Saturday, August 4, 2012

Archaeology Dig!

Today we did our first history lesson! We will be using Story of the World: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer with the accompanying Activity Guide for our history curriculum. The introductory chapter is not counted in the 42 Chapters to be covered in 36 weeks, so we decided to do it the weekend before our official start of the year (this Monday!!)

The "Introduction: How Do We Know What Happened?" chapter talked about what history is, how we learn about it, and what historians and archaeologists do. I prepared ahead of time a "dig site" in the sandbox. I bought a few items at the thrift store and buried them in the sand on Wednesday night. I poured water over them and then let them sit in the sun to bake, ideally to make the sand hard. But, surprise! it was partially cloudy, so it did not get as hard as I expected it to.

Our Dig Site
Before we went outside I read the introduction chapter to Builder Boy (Early Bird was too busy with his slinky,) and we talked a little bit about what history is. Then we went outside! I showed the boys how archaeologist make a grid to better record where they find things.

Drawing the Grid

Then they each picked a square and started digging. They both stayed in their square very well. Early Bird got bored before he found anything, but Builder Boy made it through it all.

I reminded them to make small, careful scoops with the little shovels. When he uncovered something I had Builder Boy use a paintbrush to clean the dirt away. Near the end he got impatient and tried to just tug items out, but he also tried to be very patient and gentle.

Builder Boy thought his first find looked like bone. When he had finished uncovering it he was delighted to identity it as a shell necklace.

We made sure to document where we found everything, as it was found.

Builder Boy Focusing Intently

In the next grid spot he chose Builder Boy found a letter! I had balled it up to protect some of the writing, but I expected much of it to be ruined by the water. But the sharpie on paper bag didn't bleed at all. Since the book talked about what people might have written that gave a hint about how they lived I chose to write something similar, but simple enough that he could (mostly) read it on his own.

Next Builder Boy chose to finish the square Early Bird had started working on. He used the sifter (just like real archaeologists!) to sift out corn kernels. To my surprise, they had sprouted! I thought the popcorn kernels I used would stay dried. But I did soak the sand in water, so it was enough to start the growing process. With the corn kernels he found some pottery shards that he carefully cleaned off with the paintbrush.

In the middle squares he found a wooden spoon which he identified as a "kitchen spoon."

Once he had found all the pottery pieces, Builder Boy worked on piecing them together. (I got a pot at the dollar store, wrapped it in newspaper, put it in a gallon size Ziplock bag, and dropped it on the sidewalk to get it to break into good size pieces.)

Treasure! A Letter, Pot, Wooden Spoon, and Necklace

Builder Boy had a lot of fun doing this and when he was asked later he was able to tell me what he did that archaeologists do. Tomorrow we will do the personal history project at his grandparents' house to further explore what "history" is and how we know about it.

The Finish Record
Total time for the activity was an hour (with maybe 20 minutes prep time planning and burying the "artifacts.")

The beginning links are to the author's printing press website where you can buy Story of the World directly from the author. The below pictures are links to the book on

1 comment:

  1. That is so cool! I always wanted to set up such a dig for my kids, but never have!


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