Drawing Artefacts as Creative Play

by | Nov 26, 2018 | Teaching Archaeology in the Classroom | 0 comments

Painting watercolour illustrations of ancient Andean objects is one of my favourite past times. I love to paint and draw because I find it very relaxing but recently, I discovered that that drawing artefacts also supports my own problem-solving process. As I create these illustrations, my imagination is ignited, while my mind processes threads of information. To give you an example, last week while painting Andean storage pots called ollas and makas, I began to gain new ideas about the possible meaning of patterns, symbols and designs painted on them by Andean craftsmen and I also noticed details that I had previously overlooked.

If you are an educator working with children and teaching history, science or even cultural studies, incorporating artefact drawing into your lesson plan is not only fun activity but will potentially engage different learners in your classroom, such as students, who are action or experienced-based learners. Meanwhile, reconstructing artefacts through art is a wonderful way for helping students to develop word associations; they develop ways to describe objects by considering their shape, texture, colour, size as well as the materials and techniques used to make or shape them.

What is an artefact and how do archaeologists study them?

In addition to recording sites, archaeologists spend time in the laboratory carefully looking at and describing artefacts, which are objects made or shaped by humans. It is rare to find a complete artefact when digging; more often we find what most would call ‘rubbish’, broken and wore pieces and other fragments discarded by people.

In addition to recording sites, archaeologists spend time in the laboratory carefully looking at and describing artefacts, which are objects made or shaped by humans. It is rare to find a complete artefact when digging; more often we find what most would call ‘rubbish’, broken and wore pieces and other fragments discarded by people.

Archaeologists draw artefacts for a range of reasons, such as to create an illustration for a presentation, article or book. These are often technical drawings of artefacts, meaning they are detailed and precise. When I was studying at university, I learned how to draw technically with pen on paper. In more recent times, it has become common for archaeologists to reproduce artefacts digitally, using applications, such as Adobe Illustrator.

Conducting Artefact Analysis in the Classroom

In a classroom, a teacher or educator can facilitate an artefact drawing activity with basic and more elaborate resources. A basic activity could include providing the class photos of artefacts, along with their basic measurements, paper and pens, crayons, textas or even paints. If possible, I strongly recommend that you include an object, such as an artefact replica, related to the topic. In the past, I have given workshops on topics, such as ancient andean music, and used objects, such as ocarinas, small clay whistles, and pan pipes, which I purchased from handmade and online stores on Ebay, and as well as op-shops.

For educators working with children aged between 6 and 8, I recommend that you start the activity by giving each child a blank piece of paper. Then give them the object and/or artefact photo. Don’t tell them what it is, but instead ask them to spend time observing the object, taking in what they notice (e.g. what they see, feel and hear). After five minutes or so, ask your students to draw their object using your chosen medium. This will no doubt produce some interesting and colourful results! One important aim of this activity is to encourage the children to slow down and engage with the artefact. Then, ask your students to write a description of their artefact and/or give a short verbal presentation. This activity can be repeated over time so that you can gradually add other dimensions, such as teaching your students to use rulers and scales, which will show them how to take more precise measurements and consider these when creating their artwork. For older students, who are learning to create more accurate drawings to scale, I suggest you provide them with graph paper.

We have recently posted a few videos of me painting objects on our social media pages to inspire you to have a go at drawing artefacts. Click on our social media tabs to view them.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. Write to us and tell us about your adventures as an ancient explorer in the field or in the classroom.

Share This