To My Future Archeologists (Kids Only!)
August 15, 2013
What is archeology?
Here at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, we make science fun! Want to know how? We take books, pictures, and magazines and cover them in dirt! Well…not really, but we do love to play in the dirt. What we do in the dirt here is a science called archeology, which is the study of the past. The people who do this kind of science are called archeologists—that's what I am! The best way to study archeology is one of our favorite parts of the job: we dig into the ground!
While we dig holes in the ground, we keep records of what we find. When we find something that once belonged to someone else during our digging, we call it an artifact. We have to know where the artifact came from, so we write down everything we know about it: where it came from, what it looks like, what it's made of. The location of the artifact can tell us just as much—if not more—than the artifact itself.
So how do archeologists pick out the artifacts in all that dirt? We dump buckets of the dirt we have just dug into large wooden boxes with metal screens on the bottom, then push all the dirt through the screen. (This is called screening.) If there are artifacts in the dirt, they will stay on top of the screen while the dirt falls away. Sometimes, though, rocks stay on top of the screen too, and make screening a lot like I Spy. It takes a long time to learn what you're looking for, but a trained eye can tell the difference between a piece of pottery and a rock in no time!
Why are kids important in archeology?So why should you learn about archeology? Archeologists have an awesome job discovering new things, learning about the past, and teaching us about history. Knowing and protecting our history is one of the most important jobs in the world. Our history is something to be proud of, no matter who you are or where you're from. Some day, it may be up to you to keep history safe—and to keep learning new things about the past. You may not grow up to be an archeologist, but it's important for everyone to have a good understanding and respect for our history and heritage.
Archeologists find very old objects that were once special to someone. That's why it's important to keep those objects safe!
If you do want to become an archeologist, it's never too early to start! By learning the basics now, you'll be way ahead of everyone else in the field. Plus it's a lot of fun, and something to really get excited about. (Did we mention the part about playing in the dirt?)
What can a kid do in the field?
There are lots of ways you can get involved in the archeology at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. Our Junior Archeologist Program lets you work hands-on with real archeologists and do what they do every day! On Junior Archeology Days, stop by the park to earn your Junior Archeologist badge by digging in the Junior Archeologist dig box. You'll learn about the tools archeologist use, what artifacts look like, and how to keep notes just like Archeologists do. (Click here for Junior Archeology Day dates)
That's not all you can do, though. Every summer, park archeologists dig somewhere within the park. If you see them out (they'll be the people under tents on the hottest days of the year), stop by and see what they're up to! They love visitors—and especially those who really want to learn. Don't be shy; ask all the questions you can think of. They might even let you take a turn screening—and playing in the dirt!
A group of Junior Archeologists visit us while we work.
Just remember: no matter where you are—a National Park, a historic site, or even a private dig—always ask questions and always be respectful. We need kids just like you to carry on the science of archeology! If you have questions, or want to talk to a future archeologist, your parents can visit our website by clicking here. We'll be happy to hear from you!
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Did You Know?
The term "Hopewell" derives from the farm where excavations of an earthwork site (Hopewell Mound Group) occurred in 1891-1892 under the direction of Warren K. Moorehead. The property was owned by a local dry goods merchant and former Confederate Army soldier, Mordecai Cloud Hopewell.