Exploring Ancient Medicine!

During the pandemic, we were invited to take part in a cross-Faculty collaborative project to support the GCSE History paper Health and the People, designed and led by our amazing University Library Education Outreach team in collaboration with the Great North Museum. This resulted in an in-person exhibition at the Great North Museum (which you can still visit on Level 1!) as well as an accompanying online exhibition for those further afield:

Our own Dr S Holton delivered online talks for local pupils on ancient medical beliefs as part of the project, using key objects from the museum’s collections. But the most exciting part was when the outreach team were asked to deliver some family-friendly activities at the museum over February half-term! We couldn’t wait! We had so many ideas – some messier than others! – but eventually settled on activities linked to the exhibition artefacts.

Ancient Egypt

We decided to showcase a very exciting Magic Wand from Ancient Egypt, on loan to the Great North Museum from the collections at the British Museum:

This is an apotropaic wand – a fancy word meaning it was used to keep bad luck away! It is made from ivory and dedicated to the goddess Taweret. Taweret is the Ancient Egyptian goddess of fertility and childbirth. If you’ve seen Disney’s Moon Knight, you’ll recognise her as the very cheery hippo goddess:

Along with colouring and cutting Ancient Egyptian god/goddess masks, we thought everyone could use a magic wand – especially one which doubles as a handy bookmark! Using a simple hieroglyph chart, we helped children spell their names out on a bright yellow piece of card. We were so impressed with the many amazing magic wands we saw — hopefully they will bring you plenty of good luck, too!

Ancient Greece & Rome

For our second activity, we decided to focus on the anatomical votives left at the sanctuaries of Asclepius. This seemed like a good excuse to make something fun while also teaching kids the Ancient Greek alphabet – and it was very popular! There were two options: cutting out colourful body parts or getting messy with some rainbow clay, then adding your name in Ancient Greek. They looked fantastic at the end of the day at our Temple to Asclepius, especially with their neatly written Ancient Greek labels!

A huge thank you to everyone who came along and crafted ancient artefacts with us – we had such an amazing day. And especially thanks to the lovely team at the Great North Museum for letting us unleash ancient chaos for two days straight!

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