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Engaging Students in Learning is Messy Work, Part 4

This week I will share part four of the Egyptian Project. If you missed the introduction to this project, you can find it here. Part two described the research and creation of Egyptian artifacts is available here, and part three, which describes the actual mummification of a chicken, is here.

The Archaeolgist's Journal

Students were required to create a journal chronicling the “excavation” of the artifacts they were creating, as if they were archaeologists discovering them. This is where they would include the information they had researched on their item and describe the process archeologists and anthropologists use in their digs and evaluations on artifacts.

Earlier during our unit on the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, I had taken students on a field trip to participate in a program through the Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, where local archaeologists instruct students on their methods, before taking students on a tour of some of the local sites. They ended with allowing students to participate in their own dig in a prepared site for the purpose.

This was a great opportunity for students to learn first-hand the techniques and practices of scientists in the field, as well as learning the archeology of the area.

This project was an opportunity for students to recall the techniques they had learned in the previous unit. If you don’t have access to a similar program where you live, you could take a day prior to starting this project to teach students about these processes. Conversely, show them a video that would introduce them to these processes.

After reviewing the student instructions with the class, I provide them with prompts for each day’s entry. You could use these as class starters (we called it “Bell Work”) during the week (Monday through Thursday) during regular teaching days. Alternatively, it would be assigned as homework.


You must write a journal chronicling the excavation of your artifacts. The journal should include details of the excavation process, specifications of the artifacts, and a thesis about the original use of these objects and their owner(s). You must include 10 entries. You must first select a “site” to excavate virtually, and plan “how to get there.” Then, research the tools and methods used by archeologists. All of this information will be included in your first entry. The remaining nine entries will chronicle the establishment of a “camp,” excavation of the site, discovery of the two “artifacts,” and their return to the United States.


Journal Entry 1 – You are planning your trip to Egypt. What supplies will you bring? What tools will you need? Where will you go (must be a real archeology site in Egypt)? How will you get there?

Journal Entry 2 – You have arrived at your site. Where will you stay? (camp, hotel, local house?) What condition is the site in? What does it look like? (You need specific information on your site – do your research!) Where will you begin?

Journal Entry 3 – Your dig begins. What methods will you use? (Research actual archeologists’ methods and tools.) Who will help you? (Archeology students, local workers, professional colleagues?) What is the weather like?

Journal Entry 4 – What have you learned about your site? What was it used for? What does it look like? Who lived, or worked, or was buried there?

Journal Entry 5 – What artifacts have you discovered? What does it (they) look like? What was it used for? Who may have owned it? How was it made?

Journal Entry 6 – What has surprised you about your site? Was there anything unusual or unexpected found or missing? What might explain this?

Journal Entry 7 – What problems have arisen? (eg. Egyptian government has stopped the dig, need permits, people sick or injured, there’s a cave-in, it is the end of the dig season?)

Journal Entry 8 – How was your problem resolved?

Journal Entry 9 – Time to go home. How do you pack up? What will you bring back with you? What will happen to your artifacts? How will you leave your site?

Journal Entry 10 – Final conclusions. How will your discovery affect people’s knowledge of ancient Egypt?

Next week I will wrap up this project with the instructions for the final piece – the National Geographic article announcing students’ discoveries.

Until then, have a great week!

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