Lesson Plan

Digging Back in Time

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
American Indian History and Culture, Anthropology, Archaeology, History
30 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
computer lab
National/State Standards:
Social Studies: 6th grade 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2; 7th grade 1.1, 2.1; 8th grade 1.1, 2.1


Students will participate in a virtual dig and use accompanying field notes and action photos to investigate their own online "hearth" site.


Students will participate in a virtual dig and use accompanying field notes and action photos to investigate their own online "hearth" site.


From homestead structures of the early 1900s to stone tools from the Paleoindian Period (thousands of years ago), Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has a rich anddeep history of human presence.

Visit Great Sand Dunes' History and Culture web page for more information on peoples of the past.

How do archaeologists learn about these people? There are many ways, including listening to the stories of present people, or surveying and digging at a site.

Try this: Put a shovel in the dirt and start digging. Although there are exceptions, usually with each shovel of dirt an older layer will be revealed; the deeper you dig, the further you delve back in time.

Archaeologists at Great Sand Dunes use a similar technique- although a bit more systematic than ordinary digging-to seek understanding of the ancient peoples of south-central Colorado.

The first step to an archaeological survey is to decide where to search. Locations are sometimes chosen randomly and other times chosen for legal reasons (such as if a building were to be constructed at a site). Researchers may engage in a survey because evidence was discovered by a hiker along a trail or because a geographic feature, such as a body of water, is presumed to hold archaeological sites.

Once a site is selected, scientists take a systematic approach to the survey. Layers of earth are removed carefully, sifted thoroughly, and described in writing and on maps. Once the site has been fully mapped, the area has been completely excavated, and the artifacts have been recorded and documented (sometimes illustrated), archaeologists return from the field and write reports on their findings. This information then becomes public for other researchers to study.

In some cases, archaeologists choose not to survey an archaeological site. If a site contains ecologically sensitive plants, animals, or habitat, they may survey the area through means that do not impact the habitat, such as through making surface observations. In some cases, a site might be so spiritually significant to a culture or family, such as a burial ground, that archaeologists may also choose not to disturb the area. What other reasons do you think would keep archaeologists from surveying a site?


Computer with Internet access


archaeologist, Clovis culture, Folsom culture, hearth, mano, metate, systematic

Last updated: February 24, 2015