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The mystery of the Neolithic stone balls.

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One of the things I love about the Neolithic is the number of totally weird things that have been found. And for most of these we have absolutely  no idea at all what they were used for. Like stone circles, man made hills, deer skulls that might have been worn as masks, and knobbly stone balls. Yes, knobbly stone balls. Look at  this beautiful example from 3200 – 2500BC which was found in Aberdeenshire.

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You can also see some real ones at the British Museum.

Almost 400 of these balls have been found, most of them in Scotland, including five from Skara Brae. Most of them are around 7cm in diameter and almost half of them have six knobs, though some have less and some have more. The are all symmetrical and some were decorated with spirals and other patterns.

No-one really has any clue as to what these balls are all about, but here are some of the ideas that archaeologists have had:

  1. they were used as weapons – maybe swung round in a leather strap then flung
  2. they were used as balls in a game
  3. they were weights
  4. they were used to help in the construction of stone circles somehow
  5. they were used in rituals of some sort

They must have taken a very long time to make, and some were incredibly beautiful, buying cytotec which makes me think they must have been precious objects. Very few of them are damaged or chipped which makes it less likely that they were chucked about. We thought we would try and made some of our own to see if that would give us any ideas.

Make your own Neolithic stone balls

Take a lump of air drying clay about the size of a tennis ball and roll in into a sphere.

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Next, work out where your knobs will be. If you are making a six knob one, you will need three pairs of knobs, with one knob on either side of the sphere, like sides of a dice. Now you can carve out the knobs using a modelling tool (or your fingers).

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Once your knobs have been carved you can smooth them out bit with a finger dipped in water and then decorate them.  You could make spirals, or use something else to make a pattern. My daughter rolled hers around on a cheese grater (as you do.)

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There, your balls are finished. They are lovely to hold in your hand, and it is very tempting to roll them along the ground or play bowls with them. What do you think? Do you have any other ideas? You never know – maybe you could be right!

 

 

 

 

Have a stone age feast

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OK, for this we will have go back in time a long, long way…way back before supermarkets, shops, bakeries, bags of crisps and sweets. In fact, we have to back to a time before there were any houses, fridges, saucepans or even pots! In the old stone age (also called the palaeolithic), if you wanted something to eat, you would’ve had to find it, or catch it for yourself!

So what did they eat? The people during this period of time were hunter gatherers. They hunted animals with spears then ate them, and used their skins and bones to make clothes and tools. They also would have caught and eaten fish, shellfish, insects (like grasshoppers and grubs) and reptiles like lizards or tortoises. Have a look at this evidence for a palaeolithic feast.

They gathered wild fruits and berries, and nuts would have been a good source of energy. Vegetables as we know them today did not exist – when did you last come across a wild carrot? But they cytotec cheap price would have foraged for edible plants, and there is evidence that they ate things like ferns and cattails (a marshland reed) which has lots of energy in its roots.

Have a palaeolithic feast!

Collect a selection of things that cave men would have eaten. Some ideas are:

  • Some roast or barbecued meat (or you could cook some on the fire)
  • Shellfish or baked fish
  • Fruit – apples, pears, berries (even better if you go out and pick them from the hedgerows!)
  • Nuts – you could have some hazelnuts, walnuts or anything else you can find.
  • Salad leaves

stone age food, cave man, palaeolithic diet

See if you can make a bonfire somewhere to sit around and share the food. You will have to eat with your fingers. You could maybe wrap some fruit or fish in tinfoil and cook it in the embers of the fire. Wrap up warm in some animal furs (or blankets if you don’t have any), look up at the stars, and stay close to the fire so the cave lions don’t get you.

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Make a Cake Henge

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A henge is a type of earthwork that was popular during the Neolithic or New Stone Age. It is basically  a circular or oval ditch surrounded by a bank of earth. In the centre is a round or oval area which sometimes contained standing stones or wooden posts. Stonehenge is a fine example of a henge.

No-one is really sure what they were used for, but guesses include; being used for rituals or religious ceremonies, as monuments to the dead,  or as observatories to look at the stars and moon. Some of them have their entrance ways pointing to the North East so that the sun will rise through the gap in the bank on midsummers day.

