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Brighton school children build replica Neolithic house

Children have built a Neolithic-style chalk house in the grounds of a Brighton primary school.

Youngsters from ten schools took part in the project, with the chalk house due to be officially opened in a ceremony next Thursday (24 March).

It has been built in the grounds of Moulsecoomb Primary School in The Highway, Brighton, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The house has been built in the same way as it would have been built nearly 5,000 years ago.

Pupils had help from specialists from the East Sussex Archaeology and Museums Partnership during the nine-month project.

They also took part in a Time Team style archaeological dig in the school grounds, unearthing

  • flint tools from up to 7,000 years ago
  • Roman pottery
  • Mediaeval oyster shells
  • Victorian clay pipes
  • ha’penny coins from nearly 100 years ago

The house is the first of its type to be reconstructed in Britain and relied on evidence uncovered at Durrington Walls near Stonehenge.

A group of youngsters from Moulsecoomb went on a fact-finding visit to Stonehenge to learn more.

The project gave pupils hands-on experience of

  • ancient building techniques
  • growing and learning about old crops and early farming
  • using flints to make fire
  • making clay pots
  • looking at clothes worn from the period
  • learning the skills of being an archaeologist

The roughly circular building features wattle walls and a compressed chalk floor.

Children helped construct the wattle walls.

They bent hazel strips around a frame before crushing chalk into a powder, adding water to make a sticky chalk paste, and pushing it into the wattle framework.

The Neolithic period was the first during which farming took place in Britain.

To learn more about this period, pupils planted and harvested stone-age crops, processed them and used the flour to make bread.

Moulsecoomb head Charles Davies said: “It’s been an amazing project – real get-your-hands-dirty stuff.

“It’s been great fun, and the children have learnt so much.

“It’s also been wonderful having the wider community involved.”

Tristan Bareham, chief executive officer of Sussex Past, said that the Neolithic house was one of the most exciting archaeological projects in Britain.

He said: “The excavated building was exceptionally well preserved and this has allowed us to create a building which has not been seen in this country for almost 5,000 years.

“This project has created not only a wonderful long-term resource for the school but has answered a number of important questions about buildings at this key time in our history.”

Brighton and Hove City Council cabinet member for children and young people, Councillor Vanessa Brown, said: “Seeing local children right at the centre of what experts have described as one of the most exciting archaeological projects in Britain has been really inspiring.”

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