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So You Want to Be an Archaeologist? (lesson)

Bo Bell

Bo Bell, 697–678. China. Bronze. Baoji Bronze Museum. Shaanxi.


Students will take the perspective of an archaeologist to investigate and assemble an artifact, and to use evidence to draw conclusions about its identity and function.

50 minutes
Resource Type: 
Keyword Results: 

Common Core Standards:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy. RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic. WHST.6-8.1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content. WHST.6-8.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. WHST.6-8.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. 

Content Standards (California):
Science: 6b. Students know different natural energy and material resources, including air, soil, rocks, minerals, petroleum, fresh water, wildlife, and forests, and know how to classify them as renewable or nonrenewable. 6c. Students know the natural origin of the materials used to make common objects. 7a. Develop a hypothesis 7b. Select and use appropriate tools and technology to perform tests, collect data, and display data. 7c. Construct appropriate graphs from data and develop qualitative statements about the relationships between variables. 7d. Communicate the steps and results from an investigation in written reports and oral presentations. 7g. Interpret events by 

Introduction (5 mins)
Free-write Prompt: 
How do we learn about the past? Ask students to share their thoughts and compile a list on the board. Inform students that of all the ways to study the past, today they are going to focus on archaeology.

Vocabulary Extension
Archaeology = the study of human activity in the past through examination of artifacts
Archaeologist = one who studies or performs archaeology
Artifact = any object made by human beings for a specific purpose
Excavate = to dig out material from the ground

Partner Activity (15 min.)

collection of miniature clay flower pots, statues, or other objects from crafts or dollar store, painted as desired each “artifact” should be smashed with a hammer and the pieces collected in a Ziploc bag; some bags may contain “missing” pieces; glue

Role Play
Tell students that today they are going to be playing the role of archaeologists. They will receive an artifact that they must put back together for display in a museum. Distribute one Ziploc bag and bottle of glue per team. Have them work to reassemble their object. When complete, have students work to create an “exhibit card” for their item, explaining what they believe it is, what they think it was used for and by whom, and any significance in the color or design.

Class Activity (15 min.)
Gallery Walk and Discussion
When time is called, have students display their work on their desk along with the exhibit card and walk around the room to view other students’ artifacts, observing and reading about each item.
*Teachers may use this time to talk about museum etiquette (e.g., “look, don’t touch,”) and have students practice in this classroom gallery before visiting the Asian Art Museum.

After students have viewed the artifacts, discuss what was challenging about being an archaeologist. Ask students what challenges they think professional archaeologists face
when they try to uncover and piece together objects from 2000 years ago.

Class Activity (10 min.)
Ask students to look around the classroom and list some organic and inorganic objects. What might survive in 1,000 years to tell our story to the archaeologists of the future? A binder made of plastic with metal rings might survive, but will the notes taken on the paper inside survive? Will a lunchbox survive? How about the lunch inside it? Will the computer still work? What will happyen to our skeletons? To our clothes? To our desks? Will archaeologists recognize our building as a school? Just like you had to make predictions on what your clay artifact was used for, archaeologists of the future will have to make predictions about what our school was used for, without knowing it was a school. What do you think they will say?

Students should complete the Archaeologist of the Future worksheet (see Appendix III) to identify organic and inorganic objects from their home that they believe future archaeologists will find particularly interesting.

This curriculum was designed by World Savvy in partnership with the Asian Art Museum.

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