Educational outreach efforts by the Foundation in connection with historical and archaeological investigations at Fort Daniel seek to involve students in meaningful learning opportunities consistent with the Georgia State Curriculum and its performance standards. Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) provide “clear expectations for instruction, assessment, and student work. They define the level of work that demonstrates achievement of the standards… (and) isolate and identify the skills needed to use the knowledge and skills to problem-solve, reason, communicate, and make connections with other information. They also tell the teacher how to assess the extent to which the student knows the material or can manipulate and apply the information.”
With the GPS objectives in mind, Foundation member Karen Oates, Ph.D., IT Specialist retired, Georgia State University, has developed the following document appropriate to the Georgia State Curriculum and GPS.
THE USE OF ARCHAEOLOGY IN THE GEORGIA STATE CURRICULUM, GRADES 4-8
Archaeology, a sub-discipline of anthropology, is the scientific study of the life and culture of past peoples through the recovery and analysis of physical evidence. It is an excellent topic for unit development for all grades, especially 4-8. Archaeology requires knowledge in the areas of mathematics, science, social studies, map and globe skills, information processing, and reading and writing, and thus lends itself well to cross-curricular activities.
This document is divided into five sections. The first section is a summary of how the main phases of an archaeological excavation connect to the curriculum. The second section relates archaeological activities to curricula. Please note that statements listed may apply to more than one subject. A list of ideas that teachers might use in creating performance tasks is presented in the third section. Section four addresses Assessment. The last section is a list of the specific Georgia Performance Standards by grade and subject, as they might be applied to the field of archaeology.
An archaeological excavation can be divided into four phases: (1) research, (2) the excavation itself, (3) lab work and analysis, and (4) modeling and report writing.
Research: Information is gathered prior to an excavation to gather as much knowledge on the culture, history and topography of the selected site. Archaeologists read and study informational text, such as historical records and documents, prior excavation documents, diaries, ship logs and maps. They apply that knowledge to formulate a background on which an archaeological excavation is conducted. Research involves extensive reading of informational text, identifying relevant data, studying charts and diagrams, and seeking supporting details. Reading across subject areas and learning new vocabulary is imperative. A surface survey and/or test excavation may be conducted during the research phase or at the beginning of the excavation.
Excavation: Once the background research is completed, the excavation begins. This step of the process involves mathematics, science, and social studies. Excavations require a great deal of measurement, geometry, data analysis and probability, mapping and processing skills. Science is important to excavations as well especially with regard to the impact of weather, time and human existence on the composition of the Earth and manmade structures. Archaeologists use a variety of tools for observing and measuring a site and keeping detailed records.
Lab Work and Analysis: Once the excavation begins, artifacts are returned to the lab for cleaning, labeling, and identification. Depending on the types of artifacts recovered and their placement at the site, comparisons to previous findings are made. Analyses may be conducted to determine artifact composition and age. Mathematics and science are important to this phase.
Modeling and Report Writing: Once the analysis is complete, the archaeologist must write a formal paper detailing and explaining the findings. This entails the ability to explain one’s findings clearly and objectively.
Examples of activities conducted during an archaeological excavation are listed below as they apply to curricular subjects.
In archaeology, provenience of excavated artifacts can be established by measuring horizontal and vertical distance from a datum. (Note the use of new vocabulary in this statement.)
Archaeological sites are laid out in a grid of equal-sized squares or units (ex. 3 meter squares) using surveying equipment. Each unit is precisely measured and numbered and recorded.
Using appropriate materials such as a compass and straightedge, the archaeologist draws a two-dimensional plane of the site, labeling it appropriately.
Size and shape of geometric figures (such as a refuse deposit, fire pits, post holes, etc) found on the grid are examined and compared to determine usage.
Given a partial artifact, such as a pottery bowl fragment, its size and shape can be estimated based on its curvature and characteristics.
Artifacts and features found at an archaeological site are measured, weighed and cataloged. The archaeologist keeps detailed records of what is found in each unit. A typical statement might read, “4 fire cracked rock, 7 pieces of ochre, 6 wasteflakes were recovered from unit D14 at a depth of 60-70 centimeters.”
Descriptive statistics are used to summarize archaeological data – averages or central tendency, simple summary values (more complexity may be used in higher grades). For example, statistics can be used to calculate artifact density (the number of each type of artifacts for each grid square) or the average size or dimensions of artifacts.
Inferential statistics are used to make a conjecture about the site and its use based on looking at just part of it.
