Coming into the classroom the students had their eyes fixed on the boxes for the activity. Even students who weren’t signed up for anthropology were curious about what was to come. The lesson began with asking the students what they thought archaeology was. Some said it was the study of past people. While that may be true our purpose was to go over how archaeologists study those past people. Before we delved too deep in the lesson it was important to clear up that archaeologists don’t dig up dinosaurs. The students learned that shovels, trowels, and brushes are tools to find artifacts. I explained that some of
the things archaeologists can find are pottery sherds, beads, coins, and bones. I introduced a word that would be very useful for their activity: stratigraphy, which means the study of rock layers. I showed them a picture of different soil layers that were different colors and explained that the layers piled on each other as time passes. Due to that, it means that the deeper in the ground the archaeologists dig, the older the artifacts they will find.
The activity: Today the students were going to be archaeologists. Each clan was given a clear plastic shoe box filled with artifacts (broken pot sherds, beads, and coins) and three layers of dirt (green sand, outside dirt, and purple sand). With the shoe box being clear it gave the kids a chance to see the different layers of dirt and have a hands on example of the word “stratigraphy”. The students were given spoons to act as trowels and brushes to help clean off the artifacts they find in the dirt. Also given to them was a field journal that they used to record which layer they found each artifact in. Once the students were done finding all the artifacts,
each clan sent a representative to the front to tell the rest of the class what they found in their box and what layer. I asked each representative different questions: Based on stratigraphy, what artifact is the oldest?, What artifact is the newest?, Is the green layer older or newer than the other layers?
Giving the students a hands on activity and allowing them to be archaeologists for a day allowed them to get an idea of what archaeologists do when they go out in the field. I believe that it also helped their knowledge by remembering to write down where they found each artifact in order to help them classify which items were older. They also used critical thinking when making hypotheses on what they thought each item may have been used as by the past people; e.g. beads were jewelry, pot sherds were plates, and coins as currency.