Do you dream of being the next Indiana Jones? Want to explore ruins in the desert or excavate Roman artifacts across Europe? Then buckle up and get your jeep ready, because today’s Poetry Teatime is all about archaeology!
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There are a lot of myths and misinformation about archaeology. You might think that…
- Archaeology happens in faraway deserts and ancient ruins. False! Archaeologists work to explore, preserve, and protect areas ranging from underwater shipwrecks to Civil War battlefields!
- Archaeologists uncover huge treasure troves that have been hidden for centuries (National Treasure, anyone?). While this is occasionally true, most of what archaeologists find isn’t piles of gold or lost scrolls from the library of Alexandria. Instead, they collect bits and pieces of everyday life in a different time that let us know about different people and cultures.
- Archaeology--that’s dinosaur bones, right? Nope. Geologists and paleontologists are actually the ones who work with dinosaurs and look at the history of the whole planet. Archaeologists focus on the remains of human society.
- Indiana Jones is the model for archaeologists everywhere. Unfortunately, while Indy has unbeatable style, his methods were far from great. Today, rather than collecting sacred relics and triggering traps along the way, archaeologists work with local authorities to preserve and protect local heritage and share it with the world.
- Archaeology is all about hands-on exploring and digging on-site. Not true at all! On-site fieldwork can be expensive and damaging, so modern-day research often happens off-site or in initial surveying. With the help of modern technology like GPS systems and aerial photography, archaeologists can survey the land to make predictions about what’s below the surface. Soil samples of potential sites are analyzed, and lots of tests are done before even starting to dig. Then instead of a one-time exhaustive search for artifacts, modern archeologists often study an area over many years to see how people interacted with the land around them.
Some of the most interesting work in archaeology in the US is happening on historic sites like plantations to document the history of the slaves who we otherwise would know very little about. Items like broken pottery, food items, metal implements, and anything else that has been uncovered tells a story that the history books don’t record.
Check out Archaeological News to see weekly updates of headlines from across the Internet of recent happenings in the world of archaeology, including this article from the New York Times on how archaeology helps us preserve the history of D-Day.
Archaeological Teatime Treats
Now it’s time to set up for our own archaeology-themed teatime! Here are some delicious treats and drinks to enjoy.
- Fossil cookies: Studying fossils of bugs and dinosaurs may not qualify as archaeology, but these fossil cookies still make a tasty snack for any budding archaeologist! All you’ll need is some thoroughly chilled sugar cookie dough, some (clean) plastic dinosaurs or bugs or pasta shells, and a dusting of cinnamon sugar. Press the object into your cookie dough, dust the impression with sugar, and bake while still chilled!
- Ancient drinks: Sip on some Aztec hot chocolate during your teatime. Try either the more authentic spicy and bitter drink here from AllRecipes, which some reviewers described as “strange,” or try a more modernized version here on the Endless Meal. If you want to look at the more recent past (remember, archaeology isn’t always ancient!), try getting some classic cream sodas and exploring 1950s drinks.
- For inspiration: Real-life archaeologists sometimes try to recreate food based on the artifacts they find! Check out this Hittite feast based on cuneiform inscriptions, including treats like figs, honey, and apricot butter, on the Ancient Origins website. And for a visual overview, take a look at this Food Timeline compiled by Lynne Olver.
- Living room excavation site: You’ll need some twine and pieces of furniture to attach it to for this decor. Use the twine to create a grid that divides up your living room into smaller sections, like an archaeological dig. Assign each person a section to “excavate” or clean up before teatime!
- Create-your-own Greek vases: You may not have access to Ancient Greece, but you can bring a Greek vase into your living room using this simple craft from That Artist Woman. You’ll need paper bags, scissors, and some paint.
- Family heirlooms: One source of closer-to-home archaeology is your own family history. Do you have any objects that have been passed down for a few generations? Do some searching with your family to find the oldest object in your home and, if you can, display that during your teatime.
- Build your own mini dig box: If you have younger kids, build a mini dig by filling a plastic tub partway with sand or a similar material and adding plastic toys, large game pieces, or small household items to the box.
- Go on an archaeological survey in your backyard or neighborhood: See what you can learn about people who have used that space in the past.
- Do you see any evidence of who might have used that area before your house was built? Can you spot any signs of people of the past around you (trees with carvings on them, older fences, etc)?
- If you can’t find anything from the past, what do you think people of the future will find about you? What objects do you think they might find? How have you shaped the landscape around you?
- Read up on the headlines: Take a look at the list of headlines from Archaeological News. Keep in mind that some of these headlines sound much more sensational than the actual finds. What are some discoveries or preservation areas that you find surprising? If you were an archaeologist today, where would you want to work?
Books and More
A Practical Handbook of Archaeology: A Beginner's Guide to Unearthing the Past, by Christopher Catling
Mary Leakey: Archaeologist Who Really Dug Her Work, by Mike Venezia
How the Sphinx Got to the Museum, by Jessie Hartland
The 5,000-Year-Old Puzzle: Solving a Mystery of Ancient Egypt, by Claudia Logan
Children of the Past: Archaeology and the Lives of Kids, by Lois Miner Huey
Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings, by Douglas Florian
“Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Love Among the Ruins,” by Robert Browning
Read about wuquf ‘ala al-atal or ancient Arabic “stopping by ruins” poems from BBC Culture