How do we know about Prehistory?

Prehistory is a time before written accounts. The only way we can find out about life is by looking at the evidence we find. We have found evidence of prehistoric life at lots of places in Northumberland National Park so it is very important for us to try to understand more about the people who lived in the park before us.

Sometimes the things that have been left behind are the remains of buildings, sometimes it is carvings on rocks and sometimes it is rubbish that was thrown away. Archaeologists find the pieces of evidence and gradually build up a picture of what life was like in the past. However, there are details missing as not everything has survived.

Cup and Ring marked rock on Lordenshaws near Rothbury, Northumberland, England

Cup and Ring marked rock on Lordenshaws near Rothbury, Northumberland, England

Activity: Let your rubbish speak!

Imagine someone wanted to find out what you have been up to today but can’t speak to you. They can only examine your rubbish.

Please be careful doing this activity! It will be better to use your recycling bin as this rubbish has usually been washed. If you are feeling brave, have gloves and space you can tip the bin onto a plastic bag to look at it. If you don’t have space you can just lift the lid on the bin and look at what is on the top. Make sure you put the rubbish back in the bin and wash your hands properly!!

What is in the bin? What would it tell people about your day?

Write down what you found and what your rubbish would tell people. Now think about things you have done that there is no evidence of in the rubbish. How would people know about the extra activities? The missing pieces are sometimes very important.

Think about what evidence would survive. When artefacts are found from Roman or Stone Age what materials are they made from? So which materials survive thousands of years and which don’t?

Activity: what would be found?

Draw a picture of yourself wearing either your clothes today or your favourite outfit. Draw a bag beside you with the things you would need for a day out.

Write a list beside your pictures of everything you are wearing or in your bag. Remember to include anything in your pockets like money or even jewellery.

Now imagine that there is a massive earthquake and you are buried. A thousand years have passed and an archaeologist has discovered you and your bag on their excavation site. Write a list of the things that have survived. Compare it to your first list.

Additional Activities

Find a bag belonging to someone in your house (ask them first!!) and empty the contents onto the floor. What do the contents tell you? What can you infer? For example, is there a gym membership card? Is there a library card? Or a travel pass? Or are there any receipts? For which shops?

Choose a person from history or your favourite book or film character. Imagine what items they might have in their bags, make a list or draw pictures of the items and ask members of your family to guess who it is. Here are three I thought of:

Person 1: A wand, a pair of glasses, a potion bottle, a red and yellow striped scarf.

Person 2: An oil lamp, some bandages, an owl, a lace cap.

Person 3: Marmalade sandwiches, a luggage label, a letter addressed to The Browns.

A map showing Northumberland National Park and the north east of England

Research some of the prehistoric sites which can be found in Northumberland or around the world. What has been found? What has it told us about life in the past? Some of the ones in Northumberland National Park are Lordenshaws, Belshiel Law, Yeavering Bell and Brough Law. Can you find information about those sites? Can you find out any others in Northumberland?  Put the places you find on a map.

Explore this website to see some amazing 3D recreations of prehistoric artefacts and sites from around Northumberland.

We would love to see any writing or pictures of places you have found out about or been able to visit; our email address is [email protected].

(My bags belonged to: 1. Harry Potter 2. Florence Nightingale 3. Paddington Bear)