Archaeology and Mapping

DURATION: One session

  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
  • Paper


Archaeologists use several different methods to understand the past. One of the most important methods they use is mapping. There are several different types of maps created by archaeologists. Some will show the layout of an entire site while others may just show specific sections. Plan maps are maps that show the layout of a building or structure found on a site. Plan maps will show the walls and support structures of a building. These maps also show where artifacts were found within that area.
By studying these maps, archaeologists can begin to understand how the past peoples lived. By considering where the structures were and where different artifacts were in relation to them, archaeologists can tell where Indians hunted, cooked or slept. They can tell if an area was used over a long period of time or if it was just a seasonal camp.

Guiding Question:

  • How does mapping an area help archaeologists understand how the space was used by past societies?


  • Students will learn about mapping by creating a classroom map


  • Have the students imagine a particular room. (Encourage them to think beyond rooms found in their houses. Ex: store, restaurant, dentist office, etc.) Have them keep their room to themselves. Next, have the students write a journal entry describing how this room is laid out and where the furniture and objects are positioned. Have the students read aloud their entries and see how many can guess where the room is that they were describing.


1.      Divide the class into 4 groups. 
2.      Assign each group a section of the classroom.
3.      Have the students map their sections of the classroom as if they were looking at them from above. 
4.      First, have students draw and label all doors, windows and closets on the plan map
5.      Next, draw in and label all large pieces of furniture
6.      Add some of the smaller objects as room allows.
7.      Create a key for objects that appear more than once or if the object is too small to label
8.      Add a North arrow.
9.      When all groups are finished, add the maps together to have a complete plan map of the classroom. 
10. Discuss how/why mapping an area might help you to understand how the space is used.
11. Encourage the students to explain how the artifacts found in their section of the room help define what the area is used for.


  • Have students create scale maps of their rooms at home.
  • Have students use graph paper and develop a scale that is used consistently throughout the project.  (Example: 2 squares = 1 foot). Remind students to have scale listed on their map. 
  • Students will use a tape measure while mapping and follow the same procedure as listed above.


  • 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.
  • 1.04 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 perspectiveted above.