Project CLAY: Creative Learning Through Archaeology
Project CLAY is an educational outreach startup founded in 2021. Our mission is to use art and digital technologies to inspire children with the timeless stories of our human past. Our team developed the innovative Project CLAY Activity Box to provide a multisensory learning experience that engages visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. Our lesson plans weave together comic art, 3D printing, and archaeology, and meet CPALMS learning objectives in visual art and social studies for grade 6 in Florida. A limited number of Activity Boxes are available to Florida teachers free of charge. Each Activity Box contains teacher instructions, and all materials needed for four engaging, inspiring lesson plans. If you would like to order a Project CLAY Activity Box for your classroom, fill out this form!
I enjoyed the presentation that [Kristin] and Laura did at our school. I especially liked the part when you showed us that cool website that had a 3D image. My friend and I were looking at the image when we noticed one of the zoomorphic pots with eyes that looked like Cheerios! The picture was really awesome. Thank you so much for making this experience possible!
Olivia, 6th grade
Enhancing multimodal pedagogies
Project CLAY is at the forefront of incorporating multimodal pedagogies into educational contexts. The middle-school lessons provide instruction on key social studies concepts such as describing the emergence of early civilizations and utilizing historical inquiry skills and analytical processes (cpalms.org). Each lesson incorporates digital elements such as online collections of digital models and 3D prints with hands-on activities to enrich educational programming and spur creativity. Classroom activities include using a 3D-printed loom and loomweights based on Bronze Age artifacts to create a personalized weaving; a simulated archaeological excavation with 3D-printed artifacts and field notes worksheets that emphasize the spatial and chronological dimensions of archaeology, and a comic storytelling activity that utilizes 3D-printed stencils to build visual literacy and enhance the accessibility of text for emergent readers.
Meet Abby! She's a Bronze Age girl exploring her world
with a tiny goat sidekick
Project CLAY uses the character Abby the Apprentice as a jumping off point to teach students about world history and visual storytelling through the lens of Bronze Age archaeology.
In the first comic tale, "Mix, Mold, Fire!," Abby is an apprentice potter in training. She's assigned to the pottery order window - let's be honest, it isn't the most exciting job. But, when Abby receives a rush order for a special jug, she hops to it! Accompanied and sometimes thwarted by her playful goat, Abby races through the steps to create the jug and runs the order home! Through classic comic visuals such as speech bubbles, colorful bursts, and dynamic character poses, the steps of Bronze Age pottery production are elevated to new heights.
The "Mix, Mold, Fire!" storyline is inspired by real-life archaeological excavations of Early Bronze Age III layers (circa 2200-2150 B.C.E.) at Seyitömer Höyük in inland western Anatolia (modern day Turkey). The comic illustrates the steps of pottery manufacture, including an innovative technique which utilizes semi-spherical molds to form standardized vessels. The artisan-client trade relationship depicted in the comic reflects Seyitomer's position as a key pottery supplier along an overland trade route connecting the Aegean with Syro-Cilicia.
Project CLAY utilizes "Mix, Mold Fire!" to introduce students to artifacts such as clay pots, brushes, and burnishing stones that correspond to 3D printed objects they work with during the follow-up lessons. Students then create a comic that tells a story about a 3D printed artifact; create clay objects using Bronze Age techniques (with 3D printed tools); create a weaving using 3D printed replicas of loomweights; and learn how to be an archaeologist by excavating 3D printed “artifacts” from a sand box while taking measurements and keeping a field journal.
We all had a great time. All of the activities were informative, but I especially enjoyed interacting with clay. I also loved the comic strip about making clay pots. I love art as well, and seeing your cartoon inspired me.
Shana, 6th grade
Project CLAY lessons are grounded in the expertise of Artistic Director Kristin Donner, and Scientific Director Laura Harrison. Ms. Donner is a professional artist for Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon, and her work explores diverse approaches to storytelling through color and design. Dr. Harrison’s work in digital public heritage explores the use of 3D scanning and virtual reality to bring the stories of the past to life.
The backstory: artist Donner and archaeologist Harrison met in 2014, as they excavated, studied, and illustrated the archaeological site of Seyitömer Höyük. In 2015, they formed the Seyitömer Illustration Project, with the goal of creating educational materials inspired by the site. Harrison authored her dissertation, which explores how Seyitömer's urban architecture influenced social interactions in the Early Bronze Age. Donner created series of illustrations, which reconstruct Seyitömer's architecture, artifacts, and pottery production pipeline. To populate that pipeline, Donner began designing characters inspired by Seyitömer's original inhabitants. The first Abby designs were sketched in 2015 and in 2018, the "Mix, Mold, Fire!" comic was created and incorporated into school lessons in the U.S.A. Abby the Apprentice in "Mix, Mold, Fire!" joined the online community of comics via this website on May 2, 2020, in celebration of Free Comics Day.
I had so much fun doing the ‘pottery experience’. I enjoyed it a lot! I appreciate the effort you put into the three rotating activities. I had fun in each and every station. One of my favorite parts was drawing the bowls. It made me take the time to pay attention to details instead of using technology.
Mazel, 6th grade
Donner, Kristin and Laura Harrison. (2022) "Mix, Mould, Fire!": Comic Art and Educational Outreach Inspired by Archaeology. In: Zena Kamash, Katy Soar, and Leen Van Broeck (Eds.) Comics and Archaeology. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave, pp. 123-154.
Harrison, Laura, A. Nejat Bilgen, & Kuru, A. (2021). The Early Bronze Age in Western Anatolia. In Laura Harrison, A. Nejat Bilgen, and Kuru, A. (Eds.) Early Bronze Age in Western Anatolia. Buffalo, New York: SUNY Press. pp.1-18.
Harrison, Laura. (2021). Closing the Loop on the Digital Data Lifecycle: Reviving a Salvage Archaeology Dataset. In Kevin Gartski (Ed.) Critical Archaeology in the Digital Age. UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press: Los Angeles. pp.79-96.
Harrison, Laura and Bilgen, N. (2019) Emergent Urbanism: Trade, Settlement and Society in Early Bronze Age Anatolia. In Attila Gyucha (Ed.) Coming Together: Comparative Approaches to Population Aggregation and Early Urbanization. Buffalo, New York: SUNY Press. pp.189-214.
Harrison, Laura and Aycan Gürbüz. (2018). “A 3D visualization of the ancient built environment of Seyitömer Höyük, Turkey.” In Friedhelm Pedde and Nathaneal Shelley (Eds.) Assyromania and more. In Memoriam vor Samuel M. Paley. pp.287-300.
Donner, Kristin and Laura K. Harrison. Mix, mold, fire! An exploration of the chaine operatoire through the eyes of an apprentice potter.” Drawing on the Past: The Pre-Modern World in Comics International Conference. University of London, London, UK. September 11, 2018.
Donner, Kristin and Laura Harrison. “Mix, Mold, Fire! An Exploration of the Chaine Operatoire Through the Eyes of an Apprentice Potter.” Society for American Archaeology 83rd Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C. April 14, 2018.
Donner, Kristin and Ashley Cercone. "Ceramic standardization in Early Bronze Age Western Anatolia: An exploration of mold technology within the chaîne opératoire at Seyitömer Höyük." European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics. Université de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, FR. September 7, 2017.