Excavate Your Breakfast

Parents: This exercise describes the basics of an archaeological dig. You'll need: pancakes, silverware, and a plate - preferably one with a design on it! Modify it to suit your child's attention span.

When archaeologists excavate a site, the first thing they do is decide where to dig. We use things people have told us about the area, historical records, and data from preliminary surveys (walking around the site and looking at it carefully). We already did that - and here's the place we chose to dig:

After selecting the site, archaeologists divide it up into squares using nails 3 feet apart connected with string. It's easier to keep track of where we find artifacts when we divide the site this way - knowing exactly where we found each artifact and what was found near it is called "context," and it's very important to help us interpret the meaning of artifacts we excavate! Let's divide our site into squares (using a knife instead of nails and string):

The archaeologists pick the square that seems likely to contain the most interesting artifacts, and they excavate it layer by later. We can usually tell when we've hit the second layer, because the soil changes color:

We sift through each layer to make sure we haven't missed anything. You can do this by chewing and eating your pancake. (Don't eat the soil on a real dig, though!)

We've gone down through two layers of soil and haven't found anything! Now, we might decide to dig deeper here, or we could pick a new square and try our luck there. Let's excavate another square:

Hey! We found something! This artifact looks like it might continue into the next square; let's excavate that one, CAREFULLY - we don't want to disturb anything important!

Hmm ... let's keep going!

I found a woman! Now, if this were a real site, we would very carefully excavate the soil all around her, sift through it for smaller artifacts, and take her to a laboratory, where we would do some scientific tests to find out more abut her and her people.

Now, to make sure we didn't miss any context, let's excavate the rest of our site:

(Sometimes things get muddy out in the field.)

Did you find any artifacts in YOUR breakfast this morning?

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