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Homeschooling Resources: Archeology

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Homeschooling Resources: Archeology


archeologistSeptember is NATIONAL ARCHEOLOGY MONTH.  Bones, stones, treasure, and a chance to grub around in the dirt – how awesome is that?

In Kate Duke’s Archaeologists Dig for Clues (HarperCollins, 1996), one of the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series, three kids and their pets accompany Sophie, an archaeologist, on a dig, asking questions every step of the way. A nice introduction to archaeology for ages 4-8.

Anne Millard’s A Street Through Time (Dorling Kindersley, 1996) is a series of wonderful panoramic drawings of the same riverside European location in fourteen different time periods, from 10,000 BCE – a Stone-Age hunters’ camp – to modern times. (An additional feature for readers: find the Where’s Waldo-type hidden time traveler.) Archaeology in a nutshell, for all ages.

Peter Kent’s City Across Time (Kingfisher, 2010) tracks an imaginary European city from the Stone Age to the present, with detailed drawings of what’s going on both above and below ground. As time moves on, today’s buildings and people become tomorrow’s rubble and bones. For ages 7-11.

In the Eyewitness series, Archeology (Dorling Kindersley, 2000) is organized as a series of double-page spreads, covering such topics as “Preservation and decay,” “Looking at the landscape,” “All kinds of documents,” and “Buildings of the past.” Gorgeously illustrated with photographs of archaeological artifacts. For ages 8 and up.

Anthony Aveni’s Buried Beneath Us: Discovering the Ancient Cities of the Americas (Roaring Brook Press, 2013) begins with the discovery – by startled electrical workers – of the fabulous Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, beneath the streets of Mexico City. An information-packed and interesting read for ages 9-12.

Richard Panchyk’s Archaeology for Kids (Chicago Review Press, 2001) is great informational activity book, variously covering how archaeology works, human evolution, the Ice Age and the Neolithic, the first civilizations, ancient Greece and Rome, the New World, and historical archaeology. Included are maps and diagrams, photos, a timeline, and a helpful bibliography. There are also 25 hands-on projects, among them calculating height from a footprint mold, analyzing soil, practicing dendrochronology by counting tree rings, playing a seriation game (with photos of old cars), and making an ancient-Greek-style oil lamp. For ages 9 and up.

John White’s Hands-On Archaeology (Prufrock Press, 2006), an informational collection of “Hands-On Activities for Kids,” has a wealth of projects based on site research, excavation, field records, artifact preparation and cataloging, and more. Included are a lengthy appendix of teacher resources and reproducible forms and worksheets. For ages 9 and up.

James Deem’s Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005) is an enthralling account of what was once one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. The book describes what happened in the wake of the eruption and how archaeologists rediscovered the city. Illustrated with many photographs of excavations, artifacts, bones, and plaster molds of victims. Starred reviews. Also by Deem in the same format, see Bodies from the Ice (HMH, 2008) and Bodies from the Bog (HMH, 2003). For ages 9-13.

The National Geographic Investigates Ancient Civilizations series is a collection of 64-page books on the archaeology and history of ancient cultures worldwide, each with maps, timelines, interviews with researchers, and – of course, it’s National Geographic – gorgeous color photographs. Titles include Ancient Maya, Ancient Pueblo, Ancient China, Ancient Africa, Ancient Celts, and more. For ages 10 and up.

David Macaulay’s Ship (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993) begins with a crew of underwater archaeologists recovering a sunken 15th-century ship from a reef near the Bahamas, then leaps back in time to follow the building of the ship and its eventual demise. Fictitious, but historically accurate; illustrated with terrific and detailed architectural drawings. For ages 10 and up.