This is a fun way to build your very own henge:

You will need

  • one large sponge cake – it need to be quite large in diameter – ours was in a 22cm cake tin.
  • some icing (fairly stiff)
  • a packet of chocolate fingers
  • one jelly baby

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First excavate the ditch. Leave a 2cm border round the outside of the cake then dig out a ditch in a circle – we did this using a teaspoon. Remember to leave a space for the entrance. Stick the cake you have dig out onto the outside of the cake buy ventolin using some of the icing to make the bank.

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At Woodhenge in England, a child burial was found at the centre of the henge. Dig a small hole in the centre of the cake and bury the jelly baby. Now you can spread icing over the centre of the cake and the ditch. If you had a firmer cake you could maybe ice the bank too, but ours was just too crumbly!

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Now you can erect some wooden poles (chocolate fingers). My kids couldn’t resist putting some lintel stones on the top too. I think sponge fingers would make good stones if you fancy making a stonehenge instead.

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Finished! See who gets the piece with the jelly baby (this caused a bit of a fight in our house).

Sorry this is not the healthiest of projects – I’m sure you could also make a good henge with mashed potatoes and sausages too. If all this cake has been too much, keep an eye out for next weeks project – eating like a cave man for the day!

 

A day trip to the palaeolithic

This summer we were in the South of Spain for our holiday and one afternoon, when we had had enough lounging about we took a trip to a place nearby that had been recommended several times in the visitor book at our campsite. It was called the Cueva de la Pileta and we supposed it was a big cave system. This sounded like a interesting thing to see so we made our way there and found ourselves climbing up a hill and hanging around for a while waiting for enough people to turn up for the guide to take us in.

Cueva de la pileta

Once we were let into the dark cool chamber the guide explained that we were going to see, not just a big cave system, but one that had been inhabited more than 30,000 years ago. Artefacts and evidence of fire had been found in the outer caves, but more than that, deep in the cave they had found cave paintings.

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We followed the guide into the cave, down slippy passageways, in the pitch dark with a few of our party carrying small lanterns. The moving lights cast shadows on the walls as we passed huge chambers, clear pools and sparkling white stalactites and stalagmites. We had been walking slowly for a good twenty minutes before we got to the furthest point, after cytotec online pharmacy which the floor was too unstable to walk on. And there, when the guide held his torch up in the huge chamber we could make out hundreds of paintings on the walls, done back at the time of the last ice age.

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Palaeolithic paintings from the Cave of Altamira in Spain

 

It was an amazing experience, and it really made us think about life way back in the Palaeolithic. Before seeing this cave I had thought that cave paintings were just paintings of animals and hunting scenes. But now it is more mysterious to me than ever. What on earth was this all about? It must have been frightening walking deep down into these slippy, cold, narrow passageways lit by nothing but some flickering torches. Certainly my daughter was claustrophobic and wanted to get out! The sparkling caverns must have seemed magical. Why did they choose to make paintings so deep in the caves where no-one ever lived? What did the paintings mean?

So we left the cave with many more questions than we went in with, and a need to find out more about the people who lived there. Not bad for an afternoons trip!

If you ever find yourself with an afternoon to spare in the Ronda region of Spain make sure you give these caves a visit.

 

Make a stone age necklace

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Fabulous jewellery has been found at stone age sites such as this one at Skara Brae, a Neolithic site in Orkney in Scotland. It is made from bone and tusks – they used many kinds of bones including tusks from wild boar which they would have hunted.

Here is how to make your very own Stone Age Necklace:

You will need:

  • Some white air drying clay or modelling dough
  • Something to make holes with – a thin paint brush will work well.
  • Elastic or string to thread through your beads.

Start by making the tusks! Take a piece of dough about the size of your finger. Roll it into a sausage shape then taper off one end to make a sharp point.

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You can give it a slight cytotec order curve to make it look more realistic.

Next use the pointed end of a paint brush to make a hole at the widest end of the tusk.

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The other beads are meant to look like pieces of bone – roll some smaller pieces of dough into a shape like a small marshmallow. Again use the paint brush to make a hole through it.

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Leave all the beads to dry.

