Last updated: April 10, 2015
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!
My fellow archeologist, Tim Everhart, digs into a hole in the ground called a "unit." He loves to play in the dirt!
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.
Keeping good notes is very important in archeology
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!
Picking out artifacts in all that dirt is a lot like playing I Spy. Do you see anything special in the dirt?
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!