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Alumni Weekend Family Program: The Art of Archaeology

On the weekend this June when Williamstown was overrun with alumni busy with their reunions, WCMA was abuzz with kids of alumni on an archaeology hunt. Their gallery expedition led them from gallery to gallery to classroom, map and hieroglyphic chart in hand, to find a hidden word and thereby receive a prize back at the welcome table. What was that word? Well, fittingly, it was “EXPLORE,” and explore they did. Each of WCMA’s “Reunion Rangers,” stationed in particular galleries and a classroom, held hieroglyphic hints to help the kids solve the archaeology hunt. These Mayan glyph alphabet hints introduced many of the children for the first time to an ancient form of communication heavily rooted in pictures.

Next, it was time to accessorize! These active learners created headdresses, armbands, and bracelets inspired by WCMA’s ancient Assyrian relief sculptures. The gypsum reliefs of two guardian spirits from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (883-859) at Nimrud, near Nineveh, dated ca. 880 BC, were a gift to the museum from Sir Austen Henry Layard, through his connection with Rev. Dwight W. March, Class of 1842, a missionary at Mosul. They were the first Assyrian sculptures ever sent to the United States. But for our young visitors, they were inspirations for feathered bird-like headdresses and other accoutrements. These lucky kids then got to pose wearing their creations in front of the reliefs in the Stoddard gallery for pictures taken the old-fashioned way (with Polaroid cameras)! Some parents couldn’t resist recording the moment with newfangled technology, too, as in the accompanying photo.

Photo of child posing in front of the Assyrian relief scupltures

One of our modern-day Assyrians, headdress and all, in front of WCMA’s Winged Guardian Spirit and Guardian Spirit from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, near Nineveh, ca. 880 BC

Finally, hands-on archaeological digging was going on in a classroom on the lower level that was transformed into an excavation site. The kids found mysterious artifacts in the sand, recorded their findings, and chose three artifacts to take home. All in all, it was a morning to remember that brought the art of archaeology to life!

—Posted by Jane R. Becker, Class of 1988, WCMA blog writer

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