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Reconstructing Artifacts


  • Geography


  • K-2
  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

This hands-on activity introduces students to the job skills required of an archaeologist. The lesson fits well into curriculum relating to dinosaurs, ancient cultures, and local history.


  • research history to create an artifact of a culture from history.
  • learn about the skills required to reconstruct that artifact.
  • reflect on the skills of an archaeologist.
  • use their knowledge of cultures to identify the group represented by the artifact.


history, ancient, dinosaur, art, archaeology, artifact, geography, prehistoric

Materials Needed

  • clay pots (small or medium in size), one pot per pair of students
  • paints and paint brushes
  • small brown paper bags
  • dirt
  • glue

The Lesson

This lesson helps students understand what archaeologists find, why they search for artifacts, and how they reconstruct them. The lesson as written ties to a state history curriculum, but can easily be adapted to fit into curriculum relating to dinosaurs, ancient cultures, and local history.

Arrange students into pairs. Have each pair select a Native American group (perhaps one that was known to live in or near your area). Student pairs research the Native American group they selected and plan a design for their clay pot that represents that group. Then students paint their clay pots.

The next day, before students arrive, break each clay pot into large and small pieces and place the broken pieces in a small brown bag. (You might hold back some of the pieces of the pots, since archaeologists often come upon artifacts that are not whole.) Add dirt to the bag and shake, so the pieces are well mixed with the dirt.

At the start of class, give each pair of students a bag and ask them to reconstruct the pot. Remind them of an archaeologist's job. Students glue back together the parts they "dig up." (This is a slow process that might take two days or a longer, blocked-out class period to complete. After putting their pots back together, students write a report describing their findings and their reflections on the work of archaeologists. Can students identify from the painting which Native American group their pot represents?


Observe how students work together and stay on task. Students also are graded on the written report of findings.

Lesson Plan Source

A geography workshop I attended in 1996

Submitted By

Michelle Gay, Foley Intermediate School in Foley, Alabama

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