Archaeology at Arcadia

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Week 3: Archaeology

Lecture

Archaeology is the branch of anthropology that studies humans who lived in the past through their material remains. They dig for human bones and material culture. (Students were very disappointed to find out archaeologists do NOT dig for dinosaurs.) Artifacts are anything made or changed by humans. By studying artifacts, we can reconstruct different aspects of culture and learn about the lives of humans in the past.

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Excavation is the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains. When archaeological finds are discovered, the identification of the context of each find is vital to enable the archaeologist to make conclusions about the people who inhabited the site and the date of its occupation.

There are two main problems that occur while digging: Under and over cutting. Under-cutting occurs where contexts are not excavated fully and some remainder of the context is left. Over-cutting occurs when contexts are unintentionally removed along with material from other deposits and contexts.

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In Tuscaloosa, we are just 30 minutes away from Moundville, so many of the students in this partnership have actually already been exposed to an archaeological site. At Moundville, archaeologists study Native American culture, especially pottery, stonework, and copper.

In Timbuktu, local archaeologists are focused on locating and preserving 16th century Arabic manuscripts from mosques, private homes, and universities.

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Activity – Cookie Excavation

Materials required per student:

1 m&m cookie

1 toothpick

1 paper towel

Procedures:

• Pass out materials to each student

• Explain to the students that they are archaeologists who have been hired to excavate artifacts (m&m pieces from the cookies)

• They must keep their m&ms intact to the best of their ability

• Stop the class after a few minutes to see who was able to complete activity without fragmenting chips

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Ending thoughts

Through this activity, students demonstrated the process of excavating artifacts. They were encouraged to not to over-cut, because they could potentially ruin another artifact. The students were very intuitive and understood that if an artifact is mishandled by a researcher, it cannot be salvaged after; meaning that piece of culture is potentially lost forever.

After the activity was completed, I asked students “Now that you are an archaeologist who completed their first dig, what would you tell a new archaeologist? What is important for archaeologists to remember?” One student gave the most poignant answer I could think of… She said “Take your time, don’t rush, and be patient.” I think she absolutely nailed it! (A sticker was awarded, because as I stated last week, kids love stickers.)

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The students really enjoyed this activity, especially because they got to eat a cookie at school! I would recommend cookie excavation to elementary school teachers doing archaeology.

Culture and Clans – TMSE

WEEK 1: Cultures and Clans

By Annakate Faulk

Last week we started our outreach program at the Tuscaloosa Magnet School. This semester I and fellow UA students are working with an awesome group of third grade students whom we will be teaching about the anthropology of West Africa. Our first day went great! We were welcomed to the school by all of the students who had assembled in the gymnasium, I was definitely surprised by how many different outreach groups there were involved with the program. Once each of the outreach classes were dismissed we moved into our home for the semester, Mr. Little’s classroom. Each of the students had the opportunity to tell us why they had chosen to take the anthropology course, with the majority response being “because we get to eat bugs!” I do have to admit, I was glad to see the students so excited about this, because I was a little bit nervous.

The topic for this past week’s lesson was clans and their respective cultures. A clan is a group of individuals who identify with one another based on a commonly shared ancestor. As well as sharing this common ancestor, members of a clan follow a generalized set of customs and rules which are designated by their shared culture.

Once I had explained what these things were to the class, we broke up the students into groups of three and four which would become their clans. Each clan also included one or two members who were fellow anthropology students from UA.

AK1

The students were then able to make some of the important choices regarding their clans such as their name, the ancestor which they all shared and things such as whether or not they would have a set leader or choose to be an egalitarian group.

AK2

Each of the groups seemed to really enjoy the process of making these decisions and after a little bit of guidance from the UA students the choices were made with ease {mostly}.

There were a few bumps in the road, I will admit, but they were to be expected on our first day with these students. Our class split into three separate clans, two who chose to elect a leader and with the remaining group deciding to remain as equals.

Overall, even with the few stumbles and difficulties I think that this first week’s lesson went extremely well. Each UA student did an excellent job within their clans and were able to remain approachable to the students while also maintaining the demeanor of a successful supervisor and instructor by answering any questions the students had and keeping the student’s initial decision making a productive and streamlined process.

AK3

Ethnography at Arcadia

Ethnography

Week 2: Ethnography

Lecture

Ethnography is the way that anthropologists study and teach others about cultures. Anthropologists learn about cultures by engaging different groups of people, asking questions, writing down their answers, and then thinking about the best way to understand behavior.

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Cultural anthropologists use an emic perspective when studying another group, meaning they describe a particular culture in terms of its internal elements.

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The focus of this semester is West Africa, and this week our lecture was about Benin. Students were intrigued that the people of Benin snack on bush rats! They also bonded over a love of soccer.

Activity

Last week students were broken into three clans. Each clan chose a name, selected a language, and determined a social structure. They even designed a flag. 

This week each clan selected 1 ethnographer per group, and then sent that ethnographer out to observe another clan’s culture using the Ethnographer’s Guide.

After interviewing other clans, told us what they learned about the new culture.

Lastly, the clan defended errors of interpretation.

Ending thoughts

I am lucky enough to have three amazing teaching assistants, who each govern a separate clan. They manage the students productivity and limit their rowdiness. (A task I can not be more grateful to not be handling alone.) They helped the clan select an ethnographer to travel to another group. Surprisingly, we had multiple students volunteer. I was giddy over the level of participation. All students were interactive as the ethnographer completed the survey. The TAs helped narrow the clan members answers, but every one seemed engaged for the length of the activity. When the ethnographers presented to the class, they were confident and demonstrated they had grasped the concept. I was very proud of these three students. (I rewarded them with lots of stickers to show my gratitude. Amazing what an 11 year old will do for a sticker!) In my opinion, this activity was a success. Although, I was unable to gauge if the students answering the questions understood ethnography as well as I could with the anthropologists.