Archaeological activities for children in Sydney

Artefacts found during the Fort Phillip excavationsby Irma Havlicek
Powerhouse Museum Web Producer

If you’re in Sydney and wondering what to do with the children in your care these school holidays, why not give them an opportunity to explore an archaeologically themed activity? There are great programs these holidays at Sydney Observatory and the Nicholson Museum. The objects pictured at right were excavated from Fort Phillip at Sydney Observatory.

Sydney Observatory

Children's archaeology program at Sydney ObservatorySydney Observatory (up on Observatory Hill in Millers Point, just above The Rocks in Sydney) offers not only astronomy and meteorological exhibits and programs but also popular hands-on archaeological activities, linked to the archaeological work undertaken in recent years at Fort Phillip, within Sydney Observatory grounds. The excavations revealed substantial, intact foundations of the Fort (built in 1804-1806) and its bomb-proof chamber.

Sydney Observatory archaeology program, 'Digging up the past'
Children enjoying a Sydney Observatory archaeology program. © PHM

The ‘Mini archaeologists in training‘ program takes place on Fridays 3, 10, 17 and 24 January. They need to be booked because numbers are limited to 30. The three activities included in this program are: a simulated archaeological dig, experience sorting and classifying artefacts and a craft activity to make a toy such as were made at the site more than a century ago. Aimed at children aged 6-10 years.

Inside the Signal Station (the building next to Fort Phillip, and also part of Sydney Observatory), there are displays showing some of the military and domestic artefacts uncovered during archaeological excavations at Fort Phillip, such as gun shot, flints, buttons, bones, ceramics and pieces of fine glassware.

Nicholson Museum

Attic black figure amphora c 575-550 BCE
Attic ceramic black figure amphora, c 575-550 BCE, from the collection of, and on display at, the Nicholson Museum
On 13 January 2014, the Nicholson Museum (off the Main Quadrangle of the University of Sydney) is presenting a ‘Magic and mummified crocodiles’ day of events and programs especially for chidren. You can discover the magical powers of the ancient Egyptians, their curses and their mystical objects through storytelling, handling of ancient artefacts and craft activities. You can explore the ancient Egyptian collection and see the mummified baby crocodiles, as well as helping to make and mummify a crocodile, Ancient Egyptian style (11am and 2.30pm). Activities aimed at children 5-12 years will be running from 10am to 4pm. You can stay for as long as you like, and there’s no need to book.

The Nicholson Museum is home to the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere – so it is a fabulous place to visit at any time because of the wonderful objects on view there.

Palaeolithic hand axe, about half a million years old
Palaeolithic stone hand axe, found in what is now the valley of the River Somme at Abbeville, Picardy, France, around 1840. This stone axe is about half a million years old. Imagine being the person who excavated that – possibly the first person to see it in half a million years.

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