January 30th found us out at Ernie Miller Nature Center for an archaeological dig. This full-day program is one of the very best that we have attended at the Nature Center, and we highly recommend it to other groups! The kids began the day learning more about the kind of archaeological artifacts that were found when the center was being built, and how we can learn more about the various peoples who lived in that area from the artifacts that we find. The park rangers did a great job of getting the kids excited for the indoor dig.
After the ranger talk, we moved into a room full of square excavation boxes.
The park ranger explained how the kids would use trowels and brushes to excavate the items, how to fill out an excavation grid, as well as keep a list of and answer some questions about the items found.
The example box was especially exciting because the kids uncovered a human skull. The ranger showed the kids how to get a rough determination of age from the bones of the skull using another sample skull.
The park ranger also showed the kids some examples of the types of artifacts that they might find in their excavation boxes, why they were important and what they were used for.
From there the kids were divided into groups and assigned a box, and the digging began!
The kids spent the morning digging through their boxes, keeping logs of what they found and using the grids to mark how the items were located in the boxes, just as a real archaeologist would do. They found items from across the various time periods – bones and stone tools from Native Americans, metal tools and implements from European settlers and even modern-day soft drink cans and other detritus.
After lunch, the park rangers led us through a discussion of the items uncovered in the dig, talking about how the “site” was laid out and what we could learn from how items were placed and in what order they were found. We headed into another room to try out some Native American games and to get hands or faces painted in Native American-style symbols.
After the games, we went back to the fireplace room to learn about creating fire – first with rubbing sticks together, then with flint and char cloth.
It was pretty exciting to see how easily a settler or trader could start a fire with just a flint, char cloth and some grass!
The park ranger then showed us a spear and an atlatl, and talked about how using the atlatl improved the distance a spear could be thrown.
Afterwards, we went outside to let the parents try using an atlatl to throw a spear at a model buffalo. Only one parent made a direct hit.
We had a great time at the archaeological dig, and send lots of thanks to the fabulous park rangers who led the program. We definitely look forward to our next visit!