Video teaching resource: What is archaeology? The history beneath our feet (c) MOLA

Teaching resource: What is archaeology? The history beneath our feet

MOLA team and Our Hut

Created in collaboration with Our Hut, this video teaching resource aims to inspire school children’s curiosity in the world around them and develop an understanding of how the physical remains of the past can be uncovered through archaeology.

Teaching resource: What is archaeology? The history beneath our feet

It should encourage thinking about the secret and invisible workings of the city – transport, services and sewerage below ground through ventilation shafts that have an often-unexplained street presence. It also introduces the concept of stratigraphy: the idea that human activity over time leaves behind layers of remains, one on top of the other, and that archaeologists explore history by digging up and examining these layers.

This video forms part of Our Hut’s Inventive Vents project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which celebrates ventilation shafts in London. There are many weird and wonderful ventilation shafts on our streets, but you may not have noticed them – they often appear as public sculpture or are disguised as small buildings. They are needed wherever there are underground spaces in use - underground railways, sewers, underground car parks and tunnels - to let hot and polluted air out and introduce clean air, and act as clues to the city beneath our feet. 

Related resources and activities

Download some of the other Inventive Vents resources that appear here and use them to understand more about ventilation shafts and the history of underground London.

  • Join the Inventive Vents Challenge! Design your own ventilation shaft and draw, paint, collage or make a model of your idea: View PDF
  • Get inspired: These images will show you some of the existing ventilation shafts and give you inspiration for designing your own: View PDF
  • Play Ventequences: Like ‘consequences’ for vent design, play this game with your household to get ideas for your vent designs and have lots of fun: View PDF
  • Create a London timeline: Use this outline (View PDF) to learn about the history of London’s underground infrastructure and tunnelling – going all the way back to the Romans, then follow these instructions (View PDF) to create your own. You could also research one of the events on the timeline more fully and do some writing about it – perhaps imagine you were there at the time and write a diary entry or an account of it in a letter to a friend.
  • Overground/Underground Drawing: Complete the drawing showing everything you think goes on under the city think about transport, sewers, power, water etc. You can also add details above ground. Alternatively you could use this format but draw your own streetscape. You could do this as a collage if you prefer – use materials like coloured paper, tissue paper, pictures from magazines, foil etc.: View PDF
  • Learn about the Tideway Supersewer: Tideway is currently building a Supersewer under the Thames to update London’s sewage system – find out about it here.

National curriculum links

This cross-curricular project links with most subjects as follows:

  • History: Methods of historical enquiry. London history, in particular the history of London’s underground infrastructure. Changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. The Roman Empire and its impact on Britain. Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots
  • Maths: Shape, pattern, symmetry, measurement
  • Design and Technology: Introduction to architecture, engineering, design and 3D making
  • Art: Drawing, designing
  • Geography: Location, maps, cities
  • Literacy: Reading and writing accounts
  • Science: Structure, construction, materials

Please send Our Hut pictures of the work you do – they’d love to see it! And if you have any queries email them at Have fun investigating underground London!