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Hands-on look at buried treasures

Getting your hands dirty isn't something that is usually encouraged at school but pupils from Cardiff got a chance to get down in the mud as part of a project to learn about the past.

Year 6 children from Kitchener primary school went back in time to discover hidden treasure, and even buried their own, at an archaeological dig in the Museum of Welsh Life at St Ffagan's.

Using authentic archaeological techniques, the arranged dig allowed pupils to learn how to record their findings and preserve the ground. Experts were on hand to show them how to gently scrape away the earth to reveal objects, before sketching them and trying to guess the age of each object.

Hardeep Singh, 10, said: "We had to wear special gloves and I found pottery and gold. It taught me that lots of old things are precious."

Classmate Joshua Shepherd, 11, said: "There were lots of things to dig up.

I found axe-heads. There weren't any dinosaurs, though."

The dig at St Ffagan's was the second stage of a project organised by the National Museum and Galleries of Wales. Pupils had previously visited the Buried Treasure exhibition at the National Museum in Cardiff which features some of the country's most important British treasures, such as the Mildenhall tableware, the Ringlemere gold cup, the Amesbury Archer and Wales's very own Tregwynt coin hoard.

Kenneth Brassil, archaeology education officer at the National Museum and Galleries of Wales, said: "Teachers have often said how great it would be if the children could be involved in an archaeological dig. I wanted them to be able to see the whole process, so we thought the dig in conjunction with a visit to the Buried Treasure exhibition would be a good idea. I'm really looking forward to seeing the results."

Year 6 teacher Liz Bailey described both visits as an "excellent teaching tool" with huge potential for school history projects. "It was a good opportunity for children to learn about the profession of archaeology," she said. "They were able to see, from start to finish, how objects from the past are found before being displayed."

One of the highlights of the day for the children was the chance to bury their "own" treasure at St Ffagan's. Deer figurines created by artist Richard Powell were given to them to bury in 2m deep-bore holes within the museum's grounds. "This area will be sacrosanct," said Mr Brassil. "And maybe one day, if someone excavates here at St Ffagan's, these unusual items will be found."

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