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What is Archaeology and Anthropology to Our Young People?

12/08/2015 10:13 BST | Updated 10/08/2016 10:59 BST

The UK is a country which is stepped in social and cultural history. From Stonehenge to the Tower of London, the country is a dreamland for anyone wishing to analysing how past societies lived and what cultures they immersed themselves in. Archaeology, in essence, is the study of our past through remains and material such as castles, fossils and so on. Similarly, anthropology is the study of humans at any time in our life. Clearly, there is a link between archaeology and anthropology, as with archaeological debris you can understand what people from the past built, and anthropology can tell you why how they did this. But, young people across UK as a whole don't really understand what they mean unless you take a particular interest in them - which sets the foundations to my article; that young people should be taught in one way or another, or at least experience archaeology and anthropology in and around the UK. The archaeologist Steven Mithen wrote in his book, 'The Prehistory of the Mind' that "we can only understand the present by knowing the past" - which is exactly what archaeology and anthropology can give our young people.

First of all, if I tell you that young people don't understand what archaeology and anthropology is, how do I? The simple reason is that I experienced it. Being from Llanelli, Carmarthenshire in South Wales my options ranged greatly. Through visiting a place of archaeological and anthropological importance in my hometown Llanelli - Wales' finest Georgian House; Llanelly House, it allowed me to go back through the past of my hometown and understanding the different phases of the house from Sir Thomas Stepney's mansion back in 1714 to the dispute between the Cowell and Chambers family a hundred-or-so years later to who actually had the right to own the property. Even after the gentry of the past had seized to recuperate into the home, it became the space for the Hargrave Brothers, wholesale wine and spirit merchants - whose bottles and papers remain on display at the home. Through seeing artefacts and actually re-living the past of this one home, I was able to appreciate and comprehend the true significance of the now modern heritage centre which attracts thousands of people every year. If you're reading this anywhere other than in Llanelli you won't really understand what Llanelly House is, but that isn't the point. The problem is other youngsters don't have the opportunity to experience their own local heritage centres.

Many will say that 'history' as an academic subject is enough for children learning about the past, and they're probably right. What I believe is that schools should be visiting these sites, whether it is as a part of the history curriculum or a general PSHE trip to make sure young people can realise why their area is the way it is now. It would be hard to simply 'teach' this. You can't 'teach' people about an object and how people behaved in different eras - you have to experience it. You can go all over the UK. In London, why not visit Buckingham Palace to learn of the significance of the Monarchy in British life over the past few hundred years. If you are in Scotland, go and see the site of the historic Battle of Culloden, or if you're in Northern Ireland, visit castles such as Magilligan Martello Tower built between 1812 and 1817 during the Napoleonic Wars, to guard against possible French invasion.

Experiencing material cultures, which are artefacts which express the culture in which they were built, such as a wine bottle from the Hargrave Brothers on display at Llanelly House, can stimulate the minds of youngsters to question numerous things: such as why a certain building is built there, why is a castle a ruin and why I live in this area of Carmarthenshire. Any school trip or experience of archaeology and anthropology is far more meaningful than going to some simple Botanical Garden (unless you are a keen biologist, if which I completely understand) in most aspects due to the numerous things you can discover about your area. There are so many historical sites in the UK that can tell us so much about the past and ether cultures and they're not being utilised amongst schools.

Schools can't be blamed for this lack of participation in archaeological and anthropological activities; inevitably it is the Government's responsibility to decide matters on education. However, this article is not a feature to criticise them on a wider scale, but to broaden the debate on this often forgotten topic that is fascinating and beneficial to many youngsters. Archaeology and anthropology is a subject at university, but has a low intake in most institutions which it is taught - which needs to change if we want to preserve the past.

I should note that anthropology is hard to actually 'visit' compared to archaeology. But the archaeology sites themselves tell you a lot about how the people lived and what they did, as I mentioned with material culture at Llanelly House. Anthropology can be analysed in any way at any time and why it's actually useful to understand past societies (known commonly as social anthropology), as I have noted previously, it shows you a lot about the present. And this understanding of the present is taken for granted by everyone, as the anthropologists and the archaeologists are the ones who have created the sort of timeline for places like London, Edinburgh or Belfast - which can then be amalgamated into a general 'history' of the area. A book which are great to understand anthropology in the UK is Kate Fox's Watching the English- which analyses how English people behave, and being Welsh, could not stop laughing due its relevance and how it is relatable to most people in the UK.

Teaching archaeology and anthropology would benefit young people a great deal, not just because it's 'important' to do so. With archaeology, you develop interpretative skills and can develop your general knowledge of an area you had no prior information on. As well as this, anthropology of the past can tell you a lot about yourself and make you think of future generations and how they will live - an intuitive form of thought and intellect not thought of enough. In a more general term, the next time you look at an object, of any form, you'll be able to understand; and understanding objects is unique for a modern young mind. Perhaps even, young people will look at their community and comprehend the anthropological make-up of it (however that is easier said than done). My overall point is that the experience and education of archaeology and anthropology for Britain's young people can open up a new way of thinking and not necessarily always create archaeologists and anthropologists, but minds which are intuitive, problem-solving, new and bold.

There are initiatives such as Teen Museum Day, where young people all over the UK take over museums' social media sites such as twitter. I didn't know about the event until I was actually at museum, which shows that council's museums and schools can do more to promote it.

Returning to the question posed in the article: What is archaeology and anthropology to our youngsters? The answer is that that they are untapped mechanisms for intriguing insightful learning. Schools should be encouraged to visit sites of significant historical meaning more than they are now. Archaeology and anthropology studies can be conducted in the deepest Mayan forests of South America, the desert towns of the Middle East, but it can be even more fascinating to our youngsters if it is right on their doorstep - as I have found in Llanelli.