Big Dig: Sturgis West Mock Archaeological Dig (Summer 2013)

Ever Wonder How a Mock Archaeological Dig Could Lead to William Sturgis?

Archaeology Dig.5.16The Mock Archaeological Dig was a multi-disciplinary student-directed project made possible through a Cape Cod 5 Mini Grant. This project  helped students understand the complexity of the historical process and how it depends on and intersects with other academic areas such as: natural science for dating and placing artifacts, human science and history for evaluating records, and language learning and translation.

Peter Richenburg Creates Artifact

Peter Richenburg Creates Artifact

Peter Steedman, Principal and Sturgis West faculty members, Peter Richenburg – Art, Eric Hillebrand – History and Psychology, Elie Rabinowitz – Spanish and Tonja Weimer – Biology, worked on the project since October 2012 to create and bury mock artifacts.  The Sturgis teachers collaborated with teachers and administrators at Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami, Florida and the carbon dating lab at the University of Miami to provide students with an authentic archaeological experience.

While digging up artifacts buried on school grounds, students discovered several items that helped them piece together a ‘story’ based on historical and archeological records. Their research led them to study the maritime fur trade of the Pacific Northwest coast where Captain William Sturgis traded with Tlingits on his three voyages to China.

Students created a slideshow that documents the entire Archaeological Dig  and scrolled continuously during the conference. Check it out here:

Big DigOn Tuesday, June 11th, the sophomore class at Sturgis West concluded a two week archaeology simulation with a Big Dig Conference. During the conference, student teams presented their findings in a format where all students were able to question and test each team’s findings. Four students had an opportunity to present their individual research papers.  The opening paragraphs and links to  full text of their papers follows:

Big Dig slideJohn Russell – Who, When, Where – Essential Questions in Archaeology

“There are certain key points of information in a historical dig story that are required to crack the case and put the full story together. The points “Who” “When” and “Where” are essential to doing just this. With the use of specific artifacts, these focus questions guided the US2 dig and were a major factor in putting together the entire dig story…”

Alexandra Cassell – Haida Mortuary Practices
Alexandra Cassell

Alexandra Cassell

“The Haida people are indigenous to Haida Gwaii, a nation in British Columbia and Eastern
Alaska. Originally, they were named the Queen Charlotte Islands, and were located near the territories of the Tlingit and Tsimshian Indian tribes. The Haida have a strong belief in reincarnation after death and
perform various mortuary rituals to express their emotions towards the death of their people. Mortuary
customs of the Haida tribe have been influenced by their attitude towards death in the ways that they
believed in bravery, honor, nobility, reincarnation, and fearlessness towards mortality….”

Patrick Thut

Patrick Thut

Patrick Thut – Relations within the Native American Community

“During the 1700’s and 1800’s traders started moving out west, mostly coming from
France and the British Colonies. Traders at this time were focused on furs and little else,
however guns, metal tools, and jewelry were traded to the native population in small supply in
exchange for goods, the quantity due to the limited carrying capacity of the parties involved…..”

Claire Gilliland – Methodology and Collaboration   
Claire Gilliland

Claire Gilliland

“Question: How effective was cataloging the items found in the dig for discovering what happened and what could be done to improve it? Our cataloging technique was to first photograph the artifact, both in the ground where it was found, as well as by itself…..”

Panelists - Big Dig Conference 6-11-13 039

Big Dig Conference Panelists

Their presentations were followed by a panel discussion, which included Sara Booth, Olivia LaBarge, Abby Dimmick, Liz Mahoney, and John LeRoy, in which students, faculty, and parents had the opportunity to ask questions about the dig. The conference concluded with remarks by Mr. Steedman and Mr.Hillebrand, who helped piece the story and relevant artifacts together for the students.

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