The supervisor had prepared the sites ahead of time, making note of three layers of time, marked by three different soils and storied artifacts embedded into each layer. On the bottom layer of each "site" was a layer of mixed soils. The middle level sand. The top layer revealed darker, aromatic soil.
All were contained in a marked grid on a square table, and each team of archaeologists would excavate a single portion of the grid. For ease of excavation, each block of soil was contained in a clear, plastic shoebox, sitting on a plastic blue tray to aid in minor spills during the operation.
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Our tools for the activity included the following:
Students were ready to dig in. That's not a bad thing, but it does bring up a problem: students are ready to really dig in, without the patience of an archaeologist. They needed to go slow and uncover a single layer at a time and not plow through like bulldozers. Any teacher attempting this activity must be ready to stop and restart the class many times with added instruction along the way.
This first lesson of the year takes a lot of energy and attention to detail. It is intended to cause students to notice all of the artifacts, recording which was found in each layer to they can "interpret" the progression of those layers in order to tell a story. For us, all of the interpretation had to take place later in the week.