Be an Archaeologist: New Mexico’s Spanish Frontier: the San
Jose de Las Huertas Archaeological Project
by June E. Monroe
June was an Earthwatch Institute Teacher Fellow
from Los Angeles, CA on Earthwatch's "New Mexico’s Spanish
Frontier" project led by Dr. Atherton in June-July 2002.
I. Student Outcomes
A. In this lesson, students
are going to excavate like an archaeologist.
II. . Lesson Standards
1. Life Sciences (3)
a) Adaptations in physical structure or behavior may improve
an organism’s chance for survival.
b). Students know when the environment
changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others
die or move on to new locations.
c). Students know that some kind of organisms
that once lived on Earth have completely disappeared and that
some of those resembled others that are alive today.
2. Continuity and Change
3.2 Students describe the American Indian nations in their local
region long ago and in the recent past.
3. Discuss the ways in which physical geography,
including climate, influenced how the local Indian nations adapted
to their natural environment (e.g., how they obtained food, clothing,
4. Discuss the interaction of new settlers with the already
established Indians of the region.
Students draw from historical and community resources to organize
the sequence of local historical events and describe how each
period of settlement left its mark on the land.
- Research the explorers who visited here, the newcomers who
settled here, and the people who continue to come to the region,
including their cultural and religious traditions and contributions.
- Describe the economies established by settlers and their influence
on the present-day economy, with emphasis on the importance
of private property and entrepreneurship.
- Trace why their community was established, how individuals
and families contributed to its founding and development, and
how the community has changed over time, drawing on maps, photographs,
oral histories, letters, newspapers, and other primary sources.
III. Lesson Objectives
A. After completing this lesson,
students should be able to:
1. Use vocabulary correctly.
2. Describe the process and sequence of an excavation.
IV. Materials needed
A. Journals, pencils,
dirt, gloves, broken dishes, bones, buttons, jewelry, paint brushes,
dust pan, rope, graph paper, rocks, screens, buckets, trowel, miscellaneous
items, book, toothbrushes, water.
V. Background information
B. Read a children’s book
about archaeology and discuss. (Elena and the Coin
1. This book can be about fossils (dinosaurs, etc.).
2. Introduce archeology, vocabulary and have a discussion.
Do a KWL
Vocabulary: archaeology, archaeologist, trowel, area, excavate,
area, scoop, swifter, shifting, climate. (What we know, what we
want to know, what we learned) chart about archaeology.
3. Introduce and show items and materials archaeologists use
and wear: trowel, gloves, scoop, swifter, screen, rulers, etc.
4. The teacher will present an area that has previously been
prepared. This can be done either outside or inside. Have a large
bucket or area where you have put dirt or sand. Place items such
as broken dishes (be sure that they will not cut the skin), costume
jewelry, food bones, etc. inside of the dirt. To integrate Social
Studies (Native Americans), materials or items used by Native Americans
can also be placed in the dirt. Materials from the community long
ago can be placed in the dirt. This can be done inside in a large
bin or container or outside in the ground or in a large bucket or
5. Teacher should show student how to excavate. Take
a surface scan, gently brushing with fingers or shovels or brushes
the sand into one area. When an item is found, if it is large,
gently use a toothbrush to remove sand away from item. All items
found should be placed in a bag and labeled. Large items that may
be a part of the feature; example, stones used for roads or walls,
etc. should remain; small toothbrushes should be used to clear dirt
from the feature. Show students how to measure a level (example;
5cm). All dirt should be scooped out from a level and screened.
After each level is finished, notes should be taken on the date,
and description of the level and all items found.|
6. Have students be archaeologists.
a) First take a surface scan; look at the surface; is there anything
present? Take notes in journal.
b) Have students excavate using their hands and small hand
shovels or trowels gently moving dirt to uncover items. Have then
go no deeper than 5cm (or whatever is most convenient and depending
on how deep the area is); this could be level one. Have students
measure, take notes in a journal of what they see; difference in
soil, any items found and a description. Have students draw a picture
of what the level looks like; this could be done as a graph as well.
Any items found should be placed in some sort of bag and labeled;
what is the item, date, what level, etc. Parts of the ‘site’ can
be divided into sections or areas by using rulers and rope or yarn.
Have teams work in designated areas by taking turns. Have students
write in their field journals everything that was found and a description
of all items and each level and the name of the person who was excavating.
c) Have students continue excavating and screening by levels.
d) All items bagged should be placed in the lab area. These items
will be lightly scrubbed with a wet toothbrush then dried and returned
to the bag.
7. Have a class discussion about what was found and the experience.
VII. Have students complete crossword and multiple-choice worksheet.
Students have an increased vocabulary and
understanding of archaeology. Archeology can help us learn about
IX. Extra credit
Students can use line levels as a form
Students can write a report on the items found and how they relate
to what is being studied; for example: if Native Americans are being
studied and items found in a site are corn cob or kernels, bones,
leather, beads, etc., a student could explain how the items were
used by the Native Americans.