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Digging without Dirt: An Excavation Simulation

Author(s): Shannon Fie

Year: 2015

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Efforts to simulate archaeological excavations typically include the seeding of objects in plastic tubs, sandboxes, and even cakes. Although these activities may spark excitement in students at the discovery of artifacts, they are often simple caricatures of the methods employed in actual archaeological investigations. Far worse, this treasure-hunting approach tends to reinforce the quest for "things", while also undermining key aspects of excavation that educators hope to instill, namely, the importance of context and provenience in making sense of these same objects. Simply eliminating the dirt mitigates much of the problem by directing student interest towards observing, recording, and interpreting different archaeological materials. Instead a seeded sand box, the highlighted activity utilizes craft paper units, unprovenienced artifacts, and painted features to simulate modern, historic, and prehistoric residential deposits. While highly effective in introducing students to in basic artifact recovery and interpretation, this approach is also highly flexible and can be easily modified to suit different age groups, time constraints, and a variety of course goals.

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Digging without Dirt: An Excavation Simulation. Shannon Fie. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396612)


Geographic Keywords
North America - Midwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America