Calling all Future Archaeologists

This past Saturday on October 12th the Michigan Historical Museum hosted Michigan Archaeology Day. Colleges, organizations, companies, and academics from across the state came to present lectures and exhibits that showcased the wide range of archaeology all over Michigan. CAP presented “Dig the Past,” an interactive station to engage children in many of the different aspects of archaeology.

Some of the CAP crew at Michigan Archaeology Day. Picture courtesy of Michigan State Historic Preservation Office
Some of the CAP crew at Michigan Archeology Day. Picture courtesy of Michigan State Historic Preservation Office

The dig room at Michigan Archaeology was centered around the dig tent. When kids entered the tent they could step into the shoes of a real archaeologist and participate in an excavation.  Kids used tools of the trade, like trowels and brushes to uncover the artifacts. Artifacts like beads, or corn, or different lithics (stone tools) were hidden away for them to discover. It seemed to be the biggest hit.

Jacque and Max showing the kids how to excavate. Picture Courtesy Michigan State Preservation Office
Jacque and Max showing the kids how to excavate. Picture Courtesy Michigan State Preservation Office

The next station that intrigued the kids was our artifact display table. We were showcasing cool artifacts like worked copper, banner stones, bird stones, tools and all varieties of points. One kid told me that a spear point was definitely a T-Rex tooth because it looked too much like bone and too sharp for a person to make. Everyone seemed excited though at the prospect of being able to actually handle real artifacts. We even had a microscope set up so that they could examine the different artifacts up close!

Another big hit was the example petroglyphs, or carved rock (created by the State Historic Preservation Office).  The kids were able to do rubbings on pieces of white paper with crayons over the petroglyphs to get an idea of what the shape and picture looked like.

Right next to this station was our stratigraphic station (also created by the State Historic Preservation Office). There were pictures of artifacts that the kids could color in. These artifacts were arranged on a timeline starting with things like harpoon hooks and spear points, and moving onwards toward worked copper pots and European pottery, and ending with a can of coke. On the wall next to this there was a soil profile which had different stratigraphic levels indicated by changing soil colors. We were trying to help the kids get a grasp on the Law of Superposition. After they were done coloring their artifacts they could place it on the wall where they thought it should go based on the Law of Superposition.

Tyler and Max teaching participants about artifacts. Photo courtesy Michigan State Historic Preservation Office
Tyler and Max teaching participants about artifacts. Photo courtesy Michigan State Historic Preservation Office

I was working with one girl and explaining stratigraphy to her, and how she could recognize the different stratigraphic layers in the soil profile. By the time I was done she had placed the picture of European pottery right near the top. I was excited because she grasped the fairly advanced concept.  Curious, I asked her why she had placed her picture near the top of the wall; she looked at me and said, ‘Frisbees go at the top because they are newer like pop cans.’ I had to laugh to myself because she had clearly thought through her decision but had interpreted the circular European pottery as a modern day Frisbee with really cool designs.

Overall the level of excitement throughout the day was amazing. The kids asked all sorts of questions and I can’t wait until they are able to start studying and contributing to the field as well.



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