Discover the science of archaeology

Discover the Science of Archaeology

In this activity, students learn to distinguish the sciences of paleontology, history, and archeology. Students will study the goals and methods of archaeology, research an ancient site, and then  create a multimedia article that presents their findings.


  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the goals and methods of the science of archaeology.
  • Students will use multimedia sources to present their research to audiences in and beyond the classroom.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will research archaeology and one ancient culture using the Internet.
  • Students will write a magazine article about an archaeological dig associated with a specific culture.

Lesson procedure


Archeologists are some of the greatest adventurers of science. They study ancient cultures and civilizations in remote as well as familiar places to help us better understand humankind. Consider an image from an archeological site, the Moche Lords of Sipán, for example. Go to Bing Visual Search and search for "Moche Lords of Sipán." Show the students the image of "Moche Lords of Sipán.” What might this discovery tell us about the people who lived here? How do we know this culture existed between 100 and 800 C.E.? Why is it important to know about these people and their way of life?

Archeologists study the past. They study different aspects of the past, however, and approach the past differently from paleontologists and historians.

Paleontologists are scientists who study prehistoric life forms on earth by examining fossils. They focus on rocks, plants, animals, and other life forms, but they do not study hominids (human beings, chimps, and their ancestors) or their culture and behavior.

Historians are scholars who study the written record of the human race and/or oral histories of human cultures.

Archeologists are scientists who study human cultures by recovering, documenting, analyzing, and interpreting environmental data and remains such as architecture and artifacts. Archeologists seek to understand human behavior and ecology and the development of human culture.

In this activity you will take on the role of an archaeologist who makes an important discovery at an ancient site. Then you will create a multimedia article for an archaeology magazine to announce your discovery to the world.

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Student activity

Research the science of archaeology and one ancient culture, then use what you learn to write a magazine article or online post describing a discovery at a dig.

Follow the steps below to guide your students through this lesson plan.

Note teachers: Please download the student activity handouts located in the sidebar under Software and Materials Needed, for additional details about the main activities for this lesson plan.
  • Step 1: "Explore the science of archaeology and an ancient culture”
  • Step 2: "Write your magazine article”
  • Step 3: “Publish your article”


Have students present their articles about their discoveries to the class directly. Make the magazine articles available online to all of the students and to the wider community. Or hold a “scientific symposium” in which each student/archeologist presents his or her discoveries to fellow students/archeologists, answering questions about goals, methods, and interpretation and about the discovery itself. Finally, publish the papers of the symposium and a summary of the discussion on a class-built archaeology Web site.