Ted's teaching tips

30th March 2001 at 01:00
Buried or sunken treasure has always had an exciting appeal for children. This cleverly taken picture shows the triumph of discovery, but is the aftermath as simple as it seems, and should treasure belong to the finder?

Antiquity Think of some older civilisations that fascinate people nowadays (Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Arabic, Chinese, Jewish, Indian, Inca, ancient Britain). Why do we find them interesting (curious about our past, retell stories from history about human endeavour, tragedy, triumph)? What survives from them in solid form (statues, buildings, temples, houses, manuscripts and scrolls, jewellery, weapons, clothing even)? What did we get from them (the foundations of modern science, medicine, mathematics, literature and the arts, philosophy)? Think of groups and individuals whose contributions to our society have lasted, such as Arab mathematicians, Egyptian astronomers, Hippocrates (medicine), Roman lawmakers and road builders, Plato and Aristotle (philosophy).

Treasure Why is treasure hunting an exciting pastime (thrill of finding the unknown, something historic or worth a lot of money)? Should such finds belong to the individual who finds them or to the nation? Do you know of any famous archaeological finds (Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt, discovered in 1922, perfectly intact after 3,300 years, now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo)? How do archaeologists work (painstaking digging and piecing together what they find; delicate brushing and sieving so as not to lose or damage anything; checking historical documents and accounts to vrify events)?

Statuary Why do people erect statues (to honour someone or an event, to decorate a place)? What is commonly depicted (famous individuals, such as heads of state, artists, generals; historic moments; the lifestyle of the age)? Do statues last forever (some erode because of weathering and become unrecognisable, others are pulled down or destroyed if the person or scene falls out of fashion or offends a future generation for some reason)? Use Plasticine or clay to make a classical bust like the one in the picture.

Writing Imagine you are swimming in the sea on holiday when you discover an ancient statue in the sand. What is it? How old is it? How did it get there? Tell the story of what you do and what happens afterwards.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University


Should the British Museum return the Elgin Marbles to Greece?


They are an important feature of the Parthenon, one of the most important buildings in the world, where they belong. Lord Elgin was able to purchase them when national treasures were not appreciated, but times have changed. Millions of tourists would see them in their natural setting. A museum is not the right place.


They were bought legitimately by Lord Elgin and have been in Britain for nearly 200 years. Museums can't simply return their exhibits to the country of origin. Millions of people who can't visit Greece have seen them in the British Museum. Collecting and transporting antiquities is acceptable, if done legally.

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