Lesson 5: Difficulties with Dating

In our fifth lesson together, Apollo and Artemis classes explored the challenges archaeologists face when trying to interpret and date artefacts.

In order to get the groups into the right mindset, they were given a modern artefact – either a hot chocolate tub or cereal bar packet – and asked what information these artefacts might give to an archaeologist. The groups in each class were very observant, noticing things like fair-trade symbols – showing that the society who made the items cared for others – and also giving evidence of extensive trade. They noticed lists of ingredients, showing a society fond of high sugar food, and also a society that is concerned about its health. They also noted the items appeared to be made in factories.

Both items contained a “use by” date, which would have been very helpful for an archaeologist. However, Minoan artefacts contain no such record of dates, and the Minoan civilisation spans many thousands of years, from about 3000 BC up to around 1400 BC, when a new civilisation appears to have taken over the Minoan Palaces (we will be exploring this in detail next lesson!).

To show the difficulties Minoan archaeologists faced, each group was given images of different jugs which had been found on the Palace sites, and asked to order them from oldest to newest.

Most groups managed to identify the oldest ones quite easily – choosing ones which were the least decorated – but found it harder to order the later jugs. When shown the correct order, the groups mostly agreed that the Late Minoan Period octopus jug was the most beautiful, and the two later imitations by the Mycenaean Civilisation were less impressive – though not all agreed! You can read more about the famous Minoan octopus jars here.

As well as our Minoan exploration, we looked at how in English, we know whether a noun is the subject or object of the sentence by where the word appears in the sentence. In Latin, however, the noun changes to show whether it is object or subject, so the word order is not the way to identify this. We looked at the noun endings for three different noun ‘groups’, and noted that some nouns are feminine, some masculine, and some ‘neuter’.

Next lesson, we will look at chapter three – the next myth in the book!

No homework this week – because of the enormous amount of extra time you put into your labyrinths for last week’s homework, we will have no homework this week.