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Content: Archeology and History
Archeology, a branch of anthropology, is devoted to the study of objects from the past. These objects may be human or other organism remains (fossils), or manmade materials (artifacts). Archeologists record their findings through measurements, drawings, and descriptions. Based on their data, they make inferences about daily life, such as diets and diseases; and about cultural beliefs and practices, such as functions of tools and meanings of objects in sacred places. Archeologists further support their conclusions with corroborating evidence from other objects at the same and other sites, and from the work of other archeologists. Archeology supplements written history by providing critical clues about life in the past.
The study of history makes use of both primary sources, such as an artifact, and secondary sources, such as a historian's written analysis. Primary sources provide firsthand accounts through both objects and writings, such as photographs, letters, documents, and diaries. In their subjectivity, these sources can vividly recall personal experiences. Secondary sources are interpretations of life and events in the past. In their objectivity, these sources can synthesize information from numerous sources and provide the perspective of hindsight. Both primary and secondary sources can be engaging and accurate, as well as unconsciously or deliberately biased. Therefore, every source must be examined and compared to others for similarities, contradictions, and supporting evidence. Further, multiple primary and secondary sources can illuminate the cause-and-effect relationships that explain much of history.
Teaching Strategy: Simulating Archeological Discovery
By examining and explaining objects in their own lives, students can learn to decipher artifacts, gain a greater appreciation for the past, and discover connections between the past and present. By examining objects from other civilizations, students can access more personal meanings through oral history. Working in small groups, students can collaborate to first examine, describe, and draw objects, and then hypothesize about each object's identity and use, and the lives of the people who used them. Using historians' methods, students then connect evidence and form conclusions about different civilizations in history.
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