The day was funded by a University of Oxford Public Engagement with Research Seed Fund grant (with additional support from Studiocanal, Aardman Animations and The Oxford Charcoal Company), and was based in and around the Pitt Rivers Museum. Highlights included the chance to handle minerals, ores and real archaeological artefacts, with experts available to answer questions. Dr Robert Knight from the Museum of Natural History lent handling objects so that visitors had the chance to see native copper, sky-iron, and experience the varied colour of ores. Visitors also explored the history of archaeological analysis through a range of materials loaned from the Coghlan and Tylecote archives.
In addition, there were arts and crafts, prehistory-themed colouring, and a chance to win a range of Early Man themed goodies (courtesy of Aardman and Studiocanal). Meanwhile, the Pitt Rivers lecture room was transformed into a Bronze Age mine, where those that dared crawled through dark and bumpy tunnels lit only by glowworms and the ethereal glimmering of the tunnels’ walls. Visitors challenged themselves to enter in search of the metallic ores hidden in the depths, winning a chance to be entered into a prize draw for more Aardman goodies. Participants were mostly children with or without their accompanying adults. However, we had a few unaccompanied adults too! Once they had entered, these older participants unwittingly demonstrated why the FLAME research team think children would have been such an integral part of most ancient mining operations; it often took several minutes for adults to struggle back out!
Throughout the day, Dr Hommel and Dr Chris Green tirelessly demonstrated the process of smelting, transforming malachite into copper, and casting and recasting small objects to demonstrate one of the most magical properties of metal. This was an incredibly popular spectacle with many visitors returning staying to watch the whole process and even returning later in the day to see different stages of it. Over the course of the day, just under half a kilo of copper was produced and distributed among the intrigued audience.