Ronan Graves, five, budding archaeologist/ palaentologist/ military historian - you name it! Photo: Graham Corney.
24 Hour Museum Renaissance Student Journalist Catherine Rose got the scoop as a raft of Fabulous Finds arrived in Norfolk on April 30.
Fabulous Finds Day at Roots of Norfolk in Gressenhall had many keen young excavators arriving before the 11am start ready for the region’s curators and experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme to shed some light on their discoveries.
Budding archaeologist Ronan Graves, aged five from Gorleston on Sea, brought in his precious box of treasures which he keeps in his bedroom.
“He’s always digging and bringing me things,” his mum Dawn explained. “He’s been collecting since the age of three.”
Tony Irwin, collector of Natural History at Norwich Castle Museum, had the exciting task of rooting through Ronan’s finds. These included military artefacts, bellamites, a gryphea fossil (or devil’s toenail), a 70 million year-old sponge, a piece of coking coal he found in his garden just last week possibly dating back 250 million years, and a 100 million year-old ammonite.
Ronan's fabulous collection gets the once over from an expert. Photo: Graham Corney.
After these amazing discoveries, Ronan whispered to his mum: “I would like them in the museum rather than my house.”
“He’s interested in everything,” said an impressed Tony. “He’s very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and a great collector. I can see him working as a curator in a museum one day.”
Ronan’s mum and his Grandma, Christine Hall, often take Ronan along to events about nature. “It’s nice to see his family’s encouragement, said Tony. “It makes a big difference to have that support.”
“He’s always said he wanted to be a palaeontologist,” Christine told me. At the rate Ronan is going, I’m sure he will be.
Caroline McDonald (left) Essex Finds Liaison Officer and Julian Watters from Verulamium Museum in St Albans inspect some fabulous finds. © Catherine Rose/ 24 Hour Museum.
Alberto, five, and Leonardo, nine, from near Gressenhall, are also keen collectors. They brought in a padlock which Tom Hodgson, Social History Curator at Colchester Museums, estimates dates between 1900 and the 1950s. They found it in their garden, which has yielded a vast collection, including one of their older finds, a Neolithic flint scraper, which dates back to 2000 BC.
“They’ve created a garden museum”, their mum said. “They’ve found door handles, bed springs, horse bones and bicycle bells.”
A bit of brotherly rivalry keeps them hunting: “We have a competition to find the best thing!” Alberto told me.
Ryan Edge, eight, and his sister Demirose, seven, from Great Fransham, brought in an iron stone nodule, a natural formation of sandstone which Tony explained people often think are man-made because they are so spherical.
Their Grandfather discovered it ploughing a field near their home 10 years ago. “It’s been in our garden ever since,” explained their mum. “We use it as a shot put!”
Cameron Kelly, aged nine, showing off two ancient flints he brought in. © Catherine Rose/ 24 Hour Museum.
I thought it was a cannon ball,” said Ryan. “And I thought it was a bomb”, added Demirose. It’s lucky Demirose’s guess was wrong!
Cameron Kelly, nine, from Caistor St Edmund, is another veteran collector. Living in a Victorian house he’s found lots of interesting things in his garden including a Victorian spoon bowl, pottery, rings and bones.
He also discovered a flint in a near-by sheep field from the somewhat older Mesolithic and Stone Age times dating back to 8000 - 4000BC!
“The really fun thing about these days is seeing lots of children with their collections,” said Caroline McDonald, finds liaison officer for Essex. “Cameron clearly has a good eye for spotting archaeology. You never know, he might be working for Norfolk in the future.”
Letters from Norwegian Nazi sympathisers offer a chilling reminder of Europe's not so distant past. © Catherine Rose/ 24 Hour Museum.
Another visitor brought in some fascinating, but harrowing Nazi documents from 1943, belonging to his Norwegian mother.
Letters were sent by Quislings, Norwegian Nazi sympathizers, requesting his mother attend breeding camps set up for Hitler’s so-called master race where North European women were to breed with German soldiers. Her father wrote back, dangerously refusing to send her.
She went into hiding under the stairs in their house, eventually fleeing the country for safety on a friend’s farm. She was unable to talk about her ordeal until recently and only revealed the letters to her son two years ago.
Jeanne Bexley, from Attleborough, one of the more seasoned collectors, metal detects on a friend’s farm and brought in coins, flints and a 17th Century lead cloth seal.
She took her love of collecting one step further and began making her own. “I used to sit outside making all sorts of bits, particularly Stone Age,” she said. “I was fascinated to find out how people made them.”
Young flint finders: Emma (right), three, and Louise, one, from Ashby St Mary brought flint blades dating back to 8000 – 4000BC. “I found them with my Daddy” said Emma. © Catherine Rose/ 24 Hour Museum.
The museum also hosted an interesting desk top study on bore holes in Great Yarmouth and Flint makers dressed in Stone Age costume demonstrated their skills to the interested onlookers.
“Fab Finds is building up relationships for the future and hopefully this will lead to the recording of greater numbers of archaeological and historical finds,” said Adrian Marsden, finds liaison officer at Shire Hall, Norfolk who led the event.
“For people who didn’t come along, they can always drop their finds in at a local museum and we encourage them to do so.”
This should please Mrs Bexley who commented: “We need somewhere to go with our finds. The thing is you just never know.”
Catherine Rose is the 24 Hour Museum Renaissance student journalist for the East of England region. Renaissance is the groundbreaking initiative to transform England's regional museums, led by MLA, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.