The Big Dig
What does trash tell us about culture? Parker sixth and seventh graders are trying to find out – first by conducting an archeological dig at the school’s old kitchen midden. Then by connecting what they learn to their study of ancient Egypt.
Parent Aaron Gore, archeologist and a principal investigator with the New York State Museum is consulting in the excavation of the kitchen and barnyard trash heap – called a midden – from the days when the school’s property was a farm.
Social studies teacher James Lizardo says, “Having Aaron help us set up an authentic dig site was tremendous. I think the experience will help the kids understand the complexities and discoveries of archaeology – and the challenges faced by archeologists – as we explore ancient cultures.”
Students have recovered hundreds of items from the dig site, just to the East of the soccer field. They have cleaned, organized, catalogued and analyzed shards of fine china and hand blown glass, tools, clay smoking pipes and harness fittings. Other artifacts they uncovered are medicine bottles, wrought hinges, buckles and even a silver spoon engraved with the initials R.A.S. Using library and internet research to date and identify artifacts, students have traced the origin of many pieces including part of a stoneware crock labeled Madison Ave, Albany, NY and a bottle labeled Troy, NY showing that some of the items were made locally.
The students will next create a small museum in which to display artifacts that tell a bit of the history of the 19th and early 20th centuries on a farm in rural Rensselaer County. As they complete their research, they will transition to a study of ancient Egypt and archeological digs in the Valley of the Kings. The hands-on experience brings to life the work done by famed archeologists like Howard Carter and his investigation of King Tut’s tomb and allows Parker students to connect past and present as they begin to interpret a civilization from its remains.
Note: Aaron Gore is part of the team of archeologists from the State Museum to unearth Native American artifacts from 8,000 BC at a dig site on Lake George. Read about their latest finds here.