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6-8 > Ancient History
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Ancient History Duration: Two classroom periods
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Students will understand the following:
1. Archaeology is the field that concentrates on recovering and studying physical evidence of earlier human life and culture.
2. Archaeologists have worked on sites all over the world.
3. Archaeologists have contributed to our understanding of ancient cultures and the history of humankind.

For this lesson, you will need:
Up-to-date reference materials about major archaeological discoveries
Visual reference materials that students can copy or adapt for their oral presentations

1. Divide the class into small groups that will each research and orally report on one ancient site uncovered by archaeologists. The goal is for the class as a whole to gain an appreciation for the variations and similarities among ancient cultures and an understanding of scientists’ and social scientists’ study of ancient cultures.
2. Assign one of the following archaeological sites (or others that you may prefer to focus on) to each of your groups:
  • Easter Island
  • Knossos
  • Machu Picchu
  • Mesa Verde cliff dwellings
  • Nineveh
  • Pompeii
  • Tel el Amarna (also spelled Tall al ’Amarinah)
  • Tiahuanaco (also spelled Tiahuanacu; spotlighted in the Discovery video)
  • Troy (Hissarlik, Turkey)
  • Ur (Mesopotamia)
3. As a class, come up with a series of questions that might be asked about any prior civilization and that students should be able to answer through research into the work of modern archaeologists. Such questions might include the following:
  • Who lived here, and when?
  • What kinds of structures did these people leave behind?
  • What else did these people leave behind?
  • What practices or customs did these people follow?
  • What happened to the people who lived here?
4. Make sure students use up-to-date references. Point out to students that scientists working at archaeological sites generate theories that as time passes are confirmed, modified, or replaced with new theories. Encourage your students, if possible, to mention in their reports early theories about their sites that did not hold up on further study.
5. Direct the groups to collect or create visual aids to use as part of their reports on archaeological sites. These might include city plans showing which structures may have stood where, maps showing where the sites are in relation to other cities or countries, photographs showing archaeologists at work or the artifacts they found, and so on.
6. Make sure that each student in each group has a chance both to carry out part of the research about the site and to present some of the findings to the class.
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Discussion Questions

1. In most cultures where the dead were mummified this practice was limited to elite groups. Discuss why you think the Chichurra people made this available to so many ordinary people. Compare this culture with others, such as the Egyptian, and speculate about differences in society and attitudes would account for different burial philosophies.
2. What would happen in the state where you live if there was a long-term drought similar to the one that may have led to the abandonment of Tiahuanaco? What assistance would you expect from the federal government or the rest of the country? How would your town react? What would your family do?
3. Discuss the ways in which different societies (such as Chinese, Native American, American, etc.) treat and think about their dead. Why do they think the way they do? What ideas do they have that are similar or different?
4. Tiahuanaco may have been located where it is because of the view of Lake Titicaca and Illimani mountain. Why was your town sited where it is? Discuss the different factors that would impel people to start towns in certain locations.
5. The current church in Tiahuanaco is built on top of an ancient sacred structure. Why do you think this was done? What are the factors that would influence people to build religious centers in certain locations?
6. Why is it important to study the cultures of ancient peoples and try to solve the mysteries of their existence? What lessons can modern societies learn? What motivates scientists to spend many years patiently investigating these sorts of questions?
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You can evaluate students’ group work using the following three-point rubric:
Three points:substantial factual information including visuals; answers to or comments about all questions; well-paced and clearly articulated oral presentations
Two points:substantial factual information including visuals; answers to or comments about most questions; oral presentations too slow or fast and not clearly enough articulated
One point:not enough factual information or visuals; incomplete answers to or comments about questions; poorly paced and unclearly articulated oral presentations
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining the number of facts the oral reports should contain.
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What Goes in the Time Capsule?
Divide the class into groups, and have each group select 10 objects to put in a time capsule not to be opened until the year 3000. The groups should set themselves the goal of trying to explain 21st-century teenagers to people of the future. What 10 objects will give future people the most complete picture of teenagers today?

Making Mummies
Using sticks, string, and clay, students should make miniature representations of the Chinchorro mummies discussed and illustrated in the Discovery video. Students should try to follow the procedure described in the film as closely as possible.

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Suggested Readings

How to Make a Mummy Talk
James M. Deem, Houghton Mifflin, 1995
Exactly what a mummy is, as well as the processes of mummification and the varied places where mummies have been found, are detailed in this work, replete with illustrations and maps.

