We have talked before about the archaeological databases that exist for every area of the country, mostly called Historic Environment Records. These are consulted by planning and commercial archaeologists (see our booklet, How Archaeology Works) before houses, roads and the like are built so that any known archaeology can be noted in the planning consent, perhaps with a requirement to excavate it.
Teachers have always been welcome to consult their local HER, which has details of all archaeology from Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) onwards. But written sources, historical images and one or two famous historic sites (Hadrian’s Wall for the Romans, Hampton Court for the Tudors etc…) have generally predominated in the teaching of these periods before the new curriculum. Now, there are one or two very famous sites mentioned in the non-statutory guidance for the Changes in Britain from the Stone Age to Iron Age topic too. What is very heartening, however, is that most of the teachers Schools Prehistory has talked to want to teach about their local prehistoric sites, not just Stonehenge and Skara Brae.
Well, the HERs are the place to go to find out about these local sites. Most HER’s have a basic online database, accessible through Heritage Gateway, where you can search your parish for sites and finds of a particular period. Some HERs have gone further and produced period overviews for their local area and more.
If you’re in Surrey, go to Exploring Surrey’s Past and look at the overviews of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age), Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age, Neolithic (New Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. There are some nice illustrations to bring the periods to life as well.
If you’re in north Devon near Exmoor National Park, take a look at their HER, which also has period overviews for the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age. They also have a loan box free to schools with replica Mesolithic and Bronze Age objects.
In Buckinghamshire, Unlocking Buckinghamshire’s Past has period overviews for the whole county, summaries of the archaeology in each parish, a timeline for the county, and a glossary of archaeological terms so if you ever come across a word you don’t know, you can look it up there. Loan boxes were created for the Schools Library Service.
West Yorkshire HER and archaeological advice service has lots of images of prehistoric sites on their website.
Is your HER not mentioned here? Let us know and we’ll add you to the list of HERs with useful resources for teachers teaching Changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age.