Amgueddfa Blog: Learning

As palaeontology curators, we have the privilege of working with the Museum’s vast fossil collections.  From trilobites to tree ferns, ammonites to mammoths, corals to dinosaurs, they are individually fascinating and beautiful.  Collectively, they are the evidence that allows us to chronicle life on Earth going back over 500 million years.  When faced with such prehistoric riches on a daily basis, it is easy to take fossils for granted.  In reality, each and every fossil in the Museum is one of the lucky ones.  Most of the countless animals and plants that have ever lived on this planet did not become fossils.  Many things can happen to prevent something becoming a fossil – it can be eaten, torn apart by scavengers, rotted away or cooked by the Earth’s hot core.  Fossilization is a rare event, which requires the chance coming together of a series of circumstances and conditions.  When you realise this, you cannot look at a fossil without feeling wonder and awe that it exists at all.

In the Palaeontology section of the Natural Sciences Department we decided to develop an activity which would allow people to explore how and when fossilization happens.  With the support of a Geological Society grant, we produced a board game called ‘Fossilization Frenzy’, which we launched at our ‘Biology and Geology Rock!’ event, held to celebrate Earth Science Week and National Biology Week in October 2016.  The game invites people to choose one of four animals that lived in the Jurassic seas, around 200 million years ago, and the aim is to see if their animal can become fossilized and end up on display in the Museum. 

Visit our Learning resource page to download the Fossilization Frenzy game

Given the unlikelihood of fossilization, there are many trials and tribulations along the way, and the chances of winning are not as high as with most board games.  There were also valuable lessons to be learnt in choosing your animal wisely – if you choose the insubstantial jellyfish, then the odds are going to be stacked against you.  We found that the game generated a healthy level of competition between classmates and family members of all ages, and many participants played several times until they succeeded in making it into that coveted fossil display case. 

Following the enthusiastic response to the game from family groups at the ‘Biology and Geology Rock!’ event, we delivered it to school groups at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival in May 2017, as part of the Palaeontological Association’s outreach programme.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that ‘Fossilization Frenzy!’ was as well received by teenagers on Secondary Schools Day as it was by younger children on Primary Schools Day.  There were many more enthusiastic players across the weekend when the festival was open to the public, including several adults unaccompanied by children.  Clearly the desire to become immortalised in stone crosses age and generational boundaries!  The game has since been successfully delivered to primary school groups and general public at the Yorkshire Fossil Festival in Scarborough (September 2017).  It was also trialled by our Learning team at the Association of Science Educators Conference, and the Welsh language version was used as part of our outreach work on the Jurassic Earth Timescale Project in North Wales (October 2017).

After receiving several requests for the board game from teachers we have now available for download as a pdf file.  The game is available in Welsh language, English language and bilingual versions.  Follow this link to find out more about the learning aims of the game and to access the downloadable pdfs.

Play Fossilization Frenzy now

Lucy McCobb, Caroline Buttler, Trevor Bailey and Cindy Howells

4,830 pupils from across the UK are to be awarded Super Scientist certificates on behalf of Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, in recognition for their contribution to the Spring Bulbs for Schools Investigation.

A big congratulations to you all! Thank you for working so hard planting, observing, measuring and recording, you really are Super Scientists! Each one of you will receive a Super Scientist certificate and pencil, these will be sent to your school by the end of May.

Many thanks to The Edina Trust for funding this project.

Super Scientist Winners 2018

Schools to be awarded certificates:

To receive Super Scientist certificates and pencils.

Schools with special recognition:

To be awarded certificates, pencils and sunflower seeds.

Highly commended schools:

To be awarded certificates, pencils, sunflower seeds and surprise seeds.

Runners-up:

To be awarded certificates, pencils, a variety of seeds and gift vouchers.

Winners 2018:

Each will receive certificates, pencils, seeds and a prize for the class!

Hello everyone, my name’s Eirini and I am a student intern in the Archaeology and Numismatics department at NMW, Cardiff. This post is the second in my series of blogs on the numismatics collection at the Museum. Last time I took a look at the collection of Ancient Greek coins and this week I am back to examine the Roman coin collection.

While the Ancient Greeks never set foot in Wales, the Romans invaded in AD 48 so there have been a great deal of Roman coins found and reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Here are a few of my favourites from the collections.

Hoard of silver denarii found in Wick, Vale of Glamorgan (c. AD 165)

The 2 oldest coins date back to the Republic and are both coins of Mark Anthony while the rest date to the Empire. The front side of all of the Empire coins have portraits of an emperor, ranging from Nero (AD 54-68) to Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180).

