Life on the Edge: Ice Age Frontier

May 22 2015

Exhibition and Displays Curator, Lucy Cooper, talks about the latest exhibition at Weston Park Museum, Life on the Edge: Ice Age Frontier.

The exhibition explores the story of life on the edge of the Ice Age world, based on the archaeology of Creswell Crags. Many people don’t realise that we have an important Ice Age site within 20 miles of Sheffield. The aim of the exhibition is to raise the profile of Creswell Crags and display some of the most interesting material found at the site. Objects from Creswell are distributed amongst several different museum collections, including Museums Sheffield and our near neighbours The Manchester Museum. We have brought together artefacts from these collections, along with several now kept at Creswell itself, to help people imagine what it was like to live in this area over 10,000 years ago.Curator Lucy Cooper holding an Ice Age tool

The first part of the exhibition explores the changing landscape of the area between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago. Using animal remains from the Ice Age we can start to understand what sort of creatures used Creswell Crags as a home and how they relied on each other for survival. Some of the most exciting objects are here, as we begin to imagine woolly mammoth and rhinoceros roaming the landscape we inhabit today. 

In the next part of the exhibition we begin to gain an insight into how our ancestors survived the Ice Age, fashioning tools from bone and flint and relying on migrating animals for food and warmth. The tiny but fascinating traces they left behind allow us to understand how skills such as flint knapping, sewing and carving bone were vital to survival. 

Finally the exhibition looks at the traces of culture and identity that have been found in the form of art and jewellery. These small but hugely significant items have helped us to understand that our ancestors had a world beyond day-to-day survival, and were fashioning pieces of art that were highly sophisticated.

We’ve aimed to make the exhibition suitable for a range of ages, and as well as an interactive ‘cave’ area where visitors can dress up or try making a (soft toy) fire, there is space for reading and reflection.

It has been a brilliant experience working in partnership with Creswell Crags, and we feel that both organisations have benefitted hugely from sharing expertise, artefacts and hopefully visitors. We hope that many visitors will follow up their visit with a trip to Creswell Crags to discover this fascinating site.

Find out more about visiting Creswell Crags here.


Top: Visualisation of Creswell Crags 120,000 years ago © Creswell Heritage Trust.

Bottom: Curator Lucy Cooper holding an Ace Age tool. Photo © Museums Sheffield.


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