“None of the dead can rise up and answer our questions. But from all that they have left behind, their imperishable or slowly dissolving gear, we may perhaps hear voices, which are now only able to whisper, when everything else has become silent …”
“It is terribly important that the ‘small things forgotten’ be remembered. For, in the seemingly little and insignificant
things that accumulate to create a lifetime, the essence of our existence is captured.”
~ James Deetz
Humans always leave behind traces of themselves. Analyzing the things people forget or discard and the things they preserve for others, archaeologists recover the voices of those who came before. What they hear is the “essence of our existence.” It is how we learn about the past so as to inform the present and the future. (Traces: Historic Archaeology Edsite)
To begin to understand the process used by archaeologists, students become archaeologists themselves, working in teams to excavate a simulated midden. Each team’s midden is divided into nine grid squares and labeled. Students in each team share the jobs of excavator, map-maker, museum curator, and historian. As they excavate, students NEVER excavate adjacent squares because of the strong possibility that this shifts artifacts from their original position.
Through this simulation, students begin to understand the role archaeology plays in our current knowledge of history, learning that along with research, archaeologists rely heavily on their scientific thinking processes of observing, communicating, comparing, organizing,relating, inferring, and applying to make determinations about cultures of the past.
Here is a student-authored piece about the dig.
Here are pictures of the dig.