Create Your Own Archaeology Dig

September 4, 2017


We began our study of history last week by reading Chapter 1 out of Snapshots of Ancient History. My 6 year old son was eager to try reading the part of Ted, but isn't up to that reading level yet, so he volunteered his older brother. Ted has some longer lines in the first chapter, so I read some of them, but overall, I was really proud of my 7yo for helping with the reading.

After taking a close look at Ted's timeline and talking about the concept of past and present, we went to the map on our kitchen wall to identify the main areas we'll be studying: Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Greece, Rome, and Mesoamerica. Despite having a good sized map, my son insisted he needed a magnifying glass to see Greece!


After that, we moved onto the hands on part of our lesson. Their very own archaeology dig! First to learn a bit more about what archaeologists are and how they work, we read Archaeologists Dig for Clues, which I checked out from our library. It was a great read in the vein of Magic School Bus. Lots of great information packed into a kid's adventure, with plenty of informational sidebars and boxes. 

Then the fun began! 

The night before I had made our very own "ancient artifact". It was really just a clay pot I'd colored on with sharpie ;). I wanted to get the really small 79 cent sized pot, but apparently late August isn't the time to go pot shopping, because most of the shelves were empty. So I ended up with a larger clay pot for $2.50. 


After I decorated our "artifact" I gathered the rest of the supplies I would be using. 

  • A tray to hold the dirt (I used disposable tin foil to minimize clean up)

  • Dirt

  • A hammer

  • Ribbon or string

  • Scissors

Next I took the hammer to my "artifact" and created some nice ancient remains. The pot held together pretty well and didn't crumble when I hit it. It took several carefully aimed hits to create this pile of pieces. (If you want to give your kids a real challenge you can smash the pieces even smaller.)

Then I just tossed the pieces into the dirt tray. I didn't have enough dirt on hand to totally cover all the pieces, but as my husband pointed out, if I added more dirt, I would just be adding more clean up. Since that wasn't my goal(!!) I just left it with pieces poking out.

Then I poked some holes in the side of my tin foil tray and set up a grid with ribbon. Archaeologists Dig for Clues does a good job of explaining the importance of archaeologists carefully recording everything they find using a grid system. I was more concerned about letting my kids have some hands-on fun than training them to be archaeologists, so I didn't actually make them record what they found using this grid. But if you want a bit more of a challenge, you could ask your kiddo to keep a log of what they dig up. 

When I gave this to my kids during our history lesson, they were SO excited! I mean, what kid isn't excited about being handed a tray full of dirt?! My 6yo is an aspiring artist and he was ecstatic when he learned in Archaeologists Dig for Clues that artists are important to archaeology because they can help reconstruct what things used to look like. He and his brother delegated duties. The older one would dig for clues while the younger one would clean and reconstruct. 


Pretty soon it was clear my little puzzle-lover wanted to reconstruct the entire pot. So I broke out the hot glue gun and started gluing where he told me to. In the end, we got a pretty complete looking pot! 

My kiddos had lots of fun with this activity and I know it inspired a love of archaeology! As soon as we finished, my 6yo ran outside to start digging for ancient artifacts next to the creek. He was quite disappointed he didn't find any right on the top of the soil with just 10 minutes of work. . . maybe one day I'll manage to teach him patience as well as history! 


I hope you can have fun making your own archaeology dig too. 


We're excited to move onto our study of early humans next week. 


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