The most interesting aspect of this coin hoard is the variety of reverse designs on them! There are many coins dating to the reigns of Vespasian (AD 69-79) and Trajan (AD 98-117). These coins predominately feature deities and personifications on their reverse sides. Some examples of the deities featured include Jupiter, Hercules and Mars. One design that sticks out to me is the personification of peace (Pax) holding an olive branch, sceptre and cornucopia (a horn that symbolises abundance). Other personifications include Pietas (duty) and Felicitas (good fortune).

There is an extensive variety of other reverse types on the coins including representations of the emperor and his family, types of military conquest and victories, legionary types, geographical imagery, architecture, animals and propaganda.

I like how varied the imagery is on these Roman coins as later coins found in Sully (c. AD 320), Bridgend (c. AD 310) and Llanbethery (c. AD 350) as well as our modern coins tend to have the same, repeated imagery on their reverse.

Sully Hoard of copper-alloy coins (c. AD 320)

This hoard is one of the largest hoards of Roman coins found in Wales. An incredible 5913 coins were discovered in two locations, 3 metres apart in the South Wales coastal village of Sully.

The latest coins from this collection all have the same reverse design regardless of where they were minted, from London to Rome –they represent an early single currency with a standardised design not found in the earlier hoards.

However, the designs on these coins are more crude and less detailed than the earlier Roman finds.

Hello Bulb Buddies,

Thank you to all schools who have entered their flower data! Remember to make sure the dates entered are correct and that the height has been entered in millimetres! We have had a few flowers reported for April and lots of very short crocus and daffodils!

If you spot that your entries need amending, just re-enter them to the website with a comment to explain that the new entry is to replace a previous one.

I have enjoyed reading the comments that have been sent with the weather and flower data! I’ve attached some of these below.

Last year an interesting question was raised by Stanford in the Vale Primary, who asked whether they needed to enter multiple flower records if the height and flowering date were the same for each? It is still important to enter this flower data, as the number of flowers at a particular height and particular date will impact on the overall averages for the project.

To work out your schools mean flowering height for the crocus and daffodil, add all of your crocus or daffodil heights together and divide by the number of entries for that flower.

If you have one flower at 200mm and one at 350mm the mean would be 275mm. If you have one flower at 200mm and ten flowers at 350mm your mean flower height would be 336mm. This is why it is important that you enter all of your flower records.

Every flower record is important and impacts on the overall results. If your plant hasn’t grown by the end of March, please send in a flower record without a date or height and explain this in the comment section. If your plant has grown but hasn’t produced a flower by the end of March please enter the height without a date and explain this in the comments section.

Keep the questions coming Bulb Buddies! There are resources and activities on the website to help you. Once your plant has flowered, why not draw it and label the different parts of the plant? I would love to see photos of your drawings and will post any that are sent in on my next Blog!

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!

Professor Plant

Hi, Eirini here – I am a student intern in the Archaeology and Numismatics department at NMW, Cardiff. I’ve been taking a look at the museum’s extensive coin collection and will be creating a series of blogs on each of them.

Today I am looking at ancient coins from my home country of Greece. The collection of Greek coinage dates back to over 2000 years ago, but the designs are in great condition. They are all made of silver or gold and we can see the development of currency through them – beginning with rough coins that look like ingots to detailed chunky coins featuring Emperors faces, some from Macedonia and Byzantium as well as famous leaders like Alexander the Great.

I’ve picked my two favourite coins from the collection:

Alexander the Great, Macedonian Drachma

4 Drachum from Pella, Macedonia (dating to 315BC) features Alexander wearing a lion skin, the symbol of Greek hero Hercules, on the front with Alexander’s name inscribed on the back next to an image of Zeus. This design was mimicked by Emperors following Alexander’s death.

I like that this coin is in such good condition. We can see the details of Alexander’s face – it’s impressive considering the tools they had! You can read the inscription clearly despite how old it is.

Byzantine Empress Theodora, Constantinople Nomisma

 A gold tetarteron dating from the reign of Theodora (AD 1055-1056) featuring a portrait of Theodora holding a sceptre and orb, on the other side is a depiction of Jesus Christ. The same iconography of Jesus was used on other Byzantine emperors’ coins, but with their own portraits in place of Theodora’s.

I like how this coin is also in great condition, however, the artwork is much simpler on Byzantine coins with less intricate detailing.

Next week, I will be looking at some Roman coins - a common metal detectorist find in Wales. Greek coins, unfortunately, aren't found in Wales as Greece never invaded the British Isles! Remember to always report any findings to the Portable Antiquities Scheme to allow us to keep learning from the past.