Author Caroline Lawrence joins our network of Archaeology Ambassadors
Children’s author Caroline Lawrence became our newest Archaeology Ambassador after joining the programme in September. Caroline has found great success over the past 15 years with her book series including the Roman Mysteries Series, Roman Mystery Scrolls and her brand new series, The Roman Quests. Here, we speak to Caroline about how archaeology informs her writing and the importance of heritage to younger generations…
Q. How does archaeology inform your writing?
A. Real artefacts appeal to children (and to me) because they are tangible connections to the past. They raise interesting questions like ‘What did they use this for?’ or comments such as ‘It’s just like ours!’ I often use real artefacts as vital clues or talismans in my books to strongly anchor my story in a particular time or place. For example, in the first three books of my Roman Quests series, I use a real sardonyx cameo of Minerva from the first century AD as a continuing object of mystery and interest. Then, in the fourth and final book of the series, it becomes even more important, symbolising my heroine’s character and desire. When I go to schools I often take replicas of artefacts found in excavations, such as a clay oil lamp in the shape of a hobnailed sandal from the Museum of London. The children can hold the objects to feel their size, weight, and texture, and — in the case of a writing tablet — sniff the honey smell of the beeswax.
Q. Why do you think heritage and ancient civilisations appeal so much to your young readers?
A. Everyone likes to ‘escape’ to another world. The study of ancient civilisations lets us do just that. Children often have their own preferred ‘time period’ be it Ancient Egypt or Viking or Victorian. I cater to the kids who, like me, are fascinated with ancient Greece and Rome. By setting my books in Roman London, Bath Spa, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Caerleon or York, I make it possible for them to visit the ancient sites mentioned in my books. I hope this adds another layer of enjoyment and engagement.
Q. Why do you think it is important for younger generations to learn about their history?
A. I think history is important for everybody because it takes us into the lives and heads of our ancestors. You can’t help but be humbled by the struggles they faced just to survive. Also, the past really is like 'a foreign country'. If studying history makes us more sympathetic to the struggles faced by people from the past, it also helps us empathise with other races and nationalities today.
Q. Your stories draw parallels between ancient and modern ways of life – do you think that archaeology and heritage can unite people over a shared past?
A. Absolutely! A walk along the foreshore of the Thames beneath the Millennium Bridge shows more than two thousand years of almost continuous occupation to anyone who looks. Studies of skeletons from Roman London show a huge immigrant population 2000 years ago and now, modern young immigrants to the UK can identify with the Museum of London’s so-called ‘Lant Street Teenager’ who grew up in North Africa and came to London aged 10.
Q. Have your new experiences with MOLA inspired you in any way?
A. It’s been wonderful to hear from experts who have excavated Roman London or curated the amazing finds. I used to think Roman Britain was boring but the work MOLA is doing now with DNA, isotopes and the Bloomberg writing tablets makes London one of the most exciting places to be an archaeologist. I’ve been inspired in lots of ways and have half a dozen ideas for stories bouncing around inside my skull.
Q. What does it mean for you to be an Archaeology Ambassador?
A. It’s a huge honour to be a MOLA Archaeology Ambassador because it means I can wave the banner for three aspects of life I adore: London, the Romans, and the continuous story of our past.
If you are interested in being an Archaeology Ambassador or would like to learn more about the programme please contact our Director of Communications, Development, Fundraising, Suzie Haworth, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 410 2219.