[NPS Arrowhead]
U.S. Dept. of Interior National Park Service Archeology Program Quick Menu Features * Sitemap * Home
archeology for kidspoints
(photo) An archeologist ponders the task before him. (Midwest Archeological Center)

Archeology takes some thinking-through to understand what happened at a site.

Wondering how archeologists get started? Or how they make sense of everything they dig up?

Archeology isn't just about digging and working in the lab. It's also a way of thinking about the world around us in a different way than we're used to.

Try these projects to see for yourself how archeologists think about a place and the people who lived there in the past. Let an adult know what you're up to!

Reading a landscape helps archeologists imagine the lives of past peoples. You can try this yourself.

Choose a place to observe, like a park or a townscape. Make a map of the area. Note its features, such as water sources or roads, low places (called depressions), hills and valleys. Show where the sun rises and sets. Draw the vegetation - is it shrubby, grassy, are there trees? Describe the soil: Dark or light? Sandy? Clay-ey?

Tens or hundreds or thousands of years ago, someone standing where you are likely saw a very different landscape. Where would they go for food and water? Where could a house get good light and heat from the sun? Where are the safe places for kids to play?

You've just started to survey for possible places to dig, like an archeologist, and put together how people may have used a landscape.

Head to the kitchen for your first excavation. Team up with a group of friends to exchange bags for analysis. Garbage can be really gross, but most household garbage is not dangerous. During the analysis, you may wish to wear gloves, an apron, and a face mask. Check with an adult to make sure this project is ok.

Every day, for seven days, record EVERYTHING that goes into the bag on your record sheet. Recycle and compost as your family normally does, but record this information separately.

After seven days, number each bag to make each family's garbage anonymous and exchange them. Dump each bag in the yard or on a big table protected with plastic. Archeologists would call this sloppy mess an "assemblage." Decide how to sort the artifacts, but have reasons for your choices. For example, you might sort by material, shape, or smell.

Describe the contents of the bag. What activities does the assemblage reflect? How did recycling and composting affect your interpretation? If you collected for two weeks, or a month, what might you expect to see?

(photo) A painting of kids and turtles in the past. Use prohibited without permission.

Discover Archeology and see exhibits online by the NPS Archeology Program.

DOI | Discover History | Search | Contact | FOIA | Privacy | Disclaimer | USA.gov