Introduction: An Archaeologic Dig Simulation

This project lets students of all ages play the role of archaeologist.

An archaeological dig near a Dawson City in the Yukon prompted the community school to conduct their own "dig". I developed this archaeological dig simulation so that students could understand how a dig works and the process for conducting a dig.

Step 1: Materials


The materials are used to make the simulation box and a shaker screen.

  • 1/2" plywood 3 @ 8" x 16", 1@ 16" x 16"
  • 1 @ 8" x 16" x 1/4" plexiglass
  • 1 @ 1/8" x 8" x 16"
  • potting soil
  • fine soils
  • artifact copies
  • 4 @ 14" x 3" plywood
  • 1 14" x 14" 1/4 screen
  • trowel
  • 10' of nylon line

Step 2: Framing the Box

The box is made with a bottom and three sides of plywood and one side with plexiglass. All the box corners are notched, glued and pined in place ( I used water proof glue). The open side has a grove that the 1/8" cover sheet can be inserted over the plexiglass face. This covers the layers so that they can't be seen before the dig begins. The box is then painted to protect the wood from the soil.

Step 3: Filling the Box

The box is filled in layers, the potting soils represent periods between river floods and the fine clay/silt soils represent the flood events. Artifact copies* are placed in the potting soil layers. The artifact copies representing the oldest artifacts go into the first layers with more current artifacts embedded in high layers. Rocks with fire scars are also buried within layer. The 1/8" cover sheet is put in place so the layers can not be seen.

*See my instructable on how to make your own artifact copies.

Step 4: The Dig

Once the boxes have been filled and seeded with artifact copies, participants are asked to carefully remove, layer at a time, and put the materials through the screen to find small items. When an item is uncovered in place, participants sketch the location of the artifact in place.

The screen can be suspended so the fines fall through the screen leaving behind objects of interest. I put a loonie in the top layer so that it shows how the screen separates out larger items.

These box have been proven to be engaging and have been used by children and adults.

Makerspace Contest

Participated in the
Makerspace Contest