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VCU Archaeology

Frozen Charlotte Pawn to Adena Bishop! Playing with the Past at the Richmond Waldorf School

by Bernard K. Means, Director

bkm_2014-05-07 09.39.04Yesterday, May 7, 2014, found me at the 4th grade classroom of Katie Bullington of the Richmond Waldorf School to talk about virtual curation and 3D printing of the past.  I was assisted by current Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) student Lauren Hogg, who has a strong interest and passion in teaching young children about archaeology.  I was put in touch with Katie by James T. Parrish, Director of Foundation Relations at VCU, after he saw a story about our archaeological chess pieces. 

I spoke to Katie’s classroom about 3D artifact scanning and printing, focusing on how this technology can be used for sharing information between researchers, teaching students of all ages about the past with replicas of rare or fragile artifacts, and how we can use digital models and printed versions of known objects to identify the unknown.


I spent some time on replicas of objects from Jamestown Rediscovery because I knew the class had been there the week before.  I talked about the Starving Time and  passed around a painted replica of a butchered dog mandible, and showed a digital animation of a butchered horse tibia on my tablet computer–both objects were scanned in the archaeology laboratory run by Jamestown Rediscovery.

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And, I gave the class one of our archaeological chess sets.  I talked about each piece to the class, explaining the historical significance and archaeological context of the objects.  These included the pawn (a frozen Charlotte doll from Washington, D.C. and courtesy of D.C. archaeology), the rook (a deer phalanx or toe bone from a modern animal provided by the Virginia Museum of Natural History), a bishop (Adena point from and courtesy of George Washington’s Ferry Farm), and the king and queen (headless figurines of a man and a woman from and courtesy of George Washington’s Mount Vernon).

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Just before we left, I set up the white pieces on the board, and a young student quickly volunteered to set up the black pieces.  Students from throughout the classroom jumped up to play a quick game.

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Certainly a rewarding experience for Lauren and I and we look forward to engaging in the future with these and other young explorers of the past.

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Bernard Means and Lauren Hogg by the door to the classroom.

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