Ron Knapp, Enslow Publishers, 1996
The exact processes of how The Iceman, King Tut, Tollund Man, and The Lady were mummified, and how these mummies have brought the ways of the past to light today, are covered in this volume of the "Weird and Wacky Science" series.

"Peru's Ice Maidens"
Johan Reinhard, National Geographic, June 1996
New revelations about Incan civilization are brought to light by the discovery of several 500-year-old mummies.

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The Ampato Ice Maiden
Students should enjoy reading the story of the Ice Maiden at this site, and then be able to discuss how natural and manmade mummies "speak" to us about life and death in ancient South America.

How You Make A Mummy
Susan Kraft has a great recipe for making mummies from chicken parts. How do you like your mummy--crispy coated or lacquered?

The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu
Take a hike! A virtual reality hike along the famed Inca Trail.

Archaeological Adventure
If Assignment Discovery's "Unearthing South America" has got you digging archaeology, see if you've got what it takes to unearth the past in "Archaeological Adventure."

Mystery of the mummies
Make your own mummy? That's right! Right here on this page are simple, step by step instructions on making a model of your own mummy using color photographs to guide each step.

Lords of the Earth - Welcome to the Maya/Aztec/Inca Center

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    excavate
Definition:To expose or uncover by digging.
Context:Vivian Standen, a local archaeologist, was called in to excavate the mummies.

speaker    anatomical
Definition:Concerned with anatomy; related to the structure of an organism.
Context:The next step for the mummy maker was to reassemble the bones in the correct anatomical order, tying them together with cords and reinforcing them with wood.

speaker    osteoporosis
Definition:A disease in which the bones become extremely porous, are subject to fracture, and heal slowly, occurring especially in women.
Context:Nearly one third of all the adult women suffered from osteoporosis.

speaker    altiplano
Definition:A high plateau, as in the Andean regions of Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina.
Context:In fact, in his hand he is holding a spear thrower and a scepter in the other representing the lightning bolts that strike down dramatically in this altiplano landscape.

speaker    habitat
Definition:The area or type of environment in which an organism or ecological community normally lives or occurs.
Context:The canals provide an excellent habitat for plants and microorganisms that will fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it biologically available for plant growth.

speaker    paleoecological
Definition:Dealing with the interaction between ancient or prehistoric organisms and their environment.
Context:The paleoecological record in California shows precisely the same kind of 200-year-long droughts not that long ago.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:world history
Understands the biological and cultural processes that shaped the earliest human communities.
Understands scientific methods used to determine the dates and evolution of different human communities (e.g., different types of evidence dating techniques; different methods employed by archaeologists, geologists, and anthropologists to study hominid evolution; how human remains can be used to construct possible chronological sequences of human evolution).

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:world history
Understands the biological and cultural processes that shaped the earliest human communities.
Understands how different human communities expressed their beliefs (e.g., possible social, cultural, or religious meanings inferred from late Paleolithic cave paintings found in Spain and France; theories about the ways in which hunter-gatherers may have communicated, maintained memory of past events and expressed religious feelings).

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:geography
Understands the physical and human characteristics of place.
Knows the causes and effects of changes in a place over time (e.g., physical changes such as forest cover, water distribution, temperature fluctuations; human changes such as urban growth, the clearing of forests, development of transportation systems).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Understands the physical and human characteristics of place.
Knows how social, cultural and economic process shape the features of place (e.g., resource use, belief systems, modes of transportation and communication, major technological changes such as the agricultural and industrial revolutions, population growth and urbanization).

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:geography
Understands how human actions modify the physical environment.
Understands the ways in which technology influences the human capacity to modify the physical environment (e.g., effects of the introduction of fire, steam power, diesel machinery, electricity, work animals, explosives, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, hybridization of crops).

Grade level:6-8
Subject area:geography
Understands how physical systems affect human systems.
Knows the ways in which human systems develop in response to conditions in the physical environment (e.g., patterns of land use, economic livelihoods, architectural styles of buildings, building materials, flows of traffic, recreational activities).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:geography
Understands how physical systems affect human systems.
Knows how humans overcome "limits to growth" imposed by physical systems (e.g., technology, human adaptation).

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Sandy and Jay Lamb, history and social studies teachers (respectively), Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia.
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