This past November and December I conducted the Young Archaeologist Club through Archaeology in the Community. When sitting down and thinking about what I wanted to teach the students over the course of six weeks, I found that I had too many ideas. While my passion is Egyptian Archaeology, I didn’t want to solely focus on that. Throughout my college career I learned a lot about different ancient cultures from the Prehistoric to the modern African Diaspora located in the Americas. That’s when I came up with the idea of a time traveling archaeologist. Every week we changed subjects, proceeding in chronological order, for the most part, because some cultures were occurring at the same time.
I then had to think about how to make the lesson plans more focused on archaeology rather than history and culture. I brainstormed some general archaeological techniques, like conservation, excavation, languages, and museums. Then I matched each technique to a specific culture and thought about a hands on activity that the students could do. To make it even more fun, I made passports for every students, with a slot in the front to put a name tag. Every week at the beginning of the club we all wrote our name in a different language. Then at the end of class in exchange for three things they learned that class, I stamped their passports with custom stamps that I made.
I had never really designed a lesson plan before, so it took a couple edits to figure out what I was going to do for each class. I was afraid that the classes would go to long or be too short, but most of the extra time was filled with exciting questions from the students. Each class started out with a powerpoint presentation about the culture were were going to learn about as well as the archaeological technique. Sometimes we watched a video or took a snack break before starting our activity for the day. We would finally end when the parents arrived and the students enthusiastically told them what they learned.
Our first class was on prehistoric archaeology where we talked about megalithic structures such as Stonehenge and Ska Brae, both in the United Kingdom. First, since most prehistoric peoples did not have a written language, we created pictographs of ourselves. We went over what the students thought archaeologists did and some common tools we use. Then we used trowels and a Munsell soil book to compare the colors and textures of different soils. The day ended with a Stonehenge stamp.
The second class we learned about pottery and Mesopotamia. We wrote our names in ancient Akkadian, which proved very difficult and then learned about many of the different cultures that were founded in the Fertile Crescent. Next we pulled out some clay and we made pinch and coil pots, while we watched a video of people making pottery. We also looked at different types of wares and examples of pottery throughout history, and ended with a stamp of a vase.
My favorite class was the one on Ancient Egypt and languages. We wrote our names in hieroglyphics and learned about the Rosetta Stone and how it helped modern historians translate the ancient Egyptian text. We then created our own languages and let the parents translate their secret messages. One student enthusiastically described (almost word for word) the weighing of the heart in the Egyptian underworld to determine if they person was good while alive to receive a stamp of the pyramids.
We then condensed Ancient Greece and Rome together to learn about conservation in the field and the lab. First we wrote our names in Latin and emphasized the difference between the two empires as well as similarities and influences. My favorite activity of the whole club was the conservation method we did in this class. We set up some dirt and pretended that we found a broken pot that we wanted to keep intact and take to a lab. By wrapping the pot in gauze as we excavated, we not only kept the artifact stable but taught important excavating techniques like not to dig straight down with your trowel. After excavating the inside of the pot, the students received a stamp of the Colosseum in Rome.
On the fifth day of the camp, we went on a field trip to the National Museum of the American Indian. We wrote our names in Cherokee and then trekked around the museum with a scavenger hunt. Throughout the trip we talked both about the many different tribes in North America as well as the civilizations in South America. We also talked about how museums display artifacts and how both archaeologists, conservators, historians, and curators all work together to make a museum and an exhibit work together. The day ended with a look around the bazaar of Native American artisans and a teepee stamp in the passport.
The last class focused on historical archaeology with an emphasis on the African Diaspora in American and on artifacts. Because we were caught up with modern day languages we decided to make up cowboy names as it was part of the lesson for the day. We then learned about the only existing example of an African American owned saloon in the Wild West with emphasis on the different artifacts that they found and how they tell the story of the saloon. The students excavated to finish the class out and figured out what each artifact we found was. We ended with a reflection about the whole club and a stamp of a two trowels.
All in all, it was a very successful camp. Even though the camp was meant to teach the students, I ended up learning a lot too.I did find a challenge with keeping the students on topic and paying attention, but I learned to adapt my lesson plans to add fun videos, stories, and facts. I plan to design more lesson plans and expand on many of these cultures to teach to students in the upcoming summer months.
About the author: Melissa Thiringer has been an AITC intern since Summer 2017 after graduating from Hofstra University where she received a BA in Anthropology/Archaeology and Art History. She has conducted excavations in DC, Virginia, England, and Italy as well as internships at the Brooklyn Museum and Hofstra’s Center for Public Archaeology. She is taking a gap year before pursuing a career in Egyptian Archaeology as a MA or PhD.
On a warm August afternoon, volunteers gathered around wire-mesh screens on the campus of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) near Edgewater, Maryland. Wearing thick gardening gloves, volunteers both young and old helped members of the SERC Archaeology Lab push bucketfuls of soil through the wire-mesh screens to reveal artifacts hidden within. The Lab hosts several such Public Dig Days throughout the year, during which families and adult volunteers can assist in excavations and data collection for ongoing projects in environmental archaeology.
