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 Games children play

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 11:22

Children are, and ever have been, an important part of the social and community construct yet all too often are overlooked in historical and archaeological accounts. I suppose, as it is the adults who have recorded history, which is through an adults perspective and (as is they way of adults) quite often forgetting that they were once children themselves.

A delightful find, a hoard of 16th and 17th century children's street toys has been unearthed at Harborough which gives us a rare glimpse into the world of the young. And tells us that the lives of children was not necessarily about misery and work, but also about fun and doing what children enjoy most, playing. Spinning tops, whistles, balls, knucklebones, whip handles, others known as tipcats and teetotums (the names of which I had not heard before) and wooden cylinder objects that seem to have experts baffled as to their purpose. Interestingly, most of these toys are recognisable in the paintings by Pieter Bruegel.
http://irisharchaeology.ie/2013/02/a-hoard-of-16th-and-17th-century-childrens-toys/

No hula-hoops though but the tops, whistles, balls and knucklebones were still used in games when I was a child in the 60s, I think the ball is about all that has survived into the present day. Children don't seem to play outside as much these days, unfortunately.


Last edited by Islanddawn on Mon 18 Feb 2013, 17:13; edited 1 time in total
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 12:18

Interesting but I'm intrigued by how that huge haul of toys came to be there. The suggestion that they were simply cleared off the walkway along the top of the rood screen and into the access stair doesn't quite seem to be the whole story, although I'm struggling to think what that might be. Why a mass of toys and nothing else, was there not even the odd candle stub, old prayer book or dead pigeon amongst this cleared away "rubbish"? And why so many toys? It this where the schoolboys stashed their forbidden treasures? Or was this where the masters hid all the conficated stuff? It's suggested that the items were thrown up onto the rood screen, but why? Unless maybe that was a game in itself? It's almost like a collection of votive offerings!

EDIT : Ah ha! The museum website
http://museums.leics.gov.uk/collections-on-line/col_images/resources/interpretation/harborough_hoard/harborough_hoard.htm

says that there was some other rubbish, mostly broken pottery, amongst the haul. Also it says:

"Although there is no documentary evidence for how the toys got into the stairwell, it seems very likely that they were originally confiscated from schoolchildren or young members of the church congregation and thrown onto the rood screen. In medieval churches this divided the nave and the chancel and in the Harborough church was demolished in 1752. At this time the litter of toys on the walkway running along the top of the screen was swept into the stairwell before the entrances were sealed."

.... which paints a rather delightful picture of Tudor schoolboys hunkered down in their pews, surreptisiously playing at knucklebones during divine service ... but occasionally getting caught, dragged out of the pews by their ears, their pockets turned out, their swag confiscated and thrown temptingly just out of reach .... and then no doubt they were caned.


Last edited by Meles meles on Mon 18 Feb 2013, 15:47; edited 1 time in total
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Priscilla
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 13:19

Leicestershire-again eh? So now we know what the young princes did all day and Unca Dicklaterv took their toys away as keep sakes and found a rood screen for their protection etc. Either that or someone stashed them away for Leics to keep any old pot boiling.

On the other hand and intereting find. In our local museum children are fascinated by the toy collection - some of which they are allowd to play with; what the heck!
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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 17:52

I'm surprised to find that yoyo's have been around since ancient times, the earliest surviving example dates from 500BC and made from terra cotta and skin side disks.

A representation on ceramic of boy playing with a yoyo from 400BC


And more recently, a woman and yoyo or 'bandalore' (I've not heard the name before) as they were known from a French fashion journal, 1791

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Caro
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Mon 18 Feb 2013, 22:50

I suppose Shakespeare's whining schoolboy creeping like a snail unwillingly to school shows that kids then had better things to do with their day than sit in a room studying, and it wasn't likely to be hard physical work they were missing. So that play was being valued is the assumption here.

Even in quite basic communities toys seem important. Maori had quite a range of toys for their children. I was reading yesterday of some sort of counting toy. And this site http://teaohou.natlib.govt.nz/journals/teaohou/issue/Mao24TeA/c34.html dating to 1958 talks of tops, little flax canoes, stones that may have been used for some kind of bowling, which was known in other areas of the Pacific.

Native Indians had dolls and spinning toys, and noise-making toys seem common to many cultures. And games with resemblances to draughts and Chinese checkers etc, seem to have been very popular especially in African societies, sometimes used with little other than stones and pebbles, but at other times much more sophisticated.
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Tue 19 Feb 2013, 18:29

In museum collections of Indus Valley finds - circa 1800BC - there are clay mazes around which to tilt a little clay ball as well as animals with noddingheads and tetra hedron dice for we know not what games but there are tablets of cut clay with Nine Man Morris layouts also. Its always pleasing to think that children had time to be children.

I heard a very sad tale today of a grandson - aged 7 having a friend over to play and my daughter says they were being quiet as they were both using their ipads. There's something awful about that - on the other hand the 4 year old went off to play with a friend for the day bearing two large plastic swords. Next half term they will have with me, I think.
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PostSubject: Re: Games children play   Thu 21 Feb 2013, 16:59

Some interesting finds, there!
If memory serves, Roman dolls have been discovered, some with quite sophisticated jointing - the more sophisticated ones assumed to be the belongings of wealthier children, though I suppose if you were lucky enough to be the offspring of someone who made these things you might hit the jackpot, doll-wise!

The reconstructed Victorian Merchant's House attached to the Jersey Museum includes a nursery where children (or adults, I suppose!) are able to play with the toys. Seems to keep the ghost that allegedly haunts that room entertained, too...

(Incidentally, I never did get the hang of yo-yos Embarassed )
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