Two- and three-dimensional objects including artifacts and ground features are sketched and modeled.
Data is interpreted and reported accurately in a technical report.
Graphs, such as histograms, are used to analyze and report data. For example, histograms can show the percentage of the various types of artifacts (pottery, lithic flakes, etc) found in a specific unit (grid square) or site.
Theoretical models and conclusions based on the artifact data recovered are formed and reported.
Archaeological investigations follow the scientific method. Examples: Research Design, artifact analysis, structural analysis, artifact placement, etc.
Reconstruction of a culture requires the input of various disciplines and specialists including, but not limited to: (1) botany – to identify plants or seeds that are found, (2) geology – to identify kinds of rocks used for tools or building, plus the movement of earth through time, (3) zoology – to identify animal bones, (4) osteology (or forensic anthropology) – to examine human remains, (5) chemistry – to identify the composition of artifacts and soil. Other fields might include linguistics, environmental studies, agriculture, and the visual arts.
The study of prehistoric cultures requires absolute and relative dating techniques to determine chronology. Radiocarbon dating and dendrology are examples of absolute dating. Stratigraphy and typology are used for relative dating.
Radiocarbon and thermoluminescence dating techniques require advanced mathematical ability but may be introduced, especially ranges.
Climate, the environment, and geographical characteristics impact sites. Understanding their effects aids archaeologists in locating and preserving sites.
Potential excavation sites might be revealed through natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, the destruction of property due to construction (roads, buildings, dams, etc), written records or neighboring archaeological activity, satellite and aerial images, or vandalism.
Human activity affects the erosion of the earth’s surface.
Record keeping – each grid square receives a separate number (coordinate in a plane) so that the location of artifacts can be identified after they are removed. Every artifact found at every level is placed in a bag and labeled.
Social Studies Including Map and Globe Skills
Archaeology allows us to reconstruct the past and add to our cultural and historic knowledge base. Results of an excavation might determine how people of a past culture lived, ate, hunted, defended themselves, etc.
Scientific excavation and preservation add to the knowledge base of human history.
Cultures may be divided into prehistoric (before writing) or historic (after writing).
The archaeologist must locate on a physical map selected features of the area in which the excavation is to take place.
Comparing findings to other excavations within and out of state, archaeologists can further reconstruct the history of the area, state and region.
Aerial photography and satellite transmissions help identify possible archaeological sites.
Precise maps are drawn of each square indicating all information found including artifact placement and features (food storage pit, refuse pit, cooking area, post hole, burial, etc). Exact measurements and detailed record keeping are required for future analysis.
New information gained through archaeology may change theories on prehistoric or historic events.
The archaeologist will explain the impact of a site’s location, the climate and resources of the region, for the lifestyles of the people who lived or worked during a particular time period.
The excavation site might demonstrate contact between cultures and the impact that contact had on said cultures. For example, finding beads made of shell in an area inland might indicate contact or trade with other cultures who had access to shells.
Written records help archaeologists determine the chronology of historic events and add to understanding past cultures. Records might include census; birth, marriage, and death; family and local histories; court, land and probate records; newspaper and periodicals, etc.
The archaeologist must:
Compare artifacts and estimate their age and use by shape and style. Examples might include projectile points (arrowheads, spear points, etc), tools, and pottery.
Once maps of all the squares (units) are assembled, identify patterns of usage or structure.
The archaeologist must read extensively from various resources to synthesize as much information concerning a specific time period as possible. Information might be obtained from historical recordings, anecdotal data, and folklore, requiring the investigator to evaluate and determine the author’s purpose in writing and which information is applicable.
Review prior sites in the region to apply to current or future excavations.
Students in archaeology acquire new vocabulary across the curriculum. Examples of vocabulary include: artifact, datum, dendrology, detritus, feature, lithics, midden, provenience, radiocarbon dating, stratigraphy, thermoluminescence, and so on. This vocabulary is used for writing and in speaking.
Keep clear and accurate records.
Document and explain data analysis and techniques used in the lab.
At the completion of the excavation’s analysis, the archaeologist writes a comprehensive report of appropriate length using expository writing.
Following is a list of tasks or projects that may be conducted in the study of archaeology.
The above statements and performance task examples lend themselves well to formative and summative assessments. Instructional strategies for formative assessment include goal setting, observation, record keeping, and questioning. Summative assessments to determine if students have mastered specific competencies can be administered through end-of-unit tests, chapter tests or final exams.