of one of the children, the physical sensations of the drumming “felt like you were moving even when you were still”. Next week we hope to explore the acoustical possibilities even further including using the inside of the chamber for part of the musical performance. The reactions of the children mirrored our own excitement and it was wonderful witnessing the transformative power of sound!”

The children gave feedback on their experiences. Here are some of their comments:

“The reason we did the ceremony was to bring back the Neolithic memories so that everyone would remember what the Neolithic people did. The ceremony made me feel like I had just lost a family member because it was about someone going into the burial chamber to the world of spirits, I think it would have felt the same except it was in the Neolithic instead. It had a strange, dark feeling like I, well it’s very hard to explain, it might have felt like a funeral if I knew what a funeral felt like. It felt quite exciting at the start because the drums had a catchy beat, but then we got to the pot breaking and then it got spooky and a bit eerie because it seemed like we were in a trance to smash all the pots”.

“The Neolithic people had a ceremony for the people who died and buried them in the burial chamber at Tinkinswood. Some times people smashed their most valuable possessions, which was the pots and they smashed them because I think they were saying to the ones who has passed, you are much greater than this pot”.

Many thanks to Class 4 at St Nicholas Church in Wales Primary School for all their hard work!

Join us on the 30th of March at 2.30pm to see Peterston-Super-Ely’s interpretation…

About FfionR

I’m Ffion, Honorary Research Fellow at Cardiff University and Heritage and Arts Manager for Cadw, the historic environment service for the Welsh Government. At Cadw, my role is to oversee projects that link heritage with the arts, inspire new ways of engaging people with our built environment and to link people with their local heritage and archaeology.


3 thoughts on “Make and Break: New (or old?) acoustical sensations experienced at Tinkinswood

  1. I would have loved to have done this in school! What a brilliant idea! It’s great to see children being given an opportunity to learn about our neolithic past in such a fun and dynamic way, it would be great to see it as part of the school curriculum all over Britain. The young generation need to know and appreciate our ancient past, so that it is always preserved as a place of our ancestors, and this is a great way of doing it!

    Posted by Christie | March 27, 2012, 5:41 pm


  1. Pingback: The ‘Make and Break’ Project Performances | Tinkinswood Community Archaeology - January 11, 2014

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