Archaeology and Artifacts

DURATION: Two sessions

  • Internet access


Past societies do not always leave detailed accounts of their lives. It is similar to solving a puzzle when trying to figure out what people used to eat, where they lived, how they hunted and about their daily lives. One scientific method of studying the past is called Archaeology.
Archaeology is the study of peoples and cultures through the materials that they have left behind. These materials, that have been used or altered by humans, are called artifacts. Artifacts provide archaeologists with clues about the people who used them and their relationships to each other within their world.

Guiding Questions:

  • What do archaeologists use to learn about the past?


  • Students will learn about archaeology and the ways that archaeologists use material culture to interpret the past


  • Have students write a journal account from the point of view of an archaeologist working on a Mississippian Town site in Tennessee. What are some of the artifacts that they might discover?


Session 1: Artifacts and You
2.  Talk about possessions that the students have that will still be around in 100 years. These are the artifacts that archaeologists will find and study to learn about the students. (Remind them that most organic items will not survive)
3.   Have students (or teacher on board) make a list of examples.
4.   Make a separate list of artifacts that parents or grandparents might have.
5.   Compare the list. How are they similar/different? Would archaeologists be able to tell the groups apart if they were to excavate the artifacts? Why or why not?
Session 2: Artifact Analysis
1.   Read the sections on archaeology on the website
2.   Choose pictures of artifacts listed on the pages.
3.   Have students analyze the artifacts and discuss what they may have been used for
4.   Compare the artifacts to things that are used in present day that may be similar or have similar uses.


  • Students can collect artifacts from home that they feel would be descriptive of who they are and the type of life they have.
  • Place artifacts in individual, unmarked boxes.
  • Have the students share their thoughts about what the artifacts represent. Then compare it to the person who brought in the objects.


  • Tennessee State Standards
    1.01 Understand the diversity of human cultures.
  • 1.02 Discuss cultures and human patterns of places and regions of the world.
  • 1.03 Recognize the contributions of individuals and people of various ethnic,racial, religious, and socioeconomic groups to the development of civilizations.
  • 1.04 Understand the contributions of individuals and people of various ethnic,
    racial, religious, and socioeconomic groups to Tennessee.
  • 5.1.01 Understand the diversity of human cultures.
  • 5.1.02 Discuss cultures and human patterns of places and regions of the world.
  • a. Explain how art, music, and literature reflected the times during which they were
  • 3.01 Understand how to use maps, globes, and other geographic representations,
    tools, and technologies to acquire, process and report information from a spatial perspective