Artifacts All Over the Place

Subject Areas:
Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Math

Objectives:
artifact:
any object made or modified by people
The student will:
    1. Analyze life-sized pictures of artifacts to decide how they may have been used.
    2. Create categories and sort the artifacts into hypothetical groups.
    3. Work collaboratively to draw conclusions from the data, write a summary paragraph, and create a bar graph displaying the results of the analysis.
    4. Make generalizations about the distribution of artifacts at Poverty Point.

Time:
Approximately five one-hour class periods

Materials:
Artifacts All Over the Place handouts

Dr. Webb's Findings handout for each group

Large map of the Poverty Point site
Card stock sets of Poverty Point artifacts in large envelopes
Colored pencils

Must Know Info:

Completing this simulation will allow students to work with actual archaeological data from Poverty Point. Students will analyze and categorize data and then determine the meaning of their findings through deductive reasoning. Since the students will probably never participate in the excavations at Poverty Point, working with real data and replicas of the artifacts will bring them closer to understanding and appreciating an archaeologist's work. This activity also gives students opportunities to practice writing and graphing skills while working effectively in cooperative groups.

Dr. Clarence Webb
Dr. Webb was a Shreveport pediatrician and archaeologist who conducted research at Poverty Point and other sites. Many of his findings are included in The Poverty Point Culture. Dr. Webb has numerous other publications.

This activity is a simulation based on actual data reported by Dr. Clarence Webb. The sample sizes in the simulation are based on Dr. Webb's percentages. The following table will show the number of artifacts for each section of Poverty Point. Poverty Point is divided into sections by the aisles which cut through the six concentric rows of ridges. The sections are named North, Northwest, West, Southwest, and South according to their location. The artifacts represented by this simulation were recovered through surface collection rather than site excavation.

Dr. Webb grouped the artifacts into five different categories according to their use. Each section of Poverty Point has handout pages for the artifacts found in that section. Make one photocopy of each artifact page on card stock or heavy paper.
(Photocopies available from the Division of Archaeology.)
This will allow the students to hold the artifacts in their hands and try to figure out what the Poverty Point people did with them. A quick reference guide to the types of artifacts found at Poverty Point is included on page 4 of this book.

Students will work in small groups to analyze and categorize the artifacts in one section. The students will try to determine the uses of the artifacts and generate categories similar to the ones on the table. You may choose to give a small group of students both the Northwest and West sections, since neither contains many artifacts.

In order to help students determine their use, the artifacts are shown in actual size. If a circle has been drawn around two pictures of an artifact, two different views of the same artifact are being shown. Caution students to cut around the circle and to only count the artifact one time when gathering data. Looking at the artifact from both sides will help students imagine how it was used.

Artifacts All Over the Place Simulation Data

NUMBER OF ARTIFACTS IN EACH SECTION

KIND OF ARTIFACT

South

South-west

West

North-west

North Totals

Cooking balls



22



2



3



2



36


65

Microlith



16



44



2



2



3


67
Domestic stone tools (hoes, axes)



12



2



2



3



11


30

Hunting tools



4


1


2


1


4


12

Clay figurines



2



1



1



1



2


7
TOTALS 56 50 10 9 56 181

Clarence H. Webb (1982)
courtesy of LSU Dept. of Geography and Anthropology

A handout highlighting Dr. Webb's major findings is included in the student handouts. Give the students the Dr. Webb's Findings sheet after they complete their own analysis. Dr. Clarence Webb completed a similar analysis of 18,727 artifacts found at Poverty Point. His results can be found in The Poverty Point Culture. Remind students that there are no correct answers at this time because archaeologists are continuing to explore Poverty Point.

Approximately 1% of the Poverty Point site has been excavated by archaeologists at the present time.

During group discussion, students will probably come up with categories similar to Dr. Webb's. This may not be the case, however. Teacher discretion should be used in deciding just how much to "guide" students into Dr. Webb's categories. The students' answers may vary from Dr. Webb's findings! As long as their conclusions are logically drawn from the data, they are following correct scientific method. It is important to keep the focus of this activity on the thinking process rather than the end product!

In addition to creating bar graphs, students could also determine what percentage of stone points, cooking balls, microliths, clay figurines, etc. were found in their section. For instance, out of a total of 56 artifacts found in the South region, 22 of the items were cooking balls. This means that 39% of the items were cooking balls. This compares with the Southwest region where only two cooking balls were found out of a total of 50 artifacts. This is a percentage of 4%. It would seem that the South region did more cooking than the Southwest region. Circle graphs could be created to display this information. Be careful not to compare the number of artifacts in a section with the total number of artifacts found because some regions had been explored more by archaeologists than others. The best way to compare numbers of artifacts is within the same region or to compare the percentage of an artifact found in one region against the percentage found in another region.

Procedures:

1. Introduce the simulation with the scenario presented in the Artifacts All Over the Place handout. The class has supposedly received box loads of artifacts from the field archaeologists at Poverty Point. Each small group of students will receive an envelope with one section of Poverty Point artifacts. The West and Northwest sections may be given to the same small group because they have so few artifacts. If your class is large, two small groups may work independently on the same section.

2. Students will follow directions to go through the artifacts, sort them into similar categories according to use, and name the categories they have identified.

3. Each group will share its results by creating a bar graph displaying the artifact data for its section of Poverty Point. Students will analyze the data and draw conclusions about the kinds of activities going on in their section. Group members will collaborate to write a summary paragraph telling the kinds of activities occurring in their section.

4. Students will compare their results with other groups to gain an overall understanding of the activities at the Poverty Point site. For example, where was cooking occurring? Why? Where were microliths being produced? What else was going on in different areas?

5. Be sure to have students compare their graphs with the results reported by Dr. Webb. Hand out the Dr. Webb's Findings sheet after students have reported their own results.

6. Students may enjoy making circle graphs to show their results.

7. Student graphs and paragraphs should be displayed on the bulletin board so that students may compare and contrast all results. The overhead transparency on page 15 could be projected onto your bulletin board and traced to create a site map. Place student graphs and paragraphs over the appropriate sections of the map.