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Archaeology Activities for Home

Parents, the weather is slowly turning dark and grey. The opportunities for outdoor play, becoming harder to find. That’s why we’re sharing Archaeology Activities that you can do at home. Read on, download the tools and have fun with your adventurer.

Keeping kids entertained on rainy days can be difficult. Why not engage them in fun, educational activities, which can be done with only a few materials and simple instructions? Here are just two of the many activities you can do with your little ones that will keep them engaged and teach them about archaeology!

Stratigraphy

Stratigraphy studies the different layers of the earth and what we can find in them. Archaeologists use these layers to help develop a timeline for the area (the oldest items are usually found in the deepest layers). The artifacts found in the layers can also indicate who was living on the site at different points in time.  This information is the context for each artifact.

 

Materials

Image of Braciopod Fossil
  • Empty plastic water bottles
  • 2 boxes of table salt
  • Food colouring
  • A small shell (or brachiopod fossils if available)
  • broken pieces of pottery or ceramic (edges can be sanded, if sharp)
  • Pop tabs

 

Instructions

1) Split salt into four containers, add a different colour food colouring to each, shake containers

2) Give each child a water bottle, a shell (or fossil), 5 marbles, and a pop tab

3) Place shell at the bottom of the bottle, add one colour of salt on to cover.

4) Add more layers of different coloured salt until about one-third of the bottle is filled

5) Add the pottery/ceramic, and then keep layering

6) place the pop tab on top of the final layer

Why This Archaeology Activity is Relevant

This activity gives us a visual of how stratigraphy works. Each layer of salt is a different colour, just as the different layers of sub-soil and top-soil are different colours depending on location and what created them. At the very bottom of our site, we have our oldest item – the shell/fossil. Next, we have some broken pottery representing a past human layer. Finally, at the top, we have the metal pop tab, a ‘new artifact’ of the present time.

Cookie Excavation

Image of cookie excavation

This cookie excavation will help children understand the care that must be taken while excavating in order to not damage the fragile artifacts (in this case the chocolate chips). They will also appreciate how they have destroyed the cookie (archaeological site) in the process. However, by recording all their artifacts the information of their cookie will survive on.

Materials:

Instructions:

  • Give each child a cookie, activity sheet, and two toothpicks.
  • Before starting the excavation, children should place their cookie on Grid A. Then draw the cookie, with all the visible artifacts (chocolate chips) included. This will be their record of the archaeological site.
  • Excavate cookies with the toothpicks, by carefully chipping away at the dirt (cookie) to slowly reveal any hidden artifacts. For an added challenge, remind them that they should not pick up their cookies because archaeologists cannot pick up sites!
  • For each “artifact” found add it to the drawing on grid B.
  • At the end each child should have a pile of back dirt (cookie crumbs) and artifacts (chocolate chips), and their drawing of what they looked like before.
  • Count artifacts; who has excavated the most?
  • Eat the destroyed cookie!

Why is this Relevant?

Archaeological excavations are a destructive process. When archaeologists have finished with a site, they have largely taken it apart piece by piece to discover its secrets. Unfortunately, this means a site, once excavated, can’t be excavated again. To fix this problem, archaeologists take lots of notes, drawings, photographs, take samples of soils, and write detailed reports so archaeologists in the future can come back to their excavations and learn even more. Without all these notes and reports all the context we learned about in the stratigraphy activity above will be lost forever.

We hope you enjoy this archaeology activities with your adventure.

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