SERC offers a variety of volunteer and citizen science programs through which volunteers can work alongside leading scientists to investigate environmental change. At SERC’s Archaeology Lab, environmental archaeology studies involve volunteers in investigating how past peoples shaped and impacted their landscape and how the changes they made continue to affect our present relationships with local ecosystems. Volunteers with the SERC Archaeology Lab have the opportunity to engage at every level of research. Those interested in excavation or lab work can participate at a one-time, three hour session or return weekly to assist with data collection, artifact retrieval, and washing artifacts in the lab. Long-term volunteers also assist in cataloging and further processing artifacts.
SERC’s Archaeology Lab adds an extra dimension to the regular volunteer framework in that volunteers wishing to make a long-term commitment to the program can become Citizen Scientists, acting as principal investigators who lead ongoing projects. First, they formulate research questions to investigate in the lab or in the field. Having created their research design, Citizen Scientists then take on the role of principal investigator as they establish guidelines for collecting artifacts and data, analyze the collected artifact assemblage, and interpret the results through publications, reports, and presentations at both professional conferences and local organizations.
Under the guidance of professional archaeologists, Citizen Scientists learn methodology and best practices at SERC which they are then able to teach to new volunteers, creating a “citizen science continuum” (Grady et al. 2016). The aim of this continuum is to engage and to educate volunteers at every level of the research process, which is made possible at the several archaeological sites within SERC’s campus. Citizen Scientists have developed several research questions and methods to investigate these sites, which range from the 17th through the 20th century, in an effort to understand the agency of individual households in environmental change.
One of these research questions sought to investigate changes in the relative size of oyster shells by comparing the size of shells found in colonial middens with those of present-day oysters. This comparison demonstrated how the over-harvesting of oysters has lead to a decrease in shell size over the last 400 years. A second project compared faunal remains (animal bones left behind as food waste) at the Shaw and Sparrow households which showed a heavy preference for domesticated beef and pork. During the 17th Century, both families lived in close proximity on what would someday become the SERC Campus. Despite an abundance of deer, fish, and other wildlife in the area, both families chose to rely on livestock as a primary food source. Modern-day domesticated cattle and pig herds impact surrounding ecosystems in measurable ways, and these impacts can be extrapolated into the past to give insights into how both the Shaw and Sparrow households impacted their local landscape.
Another project analyzes faunal remains collected from the former seat of Charles County, Port Tobacco. Citizen Scientists investigate the changes and continuity in the provisioning of meat during the town’s heyday in the 18th– and 19th-century. Other projects explore the effects of erosion and sedimentation on the landscape and the use of coal as fuel instead of wood during the 19th Century. Data collected from these projects demonstrate the effects of individual households on local landscapes.
Citizen Scientists and professional archaeologists at SERC engage in public archaeology and outreach with volunteers at every possible opportunity. Not only do they discuss stewardship of both natural and cultural resources, they also promote conversations about research to provoke thought about present and future environmental choices. Volunteers who explore and engage with how households in the past affected local resources might continue to reflect on their role in current environmental issues, including changes that could begin in their own household. One of the long-term goals of the SERC Archaeology program is to inform public policy based on the archaeological evidence detailing an environment changed by human interactions. By working one-on-one with volunteers, Citizen Scientists in the continuum of volunteers can advocate for change by engaging local residents to be informed and protect shared natural and cultural resources.
Grady, Sarah A., Valerie M. J. Hall, and Sarah N. Janesko
2016 Engagement, Agency, and Activism through Environmental Archaeology: A Citizen Science Program at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Practicing Anthropology 38(3):46-47.
About the author: Valerie Hall is lab manager at the Veteran’s Curation Program in Alexandria, VA and is responsible for artifacts rehabilitation. For more information about volunteering with the SERC Archaeology Lab go to:
On the 1st of October, in the pouring autumn rain, a group of local residents, farmers and landowners from the village of Bagendon, in the Cotswolds UK, teamed up with archaeologists from Durham University working on a project called Resituating Europe’s First Town’s (REFIT). The aim of the project is to explore how different types of stakeholders (farmers, residents, local business people etc.) use and understand their local landscapes through interviews and engagement events. For this particular event, with help from Past Environment expert Mike Allen, the group investigated the stories about past land use and environmental change that are hidden in Bagendon’s soil. Using hand augers, everyone had a go a taking and analyzing soil cores and learnt just how much information we can glean about the past from changes in soil type to even the tiniest snail shell or burnt seed remains.
It was a great opportunity for people with different interests and knowledge related to the landscape, both past and present, to meet and share their views on the ways in which human and environmental action can change the shape and quality of the land beneath our feet. To learn more about the event and how it changed participants perceptions of the local landscape, please check out the video below:
The workshop built on positive responses to the REFIT project’s ‘Love your Landscape’ event which was held at Greystones Farm (Salmonsbury oppidum) earlier in the year, in which visitors were able to take part in varied events from Iron Age cooking to exploring a modern robotic milking machine in order to better understand similarities and differences in land use over time. The REFIT project hopes to offer more events like this in the future as a novel way of engaging people with the time-depth and changing nature of their local landscapes.
