We were excited to add an Archaeology Camp to our summer day camp programming this year. Students attended in the mornings last week, with the program culminating in an actual excavation Thursday followed by washing and processing our discovered artifacts on Friday morning.
On our first day of camp, we discussed the difference between archaeology as portrayed by popular media as opposed to archaeology as a science practiced by trained professionals. The students were given an archaeological "mission"--to retrieve the Golden Chimp--and created scripts to act out their field work in the style of Indiana Jones, Laura Croft, and real archaeologists. They did a fantastic job! We had skits chock-full of Nazis, snakes, rolling boulders, and evil henchmen; however, our real archaeologists group went in with screens and trowels, asking questions and recording the site before removing artifacts. This activity really encouraged the students to think critically about the various representations of archaeology, and we had a very interesting discussion afterwards regarding how real archaeology differed from the media portrayals. (Many thanks to my friends at the Florida Public Archaeology Network for their excellent "Beyond Artifacts" programming resource, in which I found the above lesson! Here's a link to their site: http://www.flpublicarchaeology.org/resources/ ) We learned a lot about the basics of archaeology on Tuesday, especially about the importance of recovering and recording data.
On Wednesday, we learned about a few archaeological subfields, including zooarchaeology (the study of animal remains left behind by past peoples) and archaeobotany (the study of plants used and cultivated by past peoples). Our special visitor, Steve Kuehn, is a zooarchaeologist with the Illinois State Archaeological Survey, and he brought a fantastic teaching collection of stones and bones to show us how people used those natural resources to survive in our region.
He had many stone tools and tools made of bone, and he taught us how you can learn about past peoples' diets through analyzing the bones of animals they used for food. The students spent a LOT of time holding, using, and experimenting with the many different kinds of animal bones and stone tools he brought to show us!
Each excavation square was labeled, and the students did a great job keeping track of the provenience of each artifact (the location where it was found). Each group had a paper bag labeled with their square's number, and they were very careful when collecting artifacts to make sure we knew the provenience of each one. Despite the heat and high humidity last Thursday, the students worked diligently (although they were very glad to take a break mid-morning for popsicles)!