We started Threshold 7 of the Big History Project this week (well, maybe a bit last week). Theshold 7 is Agriculture, when populations exceeded the limits that hunting and gathering could support we had to start growing our own food and domesticating animals, this allowed the populations to continue to grow. For class I used another of the It’s About Time archaeology lessons, The Archaeology of Defence, and their slide show on Irish Castles thru the ages. I made a slideshow from the Archaeology of Defense material, talking about the first evidence of people protecting their homes with fosse (fancy word for ditch), banks and palisades (pointy sticks) and the different ways those things could be used. We also talked about how we defend ourselves and our stuff nowadays, including the use of military to protect our country.
The slide show of castles continued to stress the different defensive structures like draw bridges, murder holes, arrow loops, etc. It also discussed how castles changed through the ages as the plague hit, the developement of cannon, etc. There are a few worksheets at the end of each lesson that the kids did at the end of class. The first one involved looking at pictures of different homes/villages from different time periods and listing the form, fabric (what is it made of) and function of each defensive structure. Then they had to point out and label the defensive structures on an enclosed castle and a tower house. These sheets were put in their notebooks.
The most interesting thing I learned from this lesson was that the narrow spiral stairs in castles are always (??) clockwise so that the defender on the top of the stair has the advantage, assuming he’s right handed, since he will be able to freely swing his sword, while an attacker coming up the stairs would not be able to do much at all with his right arm. Guess you need to send the lefties up the stairwell in an attack.
For homework I asked the kids to build their own castle or tower house in Minecraft or with real legos if they preferred. They could also just draw one if they like. However they build it, I want them to put in some of the defensive structures we learned about.