Unearthing the past

KIDS love dressing up or digging for hidden treasure, and shoebox archeology is a great way to combine the two, Megan Mentz says.

Mentz and fellow archeologist Richenda Prall set up the Museum of Moving Objects in 2011, a Hilton-based not-for-profit  that makes history exciting and accessible.

“Many people think history is boring, but it never needs to be,” Mentz says.

Shoeboxes full of yellow sand are taken to schools and clubs, where kids sift for clues to the past, like colonial remnants, Aboriginal tools or Egyptian relics.

Mentz’ passion for Australia’s indigenous and maritime history is palpable as she shows the Herald a collection of replica axe heads and a taap, a Noongar knife that dates back 25,000 years.

• Amelia Swan (Megan Mentz’s daughter) sifting for ancient artifacts. Photos by Jenny
D’Anger

She explains how the stone blade of the taap is glued to its wooden shaft using a mix of balga grass tree resin, charcoal and kangaroo poo.

“There is evidence of old tools with resin on them that shows the technology today was used in the past,” Mentz says.

The oldest ground-edged axe found in Australia, by UWA professor Sue O’Connor, was estimated to be between 46,000 and 49,000 years old.

Early Aboriginal people weren’t just hunter and gatherers, Ms Mentz says.

• Megan with replica axe heads.

“There was plenty of time for leisure and spirituality, which was passed down through stories that are a map of their history,” she says.

Local indigenous people made sure fish stocks were protected when they dug fish traps.

“They were sustainable, with little holes for the baby fish to escape,” she says.

MOMO’s school workshops include a look at the first Europeans to land on WA shores, and how to make a replica of Dirk Hartog’s plate, which was left near, what is now, Geraldton in 1660.

“We get the child to keep in mind who were the first people in Australia,” Ms Mentz says.

MOMO is not just for kids and workshops are becoming increasingly popular in aged care units, with many involving local school kids for an intergenerational experience.

“The activities are a valuable stimulus for patients with dementia,” Mentz says.

For more information go to momo.org.au or call 9337 2714.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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