Prehistoric Archaeology and Mississippi Traveling Trunk

Archaeologist's tools from the field boxThe Prehistoric Archaeology and Mississippi Traveling Trunk shows how archaeologists use artifacts to reconstruct the day-to-day lives of Native Americans, who did not leave written records of their societies. Artifacts—real and reproduction—in the trunk provide examples of things often found in excavations of prehistoric settlements: an atlatl, antler billet, dart, ceramic bowl, clay cooking balls, and stone spear points and arrow points. An archaeologist's field box shows the tools used to unearth artifacts.

A five-day lesson plan has been developed for the Prehistoric Archaeology and Mississippi trunk. Resource and support materials accompany the trunk, along with a teacher's notebook containing plans for various activities.

Archaeology manualThe unit begins with a lesson that surveys the students' present knowledge of the field and develops a student-generated definition for archaeology. Students are introduced to the culture and habits of the fictional tribe the Nacirema (which they will later discover is "American" spelled backwards). Elementary students will read about the life and world of a young American Indian girl in Ikwa of the Mound Builder Indians.

The second lesson introduces students to several of the artifacts in the trunk. Students in small groups are given objects and instructed to describe them and suggest what they might have been used for. The groups report their conclusions to the rest of the class.

Native American seeds and antler billet from the trunkLesson three deals with archaeology and context. Students learn the importance of observing and recording the location of artifacts and their relationship to other artifacts during excavation. The contents of the field box are presented and discussed. Several suggestions are offered for carrying out a mock excavation and a mapping project. This lesson also provides an opportune time to engage students in math activities employing the metric system.

Lesson four deals specifically with prehistoric archaeology in Mississippi. The teacher is provided with information concerning everything from the chronology of the area's human occupation to floral and faunal remains, site types, and trade and exchange activities. Artifact types are discussed and various items from the trunk, such as potsherds, projectile points, and native seeds, are used to stimulate students' interest.

The final lesson, "Mississippi Archaeology and You," addresses the need for preserving our state's prehistoric past. Students gain a heightened appreciation for this by relating protection of the past to the protection of objects important to them. As an extension activity, it is suggested that students consider joining groups such as the Mississippi Archaeological Association or the Archaeological Conservancy, or even recording and reporting an archaeological site to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (for which forms are provided).

Projectile pointAmong the wrap-up activities is a Native Foods Feast. Instructions are included for cooking by using an earth oven and clay cooking balls.

The Traveling Trunk Program was developed for use with fourth- through twelfth-grade classes. Trunks are available September through November and January through May. The trunks are designed to be used as a one- to two-week unit and will be shipped the week before they are to be used in the classroom to allow the teacher to become familiar with the contents. The trunks should be returned to the Museum on the Monday following the completion of the teaching unit. Trunks must be shipped UPS and insured for $500. Teachers may choose to transport the trunks to the Museum themselves. The Traveling Trunk Program was developed with funding from the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian. Additional funding was provided by BellSouth and BellSouth Pioneers.

For more information or to book this trunk call 601-576-6920.

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