See also Homeschooling Resources: Trains

Annual Editions: Archaeology (McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2012) is one of the extensive Annual Editions series, each of which is a collection of reader-friendly articles from popular magazines, newspapers, and books related to a specific topic. The Archaeology volume, for example, contains 38 articles covering a wide range of interesting archaeological topics. Titles include “All the King’s Sons” from the New Yorker, “Lost City of the Maya” from Smithsonian, “Uncovering America’s Pyramid Builders” from Discover, and “Lost Cities of the Amazon” from Scientific American. An excellent resource for teenagers and adults.

By Johannes Loubser, Archaeology the Comic (Altamira Press, 2003) is an introductory archaeology text in the form of a graphic novel. The book follows the adventures of Squizee, a teenager and would-be archaeologist, and her mentor, a museum archaeologist named Dr. Holmes. Various chapters cover excavation techniques, dating methods, artifact cataloging and analysis, and a host of archaeological studies and controversies. A nice presentation for teenagers and adults.

Dig, Cobblestone Publishing’s terrific archaeology and history magazine for kids, is packed with informational articles, illustrations, news, and activities. Sample issue titles include “Dogs: In the Beginning They Were Wolves,” “America’s First Cities,” “Amazing Earth Paintings,” and “Digging in the Valley of the Kings.” An annual subscription (nine issues) costs about $30; individual back issues are available for $6.95 apiece. For ages 9-14.

In Annenberg Learner’s Collapse: Why Do Civilizations Fall?, explore the fall of four major civilizations – the Maya, Mesopotamia, Chaco Canyon, and the west African kingdoms of Mali and Songhai. Included are interactive activities and an extensive resource list.

In the PBS series Time Team America, archaeologists race to excavate historic sites around the nation. Visitors to the website can watch full episodes and access lots of helpful supplementary information.

The History Channel’s Digging for Truth series, starring Josh Bernstein, deals with unsolved historical and archaeological mysteries, and each episode – after site visits, interviews with researchers, and investigation – ends with a working hypothesis. Titles include “Hunt for the Lost Ark,” “Secrets of the Nazca Lines,” “Mystery of the Anasazi,” “The Real Temple of Doom,” and “Roanoke: The Lost Colony.” Available on DVD or as Amazon Instant Videos.

Dig-It Games, founded by a professional archaeologist/middle-school teacher, makes archaeology-themed video games for kids, designed to promote puzzle- and problem-solving skills (and some history learning). Titles so far include Roman Town and Mayan Mysteries. For Mac, PC, and mobile devices.

Odyssey Online is a beautifully designed museum site in which visitors can explore the Near East, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Africa, and the ancient Americas. Explore people, mythology, daily life, death and burial, writing, and archaeology; click on artifacts to discover their histories; access maps; and find lists of books and helpful websites. A terrific resource.

From teacher Mr. Donn’s website, Archaeology for Kids is packed with basic kid-friendly information (What is an archaeologist? How do archaeologists find sites to explore?), along with short biographies of famous archaeologists, games, quizzes, and interactive activities.

What to do with pottery shards? In Archeology Game, kids decorate clay flower pots, then smash them (gently; you don’t want smithereens) in a paper bag, and then re-assemble them with glue, archaeologist-style.

Interact – a division of Social Studies School Service – publishes simulations that encourage kids to learn by doing. Click on “World History” to find simulations of interest to young archaeologists, among them Dig, in which participants divide into two groups, invent a civilization, and then fabricate artifacts and create a “dig” for the opposing team to excavate. Diggers then attempt to re-create the civilization of the opposite team from the archaeological evidence. For ages 12 and up.

Finally, for those eager to get out in the field, armed with trowel, teaspoon, and paintbrush, and dig, the Archaeological Institute of America publishes the Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin (AFOB), a detailed list of digs, field schools, and programs with positions for volunteers or students. Or check out the USDA Forest Service’s Passport in Time, a long list of volunteer archaeological fieldwork and historical preservation opportunities at Forest Service-sponsored sites around the United States. (The bad part: You don’t get to keep anything you find. The good part: It’s the finding that’s the most fun.)

For many more resources, check out Awesome Archaeology and Ancient Egypt at

Happy digging!

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