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 Table of Contents
  

 Introduction

About Us
Who is this Unit For?
Why We Created this Unit
To Dig or Not to Dig?

“It’s Not what you Find, it’s What You Find Out.”
How To Use This Unit
Resources


About Us

Archaeology for Educators was created by Maureen Malloy, Manager, Education and Outreach at the Society for American Archaeology and Ann Kaupp, Head of the Anthropology Outreach Office at the Smithsonian Institution. For additional information contact: Maureen Malloy, Society for American Archaeology maureen_malloy@saa.org, 202/789-8200.

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Who is this Unit For?

We hope this unit will help meet the needs of both formal and informal educators including classroom teachers, museum educators, park interpreters, scout leaders, and home-schooling parents who wish to use archaeology in their teaching or public programs. The unit will be particularly useful for those teaching children in the elementary and middle grades, but we know from experience that many of the activities can be easily adapted to high school and even beyond.

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Why We Created this Unit

Both the Society for American Archaeology and the Smithsonian Institution are frequently contacted by educators seeking information and activities about archaeology. Many wish they could introduce their students to the excitement of archaeology by taking them on a dig. But it is not necessary for students to excavate a real, or even a sandbox site, to experience the excitement of archaeology. Many fine hands-on classroom archaeology activities that have been developed and used over the years and are included here, along with innovative new computer simulations and interactive activities that bring the dig to you. You and your students can now learn about and experience many aspects of archaeology without leaving the classroom, without building complicated dig boxes, taking expensive field trips or spending many hours surfing the web for lesson plans and activities. We have summarized why and how archaeologist’s work, have provided popular and successful hands-on activities, have found cool new animations, streaming video, virtual tours, and interactive games to enhance student interest and understanding of archaeology.

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To Dig or Not to Dig?

Kids don’t need to dig to dig archaeology!

We encourage you to explore the past with your students in 21st century style. Rather than constructing and excavating a sandbox dig, try out some of the new interactive digs online. Can’t arrange a field trip to visit an archaeological site? No problem—you can take your class on a virtual site tour. Wish you could find an archaeologist to talk to your class about their work? Archaeologists now share their experiences with you through streaming audio and video and interactive web sites allow you to ask questions and follow the work of excavations in progress.

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“It’s Not what you Find, it’s What You Find Out.”

While finding artifacts is exciting, what really turns on archaeologists is the information they get from the artifacts they find--not the artifacts themselves-- and how that helps to answer research questions or to explain problems. Sometimes this can be done without digging at all! Archaeologists can sometimes use technologies such as ground penetrating radar or magnetometry to learn about what is under the ground without digging. Other times they may be able to infer what is under the ground based on surface finds and samples. When archaeologists do need to excavate, they follow strict legal and ethical guidelines and are responsible for analyzing and properly storing the artifacts they recover, as well as writing up their findings and sharing their knowledge and discoveries with their colleagues and the public. If you do use a classroom dig, your students will benefit more from the experience if it is a culminating unit activity that is grounded in an understanding of the scientific, ethical, and legal aspects of archaeology. In the words of archaeologist David Hurst Thomas: “It’s not what you find, it’s what you find out.”

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How To Use This Unit

To Teach a Classroom Unit on Archaeology: We strongly recommend that you complete the entire unit in sequential order. In this way, students are grounded in the importance of studying and preserving the past before they are introduced to field methods, analysis, and interpretation. Students will also learn how they can get involved in archaeology and how they can join archaeologists to help us preserve the past for the future. Try some of the interactive and hands-on activities suggested in each section as you move through the unit.

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Resources

  • To Dig or Not to Dig
    In this short article, an archaeology educator discusses simulated and real student excavations and explains why she supports using classroom activities without undertaking digging.