Written by: Dr Gemma Tully
About the author: Principal Tutor MA Museum and Artifact Studies and Post-Doctoral Research Associate, REFIT Project in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University. Please take a look at the REFIT website www.refitproject.com for more information and all the latest news. Dr. Tully can be reach via phone at 01913 341566 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Archaeology is the only “time machine” we have. Archaeology tells us about people who left no written records and serves as a compliment to historical documents that may be incomplete or inaccurate. For many, the opportunity to learn about people who came before us is very limited or non-existent.
At Archaeology in the Community (AITC), our mission is to promote and facilitate public appreciation and understanding of archaeological heritage, specifically for those people who might never otherwise get the chance to learn about archaeology.
Thanks to the support of our generous contributors, we are able to take immediate action in our community in the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland–and for the second year, we were able to share our programs internationally with students all over Belize. Your support made it possible to teach 800 school age children as well as 150 adults with the following programs
- “Archaeologist for a Day” Community Programs
- Day of Archaeology Festival
- Landscape Archaeology Photo Exhibition
- Art and Archaeology Workshop
- Archaeology of Mixology Workshop
Our programs are free and customizable. We teach archaeology as a fun, innovative and hands-on method to inspire greater interest in science, history and the build understanding of community stories. We’re an affordable option for schools and community groups to give students further enrichment they can’t afford to provide themselves.
Every class AITC teaches is a unique enrichment opportunity that supports math, science, and social studies learning.
But we need your help to keep going.
Right now, with the need for our services far outpacing our funding, and new requests for programs are coming in every day. The need for your support is URGENT!
This year Walk for Archaeology will take place
Saturday, September 12th, 2015 (Rain or Shine we will walk)
White House Ellipse
Registration begins at 12:00 pm
Walk starts at 12:30 pm
Please register by September 11th, 2015 to participate in the walk. If you are unable to participant in the walk please consider making a donation. Walk Registration and Donation Link
Archaeology in Modern Landscapes Exhibit
Black History Museum & Cultural Center in Richmond, Virginia
Saturday, August 15 at 2:00pm
Free to the Public
Light Fare and Beverages will be served
Premiering in August 2013, Archaeology in the Community with local college students partnered to represent Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland’s rich archaeological history through their experience and photography. Students sought various buildings, locations, landscapes that have been or were currently being surveyed by archaeologists. Using digital photography, students captured these sites in ways they thought best represented the landscape’s story. The photographs were featured as the core focus of an exhibit along with student research on the archaeological and oral histories of local descendants.
This year’s exhbition will focus on Richmond, Virginia and exploring the history that is hidden among the modern landscapes.
Archaeologists ……we hope you are ready! Our students have been busy writing questions for you to answer.
THIS SATURDAY is our community service event where you get to answer all of these wonderful questions.
May 30th, 2015
1630 7th St NW Washington, DC 20001
From 1 pm to 2 pm
Carpe DC Food Tours and AITC have teamed up to give you a chance to experience Washington heritage in a new way- through your appetite!
The U Street and Shaw Neighborhood Tour describes the development of the neighborhoods from their early days as fruit orchards, through their glory days when they were known as Black Broadway, and the difficult decades following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the riots that followed.
The tours will start at noon at Ben’s Next Door on U Street. Tours include stops at 6 locally owned restaurants as well as visits to local landmarks. Each walking tour covers 2 miles over approximately 3 hours.
These stories and many more are told through food, architecture, history, and archaeology. Tickets are $68 for the food tour or $98 for food and alcohol.Remember, in addition to being a delicious and unique experience, this is a fundraiser for AITC! Check it out and sign up here using code: AITC2015
Cultural heritage can be defined as the legacy of tangible artifacts and intangible attributes of a society or group that is inherited from the past, maintained in the present, and passed down to future generations.
Join AITC for an interactive workshop combining art and archaeology to celebrate the diversity of our individual and collective cultural traditions through the art-making process. Participants will combine found objects and personal artifacts that represent some aspect of the participant’s heritage and transform them into a lasting mosaic tile.
Celebrate your individual and collective cultural traditions! Combine found objects and personal artifacts (for example, orphaned earrings, kitchen utensils, buttons, screws, keys, etc.) and immortalize your material history!
- Date: Sunday, March 29th
- Time: 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm
- Location: Brookland Art Center (3305 8th St NE Washington, DC)
- Price: $30 per person
- Includes: materials, wine, and appetizers
Your artwork will then serve as a treasured keepsake that pays homage your own cultural heritage while fostering a greater appreciation for the field of archaeology.
July 8 @ 8:00 am - July 13 @ 5:00 pm
Recent Blog Updates
- Why I Believe in Archaeology 03/05/2018
- St. Croix Project Wins GMAC Diversity Field School Award 02/19/2018
- AITC’s Young Archaeologists Club becomes Time Travelers 02/07/2018
- Disability and Archaeology 11/09/2017
- Auckland Castle: Serving the Community through Heritage 09/15/2017