Snack: Crush three graham crackers by placing them under
waxed paper and pushing down on the waxed paper with a glass. Keep crushing
sections until it's nothing but crumbs. That will be your "sand." Pour a little
of this "sand" into a Styrofoam cup, and drop in a treat, such as a gummy bear,
an M&M or a miniature marshmallow. Then pour in a little more "sand," and
add some more treats. Once you have all the "sand" and a handful of little
edible surprises in the cup, take out a spoon and do a little snack-time
"archaeology" by eating spoonfuls of the graham-cracker crumbs and occasionally
finding one of the little goodies you buried in the "sand." Note: keep your
Styrofoam cup; you'll need it for this activity!
Clean, dry sand
10 small items from around the house
One piece of paper
Bit of ribbon
Styrofoam cup from snacktime, above
Tough plastic trash sack or plastic
Archaeology is the study of ancient people. We can't talk to
them, and there aren't exactly any newspapers or DVD's laying around from their
era - since that kind of stuff didn't EXIST in their era. So how do we study
them? By digging up and studying their stuff that DID survive the eons.
By looking at common, everyday household items and odds and
ends that they left behind centuries ago, such as pottery, and translating
inscriptions from their ancient languages that might have been literally etched
in stone, archaeologists can make a lot of educated guesses about how those
people so long ago lived. They can figure out what they ate, what they did for
a living, and what they believed.
Let's use a little "shoebox creativity" to do a little home
archaeology! You and a friend could prepare these study boxes for each other,
secretly and separately, and then get together and "investigate" each other's
archaeological shoeboxes together.
Here's what to do:
Fill a sturdy shoebox with clean,
dry sand. Put 10 small items from around your house into the sand and bury them
here and there. They might be things that represent something else. Examples: a
Lego block, a crayon stub, a small battery, a charm from a bracelet, a tiny
piece of a toy, maybe a tiny picture cut out of a magazine, and maybe a piece
Cut a piece of paper that is only
about an inch tall. On it, make a secret code to symbolize an ancient language.
Maybe you will write the English alphabet, and make a new symbol in your
invented language to stand for each letter of our alphabet.
Now take a toothpick and your
Styrofoam cup from your snack. Looking at your alphabet code, write a word in
the side of the cup, etching it with the toothpick, as small as you can to
still make it readable. For lack of time, we can't be etching words in stone to
leave for our amateur archaeologists to read. But our toothpick-Styrofoam
alternative is the same idea. Cut out your word from the cup and discard the
rest of the cup.
Now "bury" the word in the sand with the rest of your little
Roll up this language code into a tiny scroll and tie it
with a bit of ribbon. We'll pretend that it's an ancient papyrus (pronounced
"puh PIE russ"), which is what the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians wrote
on because they didn't have paper. Papyrus is a plant that grows near water. It
has a "pith" in the middle that can be cut into thin strips, laid together,
soaked, and then pressed down and dried, to make a flat surface that could be
written upon. Such a scroll might be found inside a piece of pottery in an
archaeological site if it was a place where educated people lived and worked.
Most people in those ancient days couldn't read or write.
Bury the scroll in the sand, too. It
can be used to translate the word you buried.
Now comes archaeology time!
The rule is, you can use ONLY the
toothpick, teaspoon and paintbrush to remover sand from the shoebox. Place sand
bit by bit in a tough plastic trash bag or plastic container. When this
activity is over, you can store the sand and use it again.
When you come to an item in the
"dig," use the brush to clear sand away so that you can get a good look at the
item you've uncovered. Take the ruler, and measure how many inches away from
the edge of the sandbox, horizontally and vertically, the item was found. Write
that down in your notebook.
Make a list of the items, with
exactly where they were found in the shoebox "dig," and with your ideas about
what each of the "artifacts" might reveal about the "ancient culture" it came
For example, if you found an
M&M, could it have been a precious jewel? Or were the "ancient people"
you're studying chocoholics?
If you find a battery, you know that
centuries ago, they didn't have batteries as a power source. But the battery
might represent energy to you. You can write down your guess of what they DID
use to provide energy for heat and light.
Keep going, and when you're
finished, write a one-paragraph report giving a name to the "people" you
studied, and some facts about them that you learned or thought up through your
Archaeology teaches us a lot, and
it's fun. Can you . . . DIG IT?!?