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Wrapped up in the ways of early Scots

A resource kit to help children imagine what life was like for Scotland's early inhabitants is now available at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Aimed at six to 12-year-olds visiting the museum's Early People gallery, either in school parties or family groups, the kit is based on the red deer which has existed in Scotland for some 10,000 years and was hunted by nomadic tribes as a source of food, clothing, tools and other essentials.

The kit shows that no part of a red deer was wasted. Antlers were fashioned into hammers, bones were made into needles, sinew was used as thread and hides were used to make clothing, cooking pots and even boats.

"Scotland's early people were incredibly resourceful," says Elspeth Mackay, who was in charge of the Chasing the Deer project.

"Bears also existed in Scotland 10,000 years ago," she points out, "but we decided that deer would be easier to relate to."

The kit's red deer artefacts include clothing and jewellery. There are also replicas of the flint tools, spears, arrows and other equipmnt used by our ancestors in their daily lives. These are contained in a deer-shaped structure, which is based on a design from a Roman pot in the NMS collection.

Chasing the Deer is the most elaborate handling kit produced by the museum and it aims to help visitors make more sense of objects on show. It is even wired for sound, controlled by a remote device. The sounds of wind rustling through the trees in a forest where a deer hunt is about to begin and, after the beast has been caught and killed, of daily life back at the nomad's camp, help set the scene.

Early people's language was created by recording ordinary conversations, then cutting out every other syllable. "They must have had a language," says Ms Mackay, "but we just don't know what it sounded like."

The kit has been designed for work on a variety of projects, including environmental studies and understanding people in the past, and is complemented by a teachers' pack with activity sheets.

For further information, contact NMS education, tel 0131 247 4206

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