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When the beads are dry you can thread them with the elastic or string.

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Wear it and go out hunting, or impress your neighbours at the next feast.

Find out more about Skara Brae at this fantastic website and help make some beads for virtual necklace.

 

Make stone age paint

 

Cave Lions from Chauvet Cave

Cave Lions from Chauvet Cave

 

[Disclaimer: OK this is a bit of a messy one! You have been warned. It might be a good idea to do it outside.]

Amazing stone age paintings have been found in caves in Britain France and Spain. Some of them are thought to have been done as far back as an amazing 40,000 years ago during the last Ice Age! Studies done on the paintings found that the paints were made of mixtures of ground up rock minerals or charcoal, and animal fats. The animal fats soaked into the rock allowing archaeologists to date the paintings using radiocarbon dating.They give us a glimpse into life in a different era with pictures of animals which are now extinct.

How to make Stone Age Paint

You will need:

  • some charcoal – we used the remains of a piece of wood from the fire
  • some fat or oil – we used vegetable oil
  • a mortar and pestle or some rocks to grind with.

First grind the charcoal up a finely as possible in the mortar and pestle.

make stone age paint using charcoal

Add some oil to form a liquid with a paint like consistency. It will probably be still a little gritty but that is fine.

grind up the charcoal with oil

Now you can try it out. Try painting using sticks or feathers. This is quite hard! It is easiest to paint with a very buy cytotec pills fine brush. Try drawing some stick figures, animals or symbols.

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Other ideas to try out

  • Try using different pigments if you can find any near you. Red coloured clay or ground up coloured stones might also make good paint.
  • Try other binding agents like water, eggs or saliva!
  • Try painting on stones or pebbles.
  • Try telling a story or leaving someone a message using a cave painting (no words!)
  • Try painting by candlelight! Really! A lot of the cave paintings are found deep in very dark cave systems and would have had to be done by torch light.

What does it all mean?

Now imagine it was 30,000 years ago. You are being led through a cave down narrow damp passages, with only flickering torch light to see where you are going. Stalactites and stalagmites are throwing weird shadows on the the walls of the caverns. After walking into the mountain for half an hour you come  to a huge echoing chamber. There are some men huddled near one of the walls. They have some bowls and brushes and are painting the walls. Why do think they are doing it? What do the painting and symbols mean? Who is meant to see the paintings? Why are they so deep in the cave system?

No-one really knows for sure but it is fun to wonder isn’t it?

What do you think?

 

Make a Stone Age Pot

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Pottery in Britian first appeared in the Neolithic (or late Stone Age) at around the same time that people started farming.

We are making a pot similar to ‘Grooved Ware’ which has been found in British Neolithic sites from Orkney in Scotland to Stonhenge in England.

The pots were made out of clay and decorated with geometric patterns while the clay was still wet.

How to make a stone age pot

You will need:

  • Air drying clay or other modelling material
  • A bowl of water
  • Tools – in the stone age they might have used bone, flint or wooden tools. Why not try finding a sharp twig?
  • Somewhere flat to roll out the clay which can be easily cleaned

Start by rolling out a small circle of clay about 0.5cm thick and cut out a circle – this will make the base of your pot. Roll the rest of the clay into a long sausage shape about 1cm thick. Using water as a glue to stick the clay together, start to wind the sausage round the base and build it upwards into a bowl shape.

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One you have got the basic shape, dip your fingers in water and smooth the inside and outside of the bowl as much as you can. You can then cytotec level off the top of the bowl to make it even.

Next, decorate the outside of the bowl. Stone age people made repeated geometric patterns in circles around the outside. you can look at images on the internet to get ideas or make up your own. Zig zags, lines and dots were all used.

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If younger children find making the bowl too difficult then they will still have great fun making designs in a flat piece of clay which is much easier.

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Once your design has dried you can use it. What do you think the Neolithic people would have used it for?

Some archaeologists think bowls like yours might have been used in rituals and ceremonies as they have been found in special places called Henges where they think ceremonies might have taken place. You could use your to collect some wild berries and have a stone age feast!

If you would like to learn more about ancient pottery have a look at this video which shows how pottery was first made.

How did you get on ?